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MCKINNEY (CBSDFW.COM) – Texas Senator Ted Cruz said he’s “cautiously encouraged by what appears to be China’s efforts to reign-in North Korea.”

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“China has enormous influence and power over Kim Jung-Un and in the past, they haven’t exercised that authority. There’s some promising signs the Trump administration has made progress with China. I don’t trust China at all, but putting real pressure on China to reign-in Kim Jung-Un is a positive step indeed.”

Senator Cruz’s remarks come one day after the North Korean dictator launched a missile that U.S. experts believe could reach Alaska.

Cruz said, “It is deeply disturbing. North Korea right now is the most dangerous place on the face of the earth.”

He also praised the Trump administration for deciding to move ahead with installing anti-ballistic missile batteries in South Korea.

The Senator’s comments came in McKinney before he was scheduled to attend a town hall meeting hosted by the group Concerned Veterans For America (CVA). The group is also holding similar events in Austin and Houston later this week that the Senator will also attend.

The Senator is pushing for reforms in the VA after a scandal that exposed lengthy wait times for veterans to receive care and efforts by some managers inside VA Hospitals to manipulate wait times. Cruz pointed to the bill he proposed called the VA Information Technology Restructuring Act, which would create a Chief Information Officer at the agency.

Senator Cruz says that will lead to improving IT infrastructure and would help reduce wait times.

“I think it can be an important piece in speeding up the delivery of care. There needs to be far more reform. There needs to be accountability.”

The Director of Policy for the CVA, Dan Caldwell said, “The ability to manipulate wait lists drove the scandal in addition to the fact that the Department of Defense’s and the VA’s technology was not well-integrated. That led to delays in getting benefits and sharing medical records, which further increased wait times.”

Both he and Cruz said they want to expand choices for veterans, so that they can not only use the VA for their care, but their own private doctors as well.

Cruz said, “I think every veteran should have the right to see the doctor of his or her choice. so that if you’re a veteran you’ve earned that right, you’ve bled for that right. You deserve it.”

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Some veterans worry that if the reforms pass, the VA would eventually be eliminated. But Caldwell says he is not advocating for privatization or dismantling the VA system. He says he only wants to increase competition.

During the town hall meeting, about 150-200 protestors demonstrated outside the Sheraton Hotel.
They held signs promoting healthcare reform and against repealing Obamacare. Senator Cruz said Senate Republicans are edging closer to reaching agreement on repealing and replacing the controversial law.
“I’m encouraged. We are making progress.”

Last week, Republican leaders in the Senate delayed the vote because of a lack of consensus.
Among those opposed to the current bill is Cruz.

CBS11 asked him what it would take for him to get to yes. “We’ve got to solve the problem. We got to do the job and do it right.”

He has proposed the Consumer Freedom Amendment, which he says would allow insurance companies to not only offer plans that comply with Obamacare’s protections for those with pre-existing conditions, but policies that do not.

“Under this amendment, the protections for pre-existing conditions remain there. And it’s all dependent on insurance companies offering plans consistent with those mandates. But they can also offer additional plans.”

He says those plans would offer less coverage, and that the additional choices would lower premiums.
Cruz says he’s not sure when Republican leaders will schedule a vote, but in the meantime, he says he’s waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to evaluate his plan.

He says his amendment to allow people to use Health Savings Accounts to pay for premiums is now in the bill.

The Senator predicts tough times ahead for Republicans if they can’t repeal and replace Obamacare.

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“I think failing to repeal Obamacare could be catastrophic. We’ve spent seven years campaigning, Republicans over and over again, saying if you elect us, we will repeal Obamacare. We won landslide elections in 2010, in 2014, in 2016. I think failing to deliver would be incredibly damaging. I will say there’s an even worse case for failing to deliver which is passing a bill entitled Obamacare Repeal that has a bunch of politicians patting themselves on the back and then one year, two years, three years down the road, premiums continue to rise just like they’re doing now under Obamacare. I think that’s an even worse outcome because that’s how you get a Speaker Pelosi or a Leader Chuck Schumer.”

Cruz’s Democratic opponent Congressman Beto O’Rourke of El Paso, said he favors passing a bill that would expand Medicare, called Medicare for All.

Cruz will talk about his proposal to modernize the Veterans Administration’s IT infrastructure, which he believes will help cure the agency’s long wait times to provide care.

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