U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney fielded heated questions from both sides of the political spectrum on the recent government shutdown and health care reform during a town hall forum Wednesday night at York Technical College’s Baxter Hood Center.
Mulvaney, who represents the Fifth Congressional District, including York, Chester and Lancaster counties, delivered a brief Powerpoint presentation titled “Fact or Fiction” that focused on the fallout from the recent shutdown and highlighted criticism of the Affordable Care Act.
The Indian Land Republican denied claims by some critics that House Republicans voted for the shutdown or were trying to defund the health care law, saying that “both parties were complicit” in the decision that ultimately led to the 16-day stalemate on Capitol Hill and shuttered a portion of federal programs and offices.
He also cautioned the audience of more than 100 people that the U.S. appears to be moving toward a single-payer health care system and said he would prefer that health insurance be more like automobile insurance companies.
“We want a little green animal hawking health insurance, like we do with car insurance,” he said, in reference to the gecko on Geico auto insurance ads.
Mulvaney pointed to complications with the federal exchange website, www.healthcare.gov, as a reason for citizens’ reduced confidence in government and said that premiums will continue to rise under the program because of the way it is set to take patients with pre-existing medical conditions.
Several people at the forum expressed fears over government-controlled health care. One woman and her family held up handmade signs that read “I liked my doctor.”
One man suggested that the president be impeached and a woman said she was worried about her new health care plan recently purchased through the federal exchange, after her employer insurance was no longer sufficient under current mandates.
But not everyone in the audience was against the law.
One man incited some yelling and snickering after he urged the crowd to “stop obsessing” over the health reform act, saying the Republican Party had “wrecked” U.S. credit by forcing the federal government into a shutdown.
Golda McKenny, 82, said she thought Mulvaney was very “negative” about the law and asked him to list three specific things he didn’t like about the act. “There’s a lot of people who think Obamacare is going to do a lot of harm,” she said, “but most of it is in their mind and imagination.”
Rob Seward said Mulvaney was being “disingenuous” when he said Republicans hadn’t voted to shut down the government, calling it a failed strategy to try to “extort” a reversal from those who supported the health care act in Congress. Mulvaney replied, “I think you’re giving us too much credit; I don’t think there was much of a strategy at all.”
Mulvaney said he’s the first to admit that the Republican Party is fractured, suffers from a lack of central leadership, and hasn’t been able to appeal to people on a personal level.
“I voted against my Speaker of the House because I had some problems with him,” he said of Republicans buckling under pressure to reopen the government. “I was told by my own party to shut up about the debt ceiling.”
For Linda Reight, 58, a special needs teacher, the issue of whether to raise the U.S. debt ceiling and extend the government’s borrowing authority was a top concern. Congress will be debating the issue in January.
Reight, who described herself as a “big fan” of Mulvaney and a frequent town hall participant, said she appreciated his way of explaining complex subjects and said it was important to open up the conversation to everyone, not just to those who agree with conservative politics.
“I was very happy to hear different points of views tonight,” Reight said, “I’ve learned to have much more of an open mind.”
Reight said that while the debt ceiling likely will not affect her, it will be something her grandchildren will have to deal with.
“I’m passing on a burden,” she said, “and that’s not right.”
Jie Jenny Zou • 803-329-4062