MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We're spending much of this hour talking about one of the major stories of the weekend - the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The Republican plan was scrapped yesterday after House leaders realized they did not have enough votes to pass the bill. Just a few minutes ago, we heard from former Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Now we're going to hear where things stand for the Democrats. We should note that no Democrats supported the bill to replace Obamacare. President Trump is saying that then Democrats will be to blame if access to insurance and by extension health care gets worse.
We're going to talk to Tom Perez about that. He's the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He was President Obama's labor secretary, and he was also the head of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department. He's with us now. Mr. Prez, Mr. Chairman, thanks so much for joining us.
TOM PEREZ: Thank you, Michel. It's always great to be with you and your listeners.
MARTIN: Oh, thanks so much. So first of all, your reaction when you learned that the Republicans had to pull the bill.
PEREZ: Oh, it was a good day for the good guys. It was a good day for 24 million Americans who were going to lose their health insurance. And so what we saw here were two things, Michel; number one, the importance of grassroots advocacy. Health care is a right, not a privilege. And they were saying very clearly that the Affordable Care Act has worked for them. And I think the second lesson that I take from this is the giant collision you saw on Friday was a collision between this Republican parallel universe of alternative facts and the reality on the ground. They've been telling a lie about the Affordable Care Act for over seven years. It's a job killer. It's a disaster. And the reality on the ground, Michel, is that it's a lifesaver. And eventually, when you lie, it catches up with you. And that's what happened here, that collision between their parallel universe of alternative facts and the reality, which is that the Affordable Care Act is working for so many people. If passing Trumpcare were a task on "The Apprentice," Donald Trump would be fired by now.
MARTIN: OK. Well, let's talk about sort of the current state of things. I mean, it is not a secret that premiums are rising in many places and that the choice of health care plans is narrowing in some places. It is not a secret that a number of companies have pulled out of the exchanges in a number of states. Now, the president - President Trump has said that Obamacare is going to, quote, unquote, "explode." And then he says that the Democrats will have to, quote, unquote, "own that." What do you think of that? What do you make of that?
PEREZ: Well, that's roughly akin to the person who, you know, murders his parents and begs for mercy because he's an orphan. The Republicans have been trying and trying and trying to destroy the marketplace. And now that they control levers of power in the federal government, they can continue to do that. And what they ought to be doing is improving the marketplace. Is the Affordable Care Act perfect? No. Could it be improved? Yes. But what the Republicans want to do is repeal it.
MARTIN: We just heard from former Majority Leader, former House Whip Tom DeLay from Texas. He has a very different philosophical perspective on this. His philosophical perspective is that the government does not have a role in health care, in the health insurance market, that health insurance is not a right, that it is a responsibility. So is there a core Democratic philosophy here about what the government's role in health care and health insurance should be? And do you feel now that you have some responsibility to try to persuade others who don't share that perspective?
PEREZ: Yes. We have a philosophical disagreement. I believe that government can play a catalytic role in helping people get access to the safety net. History has its eyes on us, Michel. And history will judge these Republicans very harshly who want to continue on this ideological mission to make it harder for people to get access to health care. And when you are healthy, guess what you do. You go back to work.
MARTIN: OK. What is your task going forward here? I mean, what do Friday's events mean for the Democrats going forward?
PEREZ: Oh, there's nobody on the Democratic side spiking the football because I have no doubt that they will try again. And I have little doubt that the next bill will actually be even harsher than this bill. So we will not let our guard down as Democrats. I'm proud to be a Democrat and I was very proud yesterday to be a Democrat because we stood up for a core American value, which is health care should be a right, not a privilege.
MARTIN: That's Tom Perez. He's the chair of the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Perez, thanks so much for joining us.
PEREZ: Michel, always a pleasure to be with you and your listeners. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.