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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hoekstra "Townhalled" Michigan

Town hall in Holland + Hoekstra Pete Hoekstra (R MI) put on an open town hall meeting in Holland Monday Aug. 31 at 7:00. Pete gave two others in Scottville and Cadillac. I couldn’t go to either. I made a point of going to this. There was no cost. During this Congressional Recess, there have only been four town halls held in Mi. with an open format for questions, and Pete gave three of them. They all have been about Health Care Reform. Let me briefly set the stage before I start. The town hall was held at Evergreen something in a very nice auditorium; Jon Dewitt, Peter’s aid told me they had 640 seats set up. As the crowd filled in they set up the rest of the chairs. People still came in, and there was standing room only; as it happened everyone who came got to get in. The sign on the wall said there was a seating capacity of 966, but I would think we did hit 1,000. There were some politicians there as well. Three of the candidates to replace Pete in his Congressional seat were there, Bill Huizenga, Jay Riemersma and Wayne Kuipers. As they watched the townhall later, I think they must of wondered how they would fare in front of so many in an open format. Also from the 90th state house seat I met Joe Haveman and his wife Kim. Joe district includes Holland and Zeeland so this was his turf. As a side note, Joe saw my Goeff Hansen button and he told me he was Goeff’s desk or table mate on the House floor. I was also delighted to see Ken Punter with his wife Kay in attendance from Muskegon. Ken as you may know has just announced that he is running for the 91st state house seat. Pete started the 2 hour meeting a little ahead of schedule. I enjoyed his introducttion because the Congressman described the state of the Health Care Bill and where it actually stands now before he went into the specifics of the bill. Pete helped make clear the legislative process. He first explained that the House has three Health Care bills and the process each one takes through committees. He said the Rules committee has them now and he made it clear that the committee can completely rewrite the bill or change it any way they see fit; they are not bound to keep any of the bill that the previous committee sent them. Pete further went on to explain that the Senate has at least 3 bills of its own and that when the House and Senate settle on their own single bill those two bills go to a joint Conference committee to work up a final bill. He pointed out that the Conference committee can put any changes it wants in the final bill. It became clear as to one reason why there is so much confusion about what is in the bill. First you have to figure out which bill you are talking about. The different bills also have different and sometimes conflicting provisions. Congressman Hoekstra made the point that the bill in front of him, the one he and his colleagues have to debate and vote on is HR 3200. Below is a link to the bill. I link the caution page. Heed it. -----link----- -------------- Pete then went on to explain one of the main reason he is opposed to it; which also happens to be a major cause for confusion as to what will be in the bill if enacted. The problem in his eyes is the vast powers given to the Health Care Commissioner, who is appointed and not elected. Pete said he had his staff count the number of times in that the bill delegated power to the Commissioner and asked him or her to interpret different provisions of the bill. Pete’s staff counted 187 times when the bill said the Commissioner shall, will or must do something. Pete said that is an unprecedented amount of power for Congress to give to a political appointee. In his introduction before the questions he also made the point that the process needs to 1. Slow down 2. Accept the fact we need reform 3. And it should break down the bill into individual parts such as tort reform, insurance abuse and other aspects such as making sure all can get affordable health care. The main stumbling block everyone kept coming back to was the public option or government run vs private Health insurance. Congressman Hoekstra also alluded to the President saying that he would not sign a bill that added to the National Debt. During the debate and questions, Pete also pointed out that there were two studies which showed that HR3200 would add 1-2 trillion dollars to the debt. As to the makeup of the audience; well it was definitely partisan. No effort was made to effect the seating or the questions or the makeup of the audience. This was an open format and it remained so. A lot of times Pete would make a shushing sound from the stage when any hint of partisan ship started to show. There were a fair amount of liberals in the crowd and a group was seated in the front. They definitely tried to stir things up, and there were some from the other side who were more than willing to be baited, but to Pete’s credit he never let it get out of hand. He stepped up fast and decisively. He demanded a civil discourse that is what he got. Mr. Hoekstra made the point that we need to reform what we have. He pointed out what we tend to forget, we already are paying for health care for those who can’t or who aren’t covered by Medicare or Medicaid. We are paying when those who are uncovered end up in the emergency room and are treated. The point was then brought home by Doctor Vanderveen from the local hospital that 20% of the cost is made up of this type of service. Pete agrees this should be reformed. During the 2 hour event Pete came up with some good ideas but the main point he seemed to be in favor of was to break the bill down into manageable parts, then debate and pass it that way. As far as what was politically feasible - what would happen; it is my impression that he felt the Republicans along with the Blue Dogs had enough power to stop an immediate passage of the entire bill. As far as using the budget reconciliation provision as a tool to prevent filibuster in the Senate, he gave reasons why he thought that would not fly. One reason was that the original reconciliation measure was specific and just for budget compromise not for all bills. In fact during the time when that provision was approved it was only approved after the Byrd amendment was added, which limited the provision to budget specific measures. Ironically Sen. Byrd is a Democrat. The second reason Hoekstra believed reconciliation would not be invoked was that it would set a bad precedent in the Senate which is run by precedent. That precedent would open the door to taking away the filibuster option and he thought the Senate would not do that. Also he pointed out that the Dems wouldn’t want that precedent out there if and when they became the minority again in the constant ebb and flow of politics. My overall impression was that Congressman Peter Hoekstra showed his character in not just having a town hall meeting but in having three of the four which have been held in Michigan during the Congressional recess. The idea that it was an open format and open to any and all spoke volumes. He was the only person on the stage. He was up there alone. He took the heat and kept his cool. The only time he got heated at all was when a questioner after a long partisan rambling statement threw in that the Republicans when in power didn’t do what they are proposing as far as tort reform and the rest. The questioner said they didn’t do anything. I saw Pete, who was one of the Young Turks during the Republican Revolution, briefly become a Turk again. He stood his ground and didn’t let the statement go unchallenged. I’m sorry I didn’t turn my recorder on quicker to catch it all. But below is a bit of video that catches the gist of Pete’s reply. Remember this is taken out of context, a sound bite if you will and was the ONLY time Pete was so direct.
The program went a half hour late and yet Pete stayed after on the floor answering questions. I had asked his staff earlier for a quick couple question after the event and Pete gave me the chance. From our conversation, I felt Pete thought this health care bill would be a close thing. He is worried I got the feeling about the bill being able to be rushed through. He also said that all this national pressure being brought to bear during the recess from the alternate media and the tea party/townhall events was making a difference in the attitude of the Congress. He applauded that effort. I asked him to imagine our Founding Fathers as they struggled to decide how much power to grant the President then to imagine they gave him the powers that HR3200 would give the Health Commissioner. I asked what our Democracy would have looked like. He cracked a smile; I was picturing a King being created. Whether Pete thought the same, he didn’t say. He only smiled and said something about HR 3200 giving way too much discretionary power to an unelected official. I think this town hall was a fine example of Pete at his best. He was put under the gun and showed his sand. No Teleprompters, no question screening, no hiding behind others. He had an impressive command of the facts and a man who knew his mind. I think Congressman Pete Hoekstra would make a hell of a Governor. He showed me a lot last night. Regards, Live Dangerously Be A Conservative

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