Speaking to a group of local health care professionals, Missouri U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt couldn’t resist deploying his renowned dry wit when he was asked about President Donald Trump’s social media feud with powerful Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker.
Blunt quipped: “Did I mention it’s Mental Health Day?”
But while touching off laughter, Blunt said Tuesday that his fellow Republicans’ pointed exchanges could have serious consequences on some major policy issues.
“I think both of those individuals, the president and Sen. Corker, have really important jobs to do and I’d like to see them spend more time focusing on those important jobs.”
Blunt said he wasn’t taking sides in the duo’s battle, but added that Trump and Corker’s jabs are “not helpful’’ as the president and the GOP-controlled Congress try to reach deals on various volatile issues.
Corker chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and also sits on the Senate banking and budget committees. All three panels are focusing on such major topics as North Korea and the president’s proposed cuts in federal taxes and spending.
Highlights support for federal health centers
Blunt stopped in St. Louis as part of a statewide tour to highlight his continued efforts to expand federal health care coverage for mental health care.
He also is promising to work to stop any cuts to public health centers, which currently are endangered.
Although no fan of the Affordable Care Act, Blunt told the staff at the Family Care Health Centers in south St. Louis that he is part of a bipartisan effort to protect federally qualified health centers from massive cuts if Congress fails to extend the spending authorized in the ACA.
Blunt cited federal statistics that show 25 percent of Americans have some sort of mental health issue that could addressed with proper health care, and that 1 in 9 Americans suffer from mental health problems that hurt their quality of life.
He said an “integrated approach” was the best way to help people overcome both sets of health problems.
“All health issues are health issues and there’s no reason they can’t be addressed in an integrated way and addressed just like you’d address any other health issue,” Blunt said.
Blunt is cosponsoring a bipartisan bill to expand the pilot program beyond the current eight states. The measure also seeks to protect spending for health centers. He predicted that Congress will take action before the end of the year.
Predicts action on gun issues in wake of Las Vegas shooting
In response to a reporter's questions, Blunt said there may be congressional action prompted by the recent Las Vegas shootings in which an assailant killed 58 people at a music festival.
"I’m a hunter. I enjoy hunting," Blunt said. He added that he also understood why some people want guns for self-protection. But he indicated he might support action to bar a device, known as a bump stock,' that can allow a gun to fire bullets almost as fast as automatic rifles.
The killer in the Las Vegas shootings had used "bump stocks'' on his rifles.
“Automatic weapons are illegal," Blunt said. "If someone has found a way to avoid current law and make their weapons illegal, we should look at that.”
The senator noted that some other congressional Republicans have publicly taken a similar position.
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