Neil W. McCabe

Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage told Breitbart News, in a sit-down interview Friday before the governor’s meetings with Trump administration officials and Capitol Hill conservatives, that Speaker Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.) did not reply to his request for a meeting about the speaker’s American Health Care Act.

LePage said Ryan was the one person on Capitol Hill that he wanted to meet with, but the speaker’s office never responded.

The governor said maybe he is not important enough. “I’m from Maine; we don’t have very many votes.”

Breitbart News visited the speaker’s office Friday before noon and requested a comment, and also left a phone message. A staffer at the speaker’s office told Breitbart News that a specific communications aide would respond by email, but no email arrived by the deadline.

In addition to his request for a meeting, the governor said he sent a letter dated Tuesday to Ryan:

Republicans in Congress have been telling the American people for years that given the opportunity, they will repeal and replace Obamacare with a conservative, free-market alternative. The American people in turn have given the Republicans that opportunity. However, early signs do not look encouraging. It appears Congressional Republicans are still intent on catering to big-government lobbyists and politicians in states that took Obama’s welfare expansion bait. In the letter, the Maine governor told the speaker that he successfully vetoed five attempts to expand Medicaid in his state.

LePage said the trigger for his visit to Washington was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker‘s handling of Medicaid in the RyanCare bill.

Walker is the president of the Republican Governors Association, and he has swung the RGA to back the RyanCare bill, including its own expansion of Medicaid, he said.

The governor said his message to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price Friday, as well as anyone else he got in front of, was the need to freeze Medicaid expansion immediately and include a work requirement.

On a more practical level, the governor said expanding Medicaid to able-bodied people has little or no effect on the number of uninsured, because the expansions pull people off of company plans.Medicaid pulls workers off their company’s plans, so the plan has a smaller population. The exodus leaves the remaining participants in the company plan with higher premiums and deductibles.

LePage said he supports a safety net, but he broke with Obamacare because able-bodied people should not get their health coverage for free. “What I mean by that is that free is expensive to somebody–and that means the middle-class.”

Able-bodied people–if we are going to make America great again?–America has to go to work, and able-bodied people need to go to work,” he said. “They can’t give it to them free–if you give it to them free? We lose. The nation loses.”

LePage said his understanding of poverty is not a theory.

“I was born in poverty, severe poverty. I ran away from home at 11. I was on the street for a couple of years before the state caught up to me. I was either going to go to Job Corps, or somebody was going to house me,” he said.

The future governor grew up learning English as a second language and shining shoes to make his way.

Two families took LePage in and he grew up surrounded by 17 siblings, he said.

“Poverty is a state of mind,” he said.

“If you help people, you work with them to get an education and work skills, they are indebted to you for life,” the governor said.

“People don’t want to be in poverty,” he said. “They want to get out of poverty; they just don’t know how. Throwing entitlements at them is just a way of keeping them in poverty.”

In his 2014 reelection, LePage was down in the polls and given no chance to win, he said.

When he did win with the most votes ever received by a Maine candidate, it was because the voters knew the governor was rolling up his sleeves and figuring out how to really help people, he said.

“I lived the American Dream, so I feel I am qualified and I am capable to stand up and tell these congressmen they’re missing the boat,” he said.

“Most lawmakers on Capitol Hill have never been poor, so they do not understand the dynamics of poverty,” LePage said.

“Capitol Hill is also failing Middle America and hurting their dignity,” he said. “They see everybody getting it free and you’re just turning your back on it.”

The governor said he loves to talk about the married man with four kids in his state who started working odd jobs out of his garage, while his paper mill was on strike.

“He just sold his business for $30 million,” he said.

“That is what America is all about, and we are losing that, and we’re losing it fast,” LePage said. When I hear the president say, “Make America Great Again,” you’ll only be great if you go to work.”

“When I hear the president say: ‘Make America Great Again’ — you’ll only be great if you go to work.”