MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

October 8, 2013

Mullin hears from angry constituents in teleconference

Some furious with GOP, others ired by both parties

Voters in Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District gave their Republican representative a piece of their collective mind in a teleconference Monday, criticizing Congress for its failure to fund government operations.

Of the 20 participants who had a chance to make a comment or ask a question, four expressed some degree of exasperation about House Republicans’ insistence of linking government funding to the repeal or rollback of the Affordable Care Act. Others were just “ticked off” with the partisan politics that has led to the partial federal shutdown and threatens to bring the country to the brink of default.

U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, who has been conducting the teleconferences regularly since the days leading up to the government shutdown on Oct. 1, also expressed frustration with the budget impasse. But while trying to sell the ideal of “common-sense” solutions, Mullin showed few signs that he is willing to back off the party line to end the standoff.

When asked about the sensibility of granting back pay to the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who have been — or will be — furloughed, Mullin exposed some of the partisan posturing that has led to congressional deadlock. He said the “idea behind this” was to circumvent the insistence of some for the House to vote on a funding bill without the extraneous demands that have been made.

Mullin said he agrees “100 percent that if we are going to do this, we might as well bring them back to work,” referring to the furloughed workers. The resolution passed by the House to grant back pay, he said, was an attempt to get the Senate to vote on piecemeal legislation that would fund only some of the most popular government programs while starving others.

“If they do this, they are picking winners and losers,” Mullin said, turning back the argument that Senate Democrats have made to deny votes on the individual funding bills. “If they are picking winners and losers, why aren’t they voting on these other bills?”

Mullin laid part of the blame for government gridlock on congressional maps that were drawn to ensure “safe seats” for both Republicans and Democrats. He said of the 435 House seats, only eight are “truly contested.” He described the 2nd District as one of those drawn to be neutral.

“I never ran on just a ticket, I ran on common sense,” he said, contending that he is beholden to neither party. “We can actually choose to look at it from a common-sense perspective, not a political perspective.”

But when the discussion touched on the Affordable Care Act, Mullin revealed his partisan disdain for the law that has survived constitutional scrutiny and was ratified by voters during the 2012 presidential election. When participants expressed support for what has become known as Obamacare, Mullin either responded with disbelief or deflected their questions and criticism.

When one caller urged Democrats “to stand strong ... because the American people are being held hostage” by tea party demands to derail the health care reforms, Mullin blamed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for not sending a continuing budget resolution to conference to work out a compromise. Mullin omitted the fact that House Republicans refused six months ago to vote on a similar measure that would have allowed a conference committee to iron out differences in budgets passed by both houses in Congress.

When another caller, who said she is “upset, mad, and ticked off with you guys,” tried to explain how she and her husband will benefit from the Affordable Care Act, Mullin replied that if the law is “going to be forced down our throats,” President Barack Obama and the Senate are going to have to “tell us how they are going to pay for it.”

With regard to how long it might take to resolve the budget showdown, Mullin said the House leadership has asked the freshman class, including Mullin, to reach out to Democratic colleagues to find common issues. He declined to provide details but said two proposals have been taken to the leadership on both sides of the aisle and may thaw the divide later this week.

Mullin’s comments came in the wake of a new survey that shows Republicans are losing ground in the blame game surrounding the shutdown. The survey, released Monday by ABC News and the Washington Post, shows 70 percent of those who responded disapprove of how Republicans are handling budget negotiations — that is up 7 percent from a week ago.

That increase came from across the political spectrum, with the disapproval of those who identified themselves as Republicans up 7 percent. The disapproval rating for congressional Republicans by self-identified independents was up 5 percent and 9 percent among Democrats.

The poll shows the disapproval rating for congressional Democrats rose about 5 percent, with most of that increase from Republican respondents. There essentially was no change among independents and Democrats.

The unfavorable rating for Obama’s handling of the government shutdown remained statistically unchanged at 51 percent. His rating a week ago on that issue was 50 percent.

The ABC News-Washington Post poll was conducted by land line and cell phone Oct. 2-6 in English and Spanish among a random national sample of 1,005 adults. Results have a 3.5-point margin of sampling error.

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

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