GOP lawmaker fields a few questions from Democrats

Posted on August 30, 2015 21:03 pm CDT

Joplin Globe
By: Susan Redden

It was billed as a town hall, but it wasn't quite an open forum when U.S. Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo., spoke Thursday night to area residents.

The event was put on by the Jasper County Republican Central Committee, and Jimmy Morris, committee chairman, who emceed the event, tried to steer at least the early questions of the congressman to members of the committee.

Morris said the order was to allow for Long's limited time in Joplin and in deference to the volunteer service by committee members. But more than a dozen local Democrats attended the session, and a couple during the question-and-answer session managed to quiz the congressman, particularly on his opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

Krista Stark, chairwoman of the Southwest Missouri Democrats, asked what plan is being proposed to replace the Affordable Care Act by Republicans who have tried to overturn the measure.

Long said he favored steps such as allowing health insurance to be sold across state lines and buying pools, where organizations could band together to get cheaper coverage for members. He said he did favor an element of the ACA that allows children to stay on parents' insurance until they are 26.

Another speaker told Long she was in the "coverage gap" because Missouri has not expanded its Medicaid program under ACA.

"I'm left with nothing because I make too much to get Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for subsidies" under the federal program, she said.

Long said he serves on the health care subcommittee (in the House Energy and Commerce Committee), adding "that's a great need, and we're working on alternatives."

Several questions touched on the current congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood and whether fetal tissue was sold for medical research. Long said his "main goal" was to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood and any other organization that offered abortions.

"We'll do everything possible; abortion needs to be done away with totally. It all started with Roe v. Wade," he said, referring to the 1973 Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal. The issue has further heightened the importance of the upcoming presidential election, he said, because it's possible two current Supreme Court justices will retire in the term of the president elected in 2016.

"We've got to get the White House," he said. "I don't think we're going to lose anything in the House, but I don't see us (Republicans) picking up enough seats in the Senate, especially not enough to override a veto."

Though he offered no candidate endorsement during the session, he did say Sen. Ted Cruz has promised to overturn the Affordable Care Act and rescind all the executive orders issued by President Barack Obama.

Long said he strongly objects to the proposed nuclear deal with Iran because leaders there cannot be trusted to keep their part of the bargain.

"Iran wants nuclear materials for a bomb and everyone knows it; they're a sponsor of terrorism," he said.

The congressman also addressed a concern raised by one resident, who said he had heard the federal government plans to try to take guns away from veterans.

"You can hear anything," he said. "That's not going to happen; a lot of Democrats also support the Second Amendment."

The session, held at Granny Shaffer's Restaurant, attracted about 100 people who heard the congressman speak, then answer questions, for about 45 minutes.

Upcoming

Long said Congress in the session that resumes after Labor Day must pass a highway bill, and predicted that measure, and the Planned Parenthood investigation, will dominate in coming months.







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