Congressman Barton hit on a litany of hot topics including the mounting National Debt, ObamaCare, Immigration Reform, Energy Cost & Pricing, The NSA Scandal, and, the topic of the week…Syria. The open forum took almost an immediate turn toward Syria from the beginning as it seemed that was the one issue on everyone’s mind at the moment. There were probably 100 to 150 people in the room and almost everyone was against taking any action such as that suggested by the President. Only one or two spoke in favor of an action out of the entire audience.
In the discussion on Syria, Congressman Barton raised the question to the audience for a show of hands on how many people in the audience would be willing to board a plane and go fight in Syria today, possibly risking their lives in the process. Not one hand was raised…not one. Taking that response, Congressman Barton then turned to the audience and asked, “Then why should I be willing to ask those who volunteer to serve in our Armed Forces to shed their blood there?” The room was quiet as that sobering awareness sunk in with each person in attendance.
On Immigration Reform, Barton again drove home the awareness. He stated over and over that this was an issue which could be solved with reasonable compromise to all involved. His position held that the current Senate proposal is not acceptable for that solution. Based on the way Barton approached the issue, I was quite certain that he felt the priorities in terms of border security were placed on the tail of the process rather than at the forefront where they should be. The solutions he hinted at in the discussion addressed border security first and foremost then followed with various processes for dealing with those who are already here and the ones who want to come here…legally, of course.
I found the discussion on ObamaCare to be rather sobering in that the discussion pointed out much about what is wrong in Washington today in terms of checks and balances. As most of us are aware, there is considerable effort by some of the right side of the aisle to “defund ObamaCare” in the upcoming budget talks and debt ceiling debates. Based on the information which is passed around, it would seem that the whole thing could be brought to a screeching halt simply by taking that one step. After listening to Congressman Barton’s explanation, I am no longer convinced that is the case.
The Affordable Healthcare Act spans two modes of spending in the Federal Government. On the one hand, as it was passed into law, much of it was like Social Security or Medicare in that it became an “entitlement” to the American people. Entitlements are covered by what is described in the Federal Budget process as “mandatory spending”. In other words, because the law requires it, the money must be spent to provide it to the American people. The only way to get around that is to “repeal” the legislation as it now stands.
There certainly are some aspects of ObamaCare which probably fall into the area of “discretionary spending” but it is not that clear as to what those elements are at this point. For example, while the benefit (their words not mine!) to the American people is an entitlement by law, the infrastructure and the government cost expansion associated with providing that entitlement may not be looked at as “mandatory spending” but rather “discretionary spending”. Thus, if that were the case, then it might be possible to withhold certain elements of the funding and slow the progress of the mandatory side of the equation. Others might argue the legality of that point because of the entitlement relationship. Still, I get the sense that the conservative side of the aisle is being offered a rather “simplistic” solution to something that is not so simple to accomplish. Repeal may be the only viable solution and that loses more momentum each day that ObamaCare is up and functioning.
This town hall meeting lasted just over an hour. For the most part, it was a civil exchange between the constituents and Congressman Barton. There were a couple of incidents in the Syria discussion which became rather heated and Barton had to ask one individual to leave the premises. Based on the time allotted, I would say that it was about enough time for me to become aware as to where Congressman Joe Barton stands on the issues. It certainly was not enough time to totally discuss those issues in detail which I believe some of those in attendance expected. From my perspective, I believe that Congressman Barton accomplished his goal and fulfilled his duty in his elected role for the 6th District.
I am not a “politically –active” person but I do appreciate the importance of understanding the issues and the downstream impact which they have on our nation’s future. On that basis, attending meeting such as this one serves the purpose of gaining some insight into issues and understanding the various complications. It also helps one to realize that the problems associated with some issues seem as insurmountable to those in elected power as it does to you and I watching from the sidelines. While that is not a comforting thought, it certainly is a sobering one.
I feel quite lucky to be represented in our Federal Congress by Joe Barton. He is not a “grandstand prima donna” running around with some big entourage and making grand entries into the room. He’s just a regular guy and that is the way he enters the room and leaves it. While he had some parts in his message that I found less than savory, he certainly left me with the impression that he is doing what he can to stem the tide and right our Ship of State in Washington. He not only made that claim, he convinced me of it.
While Barton is a conservative in his views, he made it quite clear to the audience that he is in Congress to represent “all the people” in his district and he attempts to do so. He may not agree with you in your perspective but, at the same time, he will not turn his back on you. On the other hand, it is clear that Joe Barton has a strong basis of belief which stands as his litmus test on what he refers to as those times when he votes on the things that really matter. At those times, Congressman Barton will make it clear what he thinks and why he thinks it. I found his perspective quite compelling and his credibility in tact on everything he offered to the audience in this meeting. America could use a few more “Joe Barton” types in Washington right now. And let me add a footnote here, when the meeting was over, Joe Barton did not tuck tail and run out the door. He stayed and talked with a number of people one on one. Barton said it over and over during the session….”Listening to your constituents is important.” He demonstrated that fact with his actions last night.
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