Rep. Brad Wenstrup is a Republican who represents Ohio's Second District in Congress, a district that stretches from Mount Healthy and North College Hill to Batavia, through Brown and Adams counties and farther east to Portsmouth.
WCPO's Editorial Board interviewed him about his work on the House Intelligence Committee, the health care bill, and June 14. That was the day Wenstrup, a physician, was a first responder for Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who was wounded by a mass shooting at a Republican baseball practice in D.C.
WCPO Editorial Board: What does the shooting say about politics in this country?
Wenstrup: Since that day, other members have gotten some pretty significant threats. I wish people would take a deep breath and recognize what we have. And also recognize who our real enemies are. We have enemies around the world.
Note: Scalise on Wednesday was re-admitted to intensive care at a Washington hospital and his condition was downgraded to "serious."
WCPO: As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, you're investigating Russia's interference in the presidential election. Did Russia interfere in the election?
Wenstrup: That’s kind of a foregone conclusion. But we’ve been alarmed by it for the last several years. This is not a new discussion. This goes back a ways. We had significant concern about not just Russia, but the big four – including Iran, North Korea and China. They all have a desire to interfere with our system.
But what have we been doing? We’ve been fighting amongst ourselves instead of focusing on what they actually did and how to stop them from doing it.
WCPO: Do you think the Trump campaign worked with the Russians?
Wenstrup: We’ve heard for six months that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. Yet we haven’t had any proof. All we’ve had is hearsay, innuendo, newspaper articles from anonymous, unverified sources, none of which is admissible in any courtroom. And I say to my colleagues who say we’ve got proof – bring it to us, you’re on the Intelligence Committee. Show us what you’re talking about. And I think that question is going to be called.
If there’s something out there that was nefarious or broke the law, I want to know it. I think we need to continue to investigate. (Special Counsel) Bob Mueller should be allowed to go ahead. Go find what’s there. Let’s end this, because we’re spending a lot of time on things that we haven’t seen any proof of.
Note: The House Intelligence Committee is still planning to interview Trump campaign officials, including Carter Page, Roger Stone and Michael Caputo.
WCPO: Have we made enough progress to ensure the security of the next election?
Wenstrup: No, not yet. I think it’s still more in the discovery phase. And figuring out how they went about doing what they ended up doing and trying to put in the walls that will prevent it.
WCPO: You voted for the American Health Care Act, which would end the insurance plans for 23 million people. How is health care a priority when you’re eliminating 23 million people?
Wenstrup: A lot of them are losing insurance they didn’t want to begin with. They’re losing insurance they were forced to buy under the Affordable Care Act. What we have is a plan that would allow people to get the same benefits businesses have, as a tax break, and also get a tax credit for it. So it can be supplemented, and they can buy the type of insurance they want.
WCPO: Why cut Medicaid?
Wenstrup: We’re a nation with safety nets and I’m glad that we are. We want those safety nets there. But when you talk about reducing Medicaid, what it does is bring more flexibility to the states and accountability to the states.
WCPO: Should it be a goal to have everyone covered by health care insurance?
Wenstrup: As a goal, health care is a priority. Some people say to me, 'Well, health care is a right.' Well, a right doesn’t cost somebody else something.
One of the problems I have with the Affordable Care Act is the notion that the government can make you buy something just because you’re alive. If you want to drive a car, you have to buy insurance. But guess what? You don’t have to drive a car. Here, what we’re saying is, ‘You’re alive, therefore you buy this insurance or we penalize you.' That, to me, is overstepping the bounds.
WCPO: Are you OK with repealing the ACA first before a replacement is in place?
Wenstrup: I’m not, really. If we had repealed it before it was implemented, fine, but now it's been implemented and you can’t pull the rug out from under people. That’s a dangerous thing to do.
WCPO: Why doesn't Washington work better?
Wenstrup: I hate how often we manage by crisis. You know, I give Bill Clinton credit. He had a Republican House and a Republican Senate. He vetoed 36 bills, but he also came back and said, 'You know, if you change this and this and this, we can get this done.' We need more of that.
WCPO: Are you holding any town halls during this recess?
Wenstrup: I’ll be frank. People are screaming about town halls, but look, the security’s not there. You know, we just can’t do it. But we do telephone town halls; we’ve had coffees. The last one we had we made Rachel Maddow because people came and disrupted it.
It took me by surprise because we’ve been having these for years. But all of a sudden we have a new president, and bam, they’re coming in. But that’s OK. Free speech is one thing, but I’d like to do it civilly.