U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway and most of the hundreds who packed Conaway’s town hall meeting Thursday night didn’t have to convince each other as they tackled the topic of health care reform proposed by President Barack Obama.
“I am a hard ‘no’ to HR 3200,” the Republican from Midland said, generating wild applause at the Dorothy McIntosh Fine Arts Center Auditorium at Brownwood High School.
“We need to let this one fail and then start over.”
Dozens from the audience queued up at four microphones to ask questions or make comments expressing their dislike for Obama’s plan. Before taking questions, Conaway made general comments about the proposed reform.
He said he doesn’t think the thousand-plus-page legislation will pass in its current form, but he does believe health care reform of some kind will be passed. He said he’d prefer a one-sentence bill that reads “We’ll get back to you later.”
The country can’t afford the legislation as it’s proposed, which would require $844 billion in new taxes, Conaway said, noting that Congress also spent too much money under President George W. Bush. He said as a Christian he believes in helping those who can’t help themselves, but that he isn’t sure it’s the federal government’s role to step in and take the place of responsibilities held by the individuals, families and churches.
Conaway said it’s not a Republican or a Democratic issue. “Quite frankly, we need to take our jerseys off in this arena,” he said.
In his introductory statements, Conaway said the health care issue has generated more “in-depth engagements” than any issue he’s seen since being in office.
“You’re not a mob, you’re not Nazis, you’re not brown shirts,” Conaway said. “ … To call you terrorists because you oppose what the president is trying to do is misplaced.”
He said those who oppose health care reform have a “righteous anger” that is enhanced “by everything else that’s going on.”
Republicans don’t have the numbers in Congress to stop anything, Conaway said, but the proposed health care legislation isn’t already law is because Democrats are pushing back.
Conaway said the country has $62 trillion worth of “unfunded promises we’ve made to each other” in services including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. “Before we talk about a new promise to each other … can we afford it?” he asked.
Stepping to a microphone, Bob Hickey said he is an 84-year-old veteran of World War II and the Korean War. He said anything the federal government does will cost “40 percent more than private industry.”
Hickey said he’s had nine procedures in nine years “that Obama would say take a pain pill for.”
A woman who described herself as a nurse who has traveled around the world said America has the best health care in the world, but also said “there are issues that need to be addressed.” She said her son, who is in the National Guard, can’t get health insurance because of a congenital heart problem.