Health care reform and the energy bill were the two major topics of discussion during a town hall meeting Tuesday in Stillwater.
U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., came to Stillwater to discuss some of the recent issues in the House of Representatives. The city was his third stop in the area for the day, preceded by Perkins and Guthrie. He said there was a great turn out at every meeting, with the biggest crowds ever.
The meeting began with an overview of the issues currently under discussion in the 111th session of Congress in Washington, D.C., and real estate’s financial state.
“The great property boom, the first decade of this century, it went from being a boom, to a bubble, to a bust,” Lucas said. “It literally burst all over us, and the effect on the biggest financial institutions — banks, insurance companies, mortgage companies — on the east and west coast has been nothing short of horrific.”
Since the bust, he said, the matter has dominated the agenda and the pocketbooks of the citizens, and legislation has incurred a $1.5 trillion dollar debt between buying up mortgages and the stimulus package, which he voted against.
Lucas also discussed the Waxman-Markey bill, or cap-and-trade, which barely passed the House of Representatives. The vote required to pass was 218, and the bill passed with 219 votes in favor. It is now in the Senate.
He said the bill reduces greenhouse gases through two measures, setting a quota for the amount of exhaust a corporation is allowed, cap, with the option to buy another company out of their remaining quota, trade.
The second measure on the cap-and-trade bill is to reduce the emissions by dramatically reducing the amount of electricity generated and oil and gas refined. This will be done through a tax on the production of electricity, oil and gas, leading to a drop in use because people won’t be able to afford to use the energy.
The bill proposes to drop emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.
“That’s a dramatic turn down to the point that the bill is estimated to generate, conservatively, $700 billion in tax revenues, maybe a trillion,” Lucas said.
He then proceeded into the energy and commerce food safety bill that will expand Food and Drug Administration regulations to farms. Currently the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates production, and the FDA steps in during processing and sales.
“We’ll see if the bill was intended more as a timing tool to affect cap-and-trade, or whether they really want to do that,” Lucas said. “I personally believe that having both entities to provide supervision is a good thing.”
He said the issue that has generated the most comment is a national health care bill.
“I do not pretend to be an expert on the nuances, these are probably questions you should direct to Sen. Coburn,” Lucas said. “He tends to be more of the health care expert within the Oklahoma delegation, but the biggest single question is how do you pay for it?”
He said even with the energy tax, there will still be a $500 billion deficit in revenue. He said a variety of areas for taxation have been discussed, but now they are using the legislative process on the floor to discuss the options.
He said those who are concerned about taxes and health care should take the initiative to send letters to the White House. He said he is willing to answer questions, but President Barack Obama should hear concerns of the citizens as well.
He finished his overview with an update on the foreign affairs. Soldiers were scheduled to leave the cities of Iraq on Tuesday, while remaining close enough to step in if an attack should occur. Lucas said this should be completed as scheduled.
He said the United States is now focusing more efforts in Afghanistan with 17,000 troops currently deployed and 10,000 more scheduled to deploy soon. Lucas said “the bad guys” have made a stand there and so President Obama has taken action in Afghanistan.
Honduras has recently become a priority, with the removal of its president. Lucas said if the president of Honduras was attempting to change the constitution, the removal may have been a good thing, because “a dictator is a dictator whether the left or the right.”
Most questions remained within the cap-and-trade and the health care reform. Amongst discussion was the fear some people have of being underrepresented by their government officials.
Lucas said many things have changed, but the biggest has been the use of C-SPAN because the legislatures are talking to cameras instead of each other.
He said people are nervous about where the country is going, and he has heard from many firearms dealers that people are buying guns and shells to protect themselves from political and economic uncertainty.
“I don’t see anything wrong with that,” he said. “A case of shells kept dry is going to last how many decades? We may not sell any bullets or shotgun shells for five years once everybody gets caught up, but there’s nothing wrong with you buying them and putting them under your beds.”
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