A Letter to Senator Thom Tillis

Senator Tillis,

I’ve left several voicemails with your Washington, D.C., office over the past couple of weeks, but I also wanted to submit my comments and concerns on recent proceedings in writing. They are as follows.

This past Christmas Day, I turned 26. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I had been able to stay on my parent’s health insurance plan until that day, and this was a huge benefit. Easing that financial burden made it easier to start my career and to move out on my own. The opportunity to build a foundation of independence for myself is a key reason I am able to comfortably withhold a portion of my paycheck to pay for health insurance now.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, somewhere in the neighborhood of 32 million Americans will not have access to healthcare by 2026 if the ACA is repealed. They will either no longer be able to afford coverage, or they may be turned down due to a pre-existing condition. This is a life or death issue.

It is distressing to me that you, Senator Tillis, could advocate for the repeal of a law that guarantees necessary coverage to so many people because of what amounts to a tax break for so few.

I note that beyond advocating for the repeal of the ACA, members of the Republican party have yet to coalesce around a replacement plan. Those plans that have been circulated do not guarantee coverage for nearly as many people as the ACA. For example, the Patient CARE Act, which your colleague Richard Burr is co-sponsoring, purports to continue allowing children to stay covered by their parents until age 26, and would also guarantee coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. But the tax-credits for small business employees appear to be far less generous than needed, and that plan also proposes to cap federal spending on Medicare (which both of my grandmothers heavily depend on).

For all of the good the ACA does, is it not easier to sit down with your colleagues and correct the law’s shortcomings rather than appealing it altogether? I urge you to reconsider your position and vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Next, I want to express my grave concerns with a number of cabinet nominations made by the President-elect.

Chief among these is Betsy DeVos, the nominee for Secretary of Education. Senator, I am unaware if you witnessed the same confirmation hearing as I did on Tuesday, but it was clear that Mrs. DeVos not only demonstrated that is wholly unqualified based on a lack of knowledge of key policy debates that would under her supervision. She also disqualified herself based on a number of alarming answers, or lack of answers, to questions posed by your colleagues. For example, she is open to the possibility of allowing firearms in schools, and she seems uncertain about whether schools should be required to meet federal standards for students with disabilities.

The record of her political life shows that she has nothing but contempt for public education, and her family has also donated more than $200 million to Focus on the Family, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as a hate group on account of its anti-LGBT stances.

Based on the damage she stands to do to the institution of public education, I consider Mrs. DeVos to be among the President-elect’s most concerning nominations to his cabinet. But I remain deeply worried about his other nominations, too.

Mr. Tillerson, the nominee for Secretary of State, demonstrated a remarkable lack of knowledge on statecraft and foreign affairs during his hearing.

Senator Sessions, the nominee for US Attorney General, has a dubious record when it comes to protecting voter rights, one of the key issues he is sure to face in the next several years.

Congressman Price, the nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, has engaged in insider trading related to legislation he has sponsored.

Mr. Mnuchin, the nominee for Secretary of the Treasury, is one of the countless individuals who have not been held accountable for their role in the financial crisis of 2008.

Governor Perry, the nominee for Secretary of Energy, is on record of not having understood the responsibilities of the position to which he has been nominated, and he brings no experience in nuclear policy to the table.

All of those nominated, with the exception of General Mattis, are reported to have multiple potential conflicts of interest, either from their own body of work or based on their relationship with the President-elect. Furthermore, none of them have yet met the exacting standards for ethics which your colleagues have held previous cabinet appointees to over the past 8 years. A number of them, chiefly DeVos, Sessions, and Price, also associate with or have previously held stances that are hostile to LGBT Americans like myself.

But the most disturbing trend with these nominees is that all of them, again excluding General Mattis, appear to have been chosen for the express purpose of dismantling the department they will oversee or undermining the public’s faith in the institutions they will be charged with administering.

As your constituent, my hope is that you will reject these nominees for their demonstrable incompetence if not for the malignant threat they pose to our system of government. Vote against their confirmation and demand that the President-elect fill his cabinet with individuals that will do right by those you claim to represent.

Never mind the fact that all of the concerns I’ve laid out against these nominees also apply to the President-elect himself. I understand that the system, though not the majority of American citizens, has elected Mr. Trump to the office he holds. But as my representative, I ask that you hold the President-elect to the highest of all standards.

Finally, I would ask that you, Senator Tillis, stand by your recent op ed in the Charlotte Observer. In that piece, you said that you would work with senators and representatives across the aisle. My hope is that you are being sincere, and that you will sit down and listen to those members of Congress instead of talking past them and keeping lockstep with party agendas as so many who use the same platitude choose to do.

If you genuinely want to work with others to create meaningful progress, acting on any of the issues I have raised in this message would be an excellent way to show it.

Thank you for your time.

Thom Tillis AP Photo.jpeg
Photo: AP

Update: A previous version of this letter listed Tom Price, a member of the House of Representatives, as a member of the Senate.