Proud of ‘party of no’

Register Associate Editor

Register/Richard Luken
Rep. Lynn Jenkins speaks Tuesday morning at the Allen County Courthouse assembly room. Most of Jenkins’ comments centered on spending and health care

Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins drew a standing room-only crowd to the courthouse assembly room Tuesday morning and talked primarily about health care and government spending,
Jenkins, a Topeka Republican, opened the 10 a.m. meeting with general comments about her first session as Second District representative.
She was, she said, proud to be a member of the “Party of No,” a description given to the Republican Party by its Democratic opponents.
She said she had voted against every appropriation bill considered on the floor, including the stimulus package that had broad bipartisan support and is now being given credit for helping to stabilize the economy.
The Republican Party, she said, had “a viable alternative” for every problem facing the nation, including the recession. The GOP proposals centered on a payroll tax “holiday” and other tax reductions for individuals and businesses.
“Now don’t get me wrong. The Obama administration inherited a mess. We Republicans were spending way too much. We were borrowing and spending and sending the bill to our children and grandchildren. I am not here to defend that record. But I don’t want the country to continue down that path in the wrong direction,” she said.
She also said that she had been to Fort Leavenworth, visited the maximum security military prison there, and had also been to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where some of the prisoners of the war in Afghanistan are kept along with others accused of terrorism in the U.S. and elsewhere.
“The Guantanamo Bay facility is state of the art. The detainees being kept there are being well-treated. It is not practical to move them to Kansas or anywhere else in the U.S. They should stay where they are,” she said. President Obama has pledged to close Guantanamo by the end of the year and send the detainees elsewhere.
She referred to the “cap-and-trade” bill passed by the House as an energy tax, said she voted against it and predicted that the Senate would defeat it. The measure is designed to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases by requiring power plants and other users of coal and other carbon-based fuels to buy emission permits. The cost of doing so would be passed on to consumers, raising the price of electricity and other products produced in plants that burn coal or natural gas.
It was proposed by the Obama administration and supported by those concerned with the consequences of global warming and climate change.
On health care, Rep. Jenkins said she would vote against any bill that “would put a bureaucrat between you and your doctor.” She said she believed that the House bill that addressed health care reform would amount to a federal takeover of the health care system, a statement that was challenged by members of the audience.
When asked why she believed that, she said “because I don’t trust the federal government to do what it says it will do.”
Jenkins brought with her handouts on health care prepared by opponents of federal reform and an outline of Republican health care proposals that focused on tort reform, tax credits and subsidies. The GOP proposes to reduce the number of citizens without health insurance, currently estimated at 57 million, but does not contemplate universal coverage.
Various comments from the floor stated that:
— Small businesses that once could afford to provide health insurance to their employees no longer can because policy rates have increased so much. In the past nine years, health insurance rates have doubled.
— Medical savings plans that offer tax credits to enrollees are useless to low-income families and individuals who don’t pay federal income tax. These plans have individuals set aside money in tax-deferred accounts so that when a medical need arises, they can pay for treatment from these individual accounts. For a large number of Americans, there is no “extra” money to set aside for such accounts.
— Some Canadians who winter at a resort development with a member of the audience dislike the Canadian health care system because of long waits for care. Another speaker said he knew a resident of England who was denied timely care for a heart condition. Neither speaker mentioned that the health care systems in both Canada and England cost about half as much for each citizen as the U.S. system does and that both countries have better health outcomes, i.e. greater longevity, higher birth weights, fewer infant deaths, and similar statistical advantages.
In answer to a question, Rep. Jenkins said she had not heard any mention of controlling lobbyists or reducing their numbers. She said she supposed that most of the money lobbyists report spending goes into congressional campaign funds.
She said she favored earmarks that “serve a genuine federal purpose, such as building roads and bridges,” but would work to keep the system more transparent so that members of Congress and the public would know what was in the appropriation bills before they voted.
She said the ballot box offered the public the best way to discipline politicians.
“I had a good life before I was elected to Congress. I am a CPA and enjoy that profession. So don’t worry about me. If you don’t like the way I vote, vote me out. I’ll be just fine,” she said.
Jenkins went from Iola to Chanute where she was scheduled to hold another open meeting.