Congressman Lucas' 2013 Town Hall Meeting
Congressman Frank Lucas (R – OK) held a town hall meeting at Kingfisher, OK on November 7, 2013. About 15 citizens were in attendance. He reported that the war in Iraq is essentially over and that the war in Afghanistan is winding down. He said that nothing much has been accomplished by the Legislature. It is also unlikely that an agreement will be reached on an immigration bill this year. He tended to blame the Senate because a budget has not been passed as the House has sent it the budget four times and the Senate refuses to pass it. However, he did not mention that the Senate and the House must agree on a budget and that the House keeps putting back in the items that the Senate stripped from the budget each time it sent it back.
Comment: The Congressman is certainly right about nothing being accomplished as, in spite of the many problems that need to be addressed, this has been the least productive Congress in history. It has become so divided and partisan that it is becoming very difficult to carry out the business of government. As the end of the session nears, there is a great danger that many must-have bills will be passed without proper consideration.
The Congressman explained that the Senate had rejected the one-year delay in implementing the mandate in the Affordable Care Act and that enrollment was moving forward even though there were a number of problems with the healthcare.gov website. He said that according to a law (proposed by Sen. Grassley (R -IA ) passed by Congress, they must buy their healthcare insurance from the healthcare exchange. It is important to note that one of the criticisms of the Affordable Care Act is that if it is so good, why does Congress not buy their insurance through the exchanges? This clarifies that they actually must do so. Congressman Lucas has not signed up yet and it is unlikely that he will get a subsidy considering his salary. He did point out that White House and Congressional staff members are employees, and are covered by their regular insurance. He did not mention that he had voted, up till now, 42 times to repeal the affordable care act.
The Congressman talked at length and emotionally about the Farm Bill since, as Chairperson of the Agriculture Committee, it is his responsibility. There are number of disagreements and uncertainties between the Senate and the House about the bill, such as whether there should be price supports or subsidies for crop insurance, about reduced CRP payments which reimburses farmers for leaving marginal land unplanted, about the ethanol subsidy which most everyone agrees should be reduced, and about means testing for farm subsidies. (Currently, a number of millionaires and even billionaires are receiving farm subsidies.) The main sticking point seems to be about whether $40 billion should be cut out of the SNAP program over the next ten years as the House wants, or whether it should be only the $10 billion in the Senate version. If the Farm Bill is not passed, nutrition benefits will continue, but there will be no help for the poor with energy bills, and farm policies may revert to laws passed several decades earlier. He said it was imperative that the farm bill be passed, as we must have food.
During the question period, one gentleman asked why there was such a division of the Republican Party which he said was letting the Democrats get whatever they wanted. Congressman Lucas commented that there were some in the party who were not satisfied with incremental changes, but who wanted to hit a home run in every piece of legislation or nothing.
Another person gave a long speech about how the Republicans were allowing the Democrats to win the battle of words. He wanted the Republicans to get on television and radio and explain how wrong the Democrats were. The Congressman did not seem interested in becoming a radio or TV personality.
When asked about the presidential election, he said that Romney was just not the right candidate. He had no preference for President in 2016, but when asked about Jon Huntsman, he said he did not think he was yet ready for the presidency.
When asked about whether cutting the SNAP program would hurt farmers, he said that he did not think so, but did not give a clear reason. It is hard to see why it wouldn’t, as the cuts would reduce the demand for food items.
When his turn came, the author explained that research has shown that the drought that the third district and Texas the last three years was caused by global warming, and though the recent rains had help the situation, it was likely that the droughts would be worse in the future, unless action was taken to reduce our carbon emissions. One way to address that problem and also to reduce the national debt would be a carbon tax with a portion of the tax used to pay down the national debt and the rest to be divided among the citizens as an energy dividend. He asked the Congressman what he thought about that proposal. However, a group of young people had entered the back of the room for a photo op, and the Congressman bypassed the question in order to welcome them.
Comment: Climate scientists have pointed out that there is increasing evidence that climate change is causing increasing incidences of extreme weather, such as droughts and storms, which may put our farms production and food supply at risk. Congress turned down a motion that the Agriculture Department examine the risk to our food supply and Congressman Lucas voted with the nays.
It is also probably appropriate to mention the things that the Congressman did not say. His approach to the budget seems to be only to cut spending. Congressman Lucas had earlier voted for extending the tax cuts for wealthy citizens, costing the United States $800 billion in revenue. He also voted for the sequester which is delaying the recovery of our economy. And he voted for the government shut down, which is estimated to have cost about $24 billion and accomplished nothing, though that amount could have been used to make up the difference in the SNAP program. He often mentioned cutting spending, but he did not mention the possibility of raising taxes to pay off the national debt. That is likely because he and 219 of 234 Republicans in the House have signed Grover Norquist’s Anti-Tax Pledge, which essentially cuts off the possibility of raising revenue to pay our national debt and is an abdication of Congressional responsibility.
Congressman Lucas said that he conducts around 30 town hall meetings each year, and considering that he has been in Congress for 20 years, that is certainly a large number of meetings. The third district covers the Western two thirds of the state, and it is predominant Republican and very conservative. Congressman Lucas seems to reflect the values of his constituency, but he may also have been responsible for forming some of their values as he has encouraged partisanship during his town hall meetings by placing blame unfairly on and criticizing the Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, and the President. My wife, who is a Democrat, does not feel the Congressman represents her at all and she has been quite upset by some of the things he has said about the Democrats. Perhaps now that he has witnessed the damage done to things that should be nonpartisan, such as the farm bill, he will reconsider his stance and become a Republican leader and a statesman.
Some of his answers were of concern to the author, as you can discern from his comments, and further information will be provided about Congressman Lucas’s views as the 2014 elections near.
Note: The author has written about several of Congressman Lucas’ town hall meetings, which can be found by entering his name in the search function at the top left of the homepage.
(c) 2013 J.C Moore
Research and editing credit: Barbara Moore