U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta speaks to citizens at his first town hall-style meeting where he hopes to gather the public’s opinions and bring them back to Washington.AIMEE DILGER/THE TIMES LEADER
WILKES-BARRE TWP. – In his first town hall meeting since taking office three weeks ago, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta fielded questions and asked some of his own before a friendly crowd of nearly 60 people.
During the 90-minute session at the Wilkes-Barre Township fire hall, the discussion ranged from the health care reform, to energy independence for the United States and cutting the $1.5 trillion federal deficit.
“What I heard tonight that caught my attention was the intensity of their statements,” he said afterwards. “I believe the people here still feel very strongly that the country’s going in the wrong direction.”
Peggy Magagna of Swoyersville asked the freshman Republican congressman from the 11th District for help in eliminating the out-of-pocket payments for Medicare.
“I’ve had cancer three times, and I’ll tell you I am broke,” said Magagna who thought she might have been the only Democrat in the audience.
But another Democrat spoke up and demanded that Barletta explain why he voted with other Republican House members to repeal the health care reform act signed into law last March by President Barack Obama.
No one in Congress read the 2,800-page document and the fact that some aspects have been challenged is an indication that it’s filled with so many “bad laws,” he responded.
Barletta agreed with the woman that adult children up to age 26 should be covered under the parents’ plans, lifetime caps should be eliminated and no one should be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions. Instead of going through the bill, keeping what’s good and eliminating what’s bad, “the best thing we can do is let’s start over with what makes sense,” he said.
Barletta used the issue of the unrest in Egypt as an example of why the United States must rely less on foreign countries for oil and liquid fuels.
“Every time there’s an event we pay at the pump,” he said.
The vast reserves of natural gas and coal in Northeastern Pennsylvania can make the country energy independent. The technology exists to convert them into liquid fuels, he said.
His support of reducing the federal deficit by cutting spending, eliminating waste and fraud drew support from the audience as did his call for eliminating government bailouts.
But Jim Dyer urged Barletta to make drastic cuts by eliminating entire government agencies and departments.
“Everybody is talking like they’re a surgeon, but I want a butcher,” said Dyer, of Pittston.
“Please put on your apron and get it bloody.”