Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

August 13, 2013

Cole addresses concerns at PV Town Hall

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat

emann@pvdemocrat.com — A break between sessions for the summer may mean time off from the regular grind at the state or national capitol, but for elected officials like U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, it has meant chances to address concerns with constituents directly.

One such event was held Friday in Pauls Valley at the high school auditorium in the form of a town hall meeting, and with an attendance of about 30-40 individuals, the time was filled even beyond what was scheduled with questions on wide variety of national issues.

One topic that dominated more than half of Cole’s time was an inquiry from many in attendance on why Obama Care had not been repealed or at least defunded.

“The problem’s not here, it’s not having people in other states to fight it,” said Cole, noting how on several occasions he had voted to repeal it as a member of the House, but that any efforts failed upon reaching the Senate level. “It’s enormously unpopular.”

Several times throughout the meeting Cole pointed out to those in attendance how he felt letting the government shut down would not be an effective way to threaten Obama Care’s funding source, primarily because it would still be supported under a federal mandate.

Shutting down the government would actually only deny funding to a lot of programs like veterans benefits, federal employees like those working for the national weather service providing warnings for tornadoes here in Oklahoma or even soldiers currently on duty, who would then have to worry about how to recoup those losses.

“Any time you hurt millions of people, inconvenience them, it doesn’t help the argument,” said Cole.

One man in attendance proposed the question if an expansion of required insurance was any worse than people who can’t afford it using emergency rooms, a solution still being paid for by taxpayers in the end.

This was focusing on the discussion of Medicaid expansion within the state, something Cole noted was an issue that belonged at the state level and where he offered support to Gov. Mary Fallin on her decisions regarding the issue.

“What makes you think we can trust the NSA?” said one man in the audience, bringing up one of the other big topics during the afternoon on spying on Americans through the NSA (National Security Agency). “They monitor your phone calls, they monitor your e-mails… you know as well as I do power corrupts, so what makes you think they can handle this?”

Cole explained how the issue of how to handle national security should be taken very seriously, though added how he wasn’t comfortable at this time voting to discontinue something that he believes has saved plenty of lives and potentially thwarted quite a few terrorist attacks.

“I don’t think this issue is over…what we’ve had is one opening debate,” said Cole. “It is security, liberty, what is an appropriate balance… I don’t know if there’s any other way to do it.”

On the issue of immigration, another gentleman asked if any measures could actually severely limit the flow of illegal individuals entering the country and Cole’s answer was that no matter the compromise, amnesty for those who broke the law could not be a part of the equation.

One gentleman expressed concern about the Environmental Protection Agency and Cole felt agency has overreached their power by forcing as many restrictions as they have on companies in recent years.

Inquiries were also brought up the farm bill, part of which has already passed, and Cole believes this was a major positive, especially for a rural area like this. He noted how now next part is nutrition bill, something that itself will involve plenty of debate.

In the end, a lot of it boiled down to several comments from those in attendance stating how they felt they weren’t being communicated with or listened to by the people they elect. There was some advice from a couple of attendees that their passions could be carried over on the grassroots level, which means getting a lot of these issues heard as many places as possible.

“I think a lot of you are not doing a good job telling us what is going on,” said an elderly woman in the audience.