During a town hall meeting Monday morning at Lee University, Senator Bob Corker (R) explained his desire to allow citizens to purchase their own health insurance and to keep the government small. The purpose of the meeting was to speak with citizens and community leaders about the economic challenges facing Tennessee and America and the hot topic of health care reform.
“Bob Corker is the kind of senator that we need in Washington,” said Representative Kevin Brooks (R), when introducing Senator Corker. “I’m so happy that he’s bringing back to our capital common sense.”
After being introduced, Senator Corker removed his coat and faced the standing-room only crowd. He began with a few remarks about allowing failing banks to fail, the problem of prescription drug abuse and the need for health care reform. The former mayor of Chattanooga then opened the floor to questions.
The first person called upon was a New Orleans native who recently moved to Tennessee. He stated that his wife was diagnosed with a terminal illness and passed away. The man went on to state that he made the choice as to when his wife would die and that he doesn’t want the government to make that decision for others in the future.
Senator Corker agreed and then fielded a question about debt.
“Before we expand anything, let’s get our house into order,” Senator Corker said. Going on, Senator Corker said, “I thought the stimulus package was ridiculous. If you feel there are short-term issues that need to be dealt with in this country, at least you’d get the long-term set, so when this little dip is over, people can see there are blue skies down the road.”
Following this, an audience member asked about the Food Safety Enhancement Act that will “take control of the farming community.” According to this man, if someone wants to have a farm on his or her own property, it will cost $1,000 to do so. “The president is obviously trying to run this as a socialistic situation,” he stated. “I would ask that you tell (Congresswoman) Nancy Pelosi (D) that I’m one of those ugly mobsters. I’m not a racist. I’m an American.”
Senator Corker said he would make sure people continue to have the right to do what they want to do on their own property.
Next was a question from someone in the overflow crowd, who asked: Why can’t congress have the same insurance as the constituents?
“That’s what I’d like to see happen,” Senator Corker said. “I’ve written a bill last year that does exactly that. There’s a lot of bipartisan support for doing something that would create exchanges where people would buy insurance in a competitive market, but it’s private insurance that you choose. Which is very different from a bureaucrat telling you what to do.”
An audience member then stated, “The 800-pound gorilla in this room is illegal immigration.” He went on to say that in 2002-2003, he was teaching in Arkansas with a wife dying of cancer. Every time he went to the hospital, his wife had to wait for illegal aliens “with snotty noses,” even though he had good insurance and cash to pay for services.
Senator Corker then answered this statement. “There are many reasons people don’t have health insurance. When we go about trying to solve the problem, you have to look at each situation,” Senator Corker said. “Of the 47 million, 11 million are immigrants. Half of them are legal, half of them are illegal. What we’re not trying to do is craft a health care solution for those who are here illegally.”
Before instituting changes, Senator Corker said, “We need to figure out a way to implement the policies that we have.”
Next, an audience member asked why Senator Corker would support an “independent Federal Reserve System when you know it is not federal and it’s not a reserve.”
“There are a lot of people who want to see the Federal Reserve audited,” Senator Corker said. “We’ve already agreed to that.” He then stated there would probably be a bill soon to audit all the money that flows through the feds. “I don’t want to see people like me or like the president directing the fed as it relates to monetary policy,” Senator Corker said. “I agree 100% that Americans ought to have the ability to audit the feds to see where every bit of money goes. (However,) you don’t want a president who is in trouble calling the feds and asking them to change the monetary policy. I can assure you enough politics affect policy adversely.”
A Cleveland High School student then asked who would pick up the tab for tax breaks promised to Americans by President Barack Obama.
“We’ve not acted responsibly,” Senator Corker said. “The majority of people in this country are waking up and realizing we have a government that is out of control. What has made this country great is the willingness of generations to do some of these tough things, to make sure those who come after them have a better life. We have failed at that for many years now. It didn’t start six months ago. It’s accelerated the last six months.” He then thanked the student for reminding everyone that when the government acts irresponsibly, it hurts young people.
Next, someone asked about the terminology of health care reform used by Senator Corker and insurance reform, which President Obama discusses.
Senator Corker stated, “The words that they’re using are very, very different. The words that I’m using are for all Americans to have affordable, quality, private health insurance is exactly what I said when I was in Bradley County campaigning. 55. “There are some things the government can do to help organize, but what we need to do is help organize choice for people to actually buy private health insurance. Saying that you need a public option to keep the private sector honest is like saying we only own 60% of General Motors, let’s own 100 to keep Toyota and Honda honest.”
A lady from Dayton was then called upon. “We just want to be left alone,” she began. “We want repeal of all rules, regulations and mandates that are strapping us daily. It’s finished. We want you all to take a solemn oath before God to stay within the boundaries of the Constitution. This is our country and we do not want this intrusion any longer. Leave us alone!”
Following this, a third-generation health care provider said that instead of the government telling him what to do, the government should give a tax write-off to do things right. He then asked that the government offer a write-off to provide care to indigents “and then get out of the way.”
“We have some things in Hamilton County where great health care providers are giving great care,” Senator Corker said. “If you get paid and you write it off, you get less benefit.”
The next resident asked about the Patriot Act and a number of other acts that she disagreed with. “This government is frightening me,” she side.
“Whether it is to the specific issues or other things, I think there is a general feeling that government is getting way to large, is getting out of control, it’s invading people’s rights,” Senator Corker said, “and I appreciate that continuing being brought forth.” Senator Corker then said that with only a couple of exceptions, he has voted for smaller government and has great support for the free enterprise system.
Following this statement, a citizen stated that for years, the Republican Party has not had a united front. She then asked what plan the Republicans have to bring about change and show a united front.
“We have 50 states, and Republicans from 50 states have different constituents. To say there’s a united front is not the way life is. Republicans from other parts of the country sometimes have a different view than Republicans from Tennessee and the same is true for Democrats,” Senator Corker said. “I think what people want to see is for us to move forward in a pragmatic way that doesn’t step on anyone’s rights.”
Standing up to present her question, a Cleveland resident living near the Hiwassee River asked about a Senate bill to reduce mercury in water. She said that only four companies in America are using outdated, mercury-based technology in the country and one of them is in Bradley County.
Senator Corker said he was trying to figure out a way to give these companies an appropriate timeline to change. He said he wants to do it in a way that won’t jeopardize the livelihood of people living in Bradley County. “I think we’re going to get to a place that you will consider reasonable, and I think the investment we’re going to have to make is very, very large.”
The final question regarded Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She thanked Senator Corker for voting against Justice Sotomayor and said she and several others wrote Senator Lamar Alexander (R) asking him to do the same.
“We voted in different ways on this,” Senator Corker said. “I thoroughly enjoy working with Lamar Alexander. The guy works incredibly hard. We come to different conclusions sometimes.”
With that, Senator Corker concluded, “It’s been a long time for America since the time when people like you – hard-working people who care about your country – have come out in the numbers you’re coming out in Tennessee and across the country. I want to thank you for being the kind of citizens that you are, and I want to thank you for letting me serve the most wonderful citizens in America.”