MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

January 30, 2013

Mullin meets constituents

Congressman takes on topics including gun control, Obamacare, Medicare

By D.E. Smoot

— Well-heeled professionals boasted about their plans to buy assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition clips. Others criticized President Barack Obama and other Democrats who support a ban on those items.

These conversations took place as a room full of people waited for U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin to take the floor Wednesday during a town hall meeting in Muskogee. Gun control and other topics — bipartisanship, health care reforms and Medicare — dominated the dialogue during the late-morning meeting, one of 16 Mullin planned this week throughout the 2nd Congressional District.

The tone of Wednesday’s meeting differed dramatically from that of a December meeting the Westville Republican had before he was sworn into office. During that earlier meeting, Mullin talked about working across party lines and said putting “differences aside,” getting “to work” and addressing the nation’s problems were more important than questioning the president’s legitimacy.

Wednesday, however, the freshman lawmaker responded to critics of compromise with an answer that appeared to tack in the opposite direction. Mullin said he agreed with a woman who said she was disappointed with congressional Republicans who appear willing to find common ground with Obama on some issues.

“Leadership has stood up and said they will not be negotiating with the president any more — we’ll see if that happens,” Mullin said, acknowledging his agreement with the woman’s concerns. “You can’t trust what is coming out the guy’s mouth anyway, so why are we trying to negotiate with him?”

Also mentioned was the issue of gun control, which Mullin described as the “flavor of the month.” Keith Hardesty of Vian, saying that drunken drivers kill more people than those who wield firearms, advocated for more attention on drinking and driving and less on a weapons ban.

Mullin said Obama and his supporters are trying to use the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn., as “an opportunity to push their agenda” for gun control. He predicted there would be no ban on assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition clips, saying there are enough Democrats who fear retaliation at the voting booth to keep such a bill from passing through either house of Congress.

Gun control more likely would come through executive orders designed to take certain types of ammunition or mechanical parts off the shelf, he said, adding that such an action would render some weapons useless.

Responding to criticisms about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — or Obamacare, as it has become known — Mullin laid out House Republicans’ plan to undermine the law. He said those who oppose Obamacare lost the battle to repeal the law with the Nov. 6 election, so it will have to be dismantled piece by piece.

“Right now it will be hard to fund, so what you are going to see is the House trying pick out pieces of it,” Mullin said in response to a surgeon’s questions. “Instead of looking at it as a whole, we are going to try and chunk away at it a little bit at a time. If we can take enough pieces out of it, hopefully the whole thing crumbles.”

On Medicare, Mullin said the eligibility age will have to be raised “if we are going to get a balanced budget.” House Republicans working on the issue are considering the possibility of raising the age of eligibility to anywhere from 67 to 69, he said.

Mullin, who campaigned as the only candidate who could be trusted to “fight for the protection of Medicare,” said changes being proposed could affect those who already are in their late 50s.

“These are all rough numbers — there will probably be a 10-year span between the two,” Mullin said about the difference between a person’s present age and the eligibility age change. “Those who are at 58 or 59 could be looking to wait 10 years before they receive it, so they are looking at about a decade gap.”

Concluding the question-and-answer segment of the meeting, Mullin talked about his frustrations and optimism for the future. His frustrations stemmed from his inability to protect his family from threats made by a person who disagrees with his position on gun control. Mullin said his optimism is based upon his willingness to choose his battles wisely and fight them with conviction for the country’s future.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.