August 17th, 2009
07:32 PM ET
9 years ago

Blue Dog: 'Excellent idea' to start over on health care reform

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption=" Rep. Allen Boyd said Monday that it would be an 'excellent idea' to start over on health care."]PERRY, Florida (CNN) - Acknowledging his amazement at the crowds gathered to debate health care at his town halls, Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Florida, faced three large gatherings on Monday with many questioners voicing skepticism about the proposals being debated in Washington.

"Never have I had this attendance ... that is a good thing," Boyd said as he started his third event of the day.

Boyd, in his seventh term, represents a conservative area in northern Florida. A fiscal conservative, he is part of the group of House Democrats known as the Blue Dogs.

At the first event of the day in Cross City, he held up a copy of the bill passed by the Energy and Commerce Committee and embraced by the congressional leadership.

"I cannot support this bill in the version it is in now," he said. "We can do better. We can make it better."

Related video: Blue Dog says no to bill

He emphasized to the skeptical crowds that he will work to reduce quickly-rising medical costs; that any bill must not add to the deficit; and that Blue Dogs like himself fought to delay consideration by the full House of Representatives to allow members to hear directly from constituents during the August recess.

When a questioner, Ray Evans, said he believed the President wants to do too much at once and asked whether Boyd would "be willing to scrap everything" and start over to do pursue reform more incrementally, the congressman responded: "I think that is an excellent idea ... we may end up there."

In a later interview with CNN, he said the idea had been been floated with the congressional leadership. He said that with the strong emotions and heated opposition he is seeing, the idea of doing health reform in a more piecemeal fashion is something he is strongly considering.

A large number of those asked questions at Monday's events said they did not feel the government should play any bigger role in society.

"Government is supposed to be for the people. [It] already took over banks and the car industry. We don't want to take over the health industry," said one questioner, Ann Millard. "If government gets involved, the insurance industry can't compete with the government."

A hot topic at each of Monday's events was whether illegal immigrants would receive benefits under the bills under consideration – an unpopular idea as judged by the audience reaction when the topic was mentioned. Each time an audience member declared illegal immigrants should not received any benefits, the remark was met by strong applause.

"This comes up at every meeting," Boyd said in Perry. Earlier in the day, he quoted directly from the bill.

"Page 143, line 3,” he said. “No federal payment for undocumented aliens; nothing in this subtitle shall allow federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States. Does that answer your question?"

Still, the crowds were never unruly - although at times they would make it known when they heard something they didn't like.

The congressman worked hard to prevent the kind of unruliness seen at other town halls around the country. He suggested that his town halls should be an example of southern hospitality.

Several questioners confronted Boyd, saying he is siding with the Democratic congressional leadership, particularly House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, rather than representing the views of the more conservative constituents.

"Somewhere along the way you drank the Kool-Aid," one person in Perry told him.

"If we let Pelosi and people like that direct us we are doomed, we are doomed," business-owner Joe Anderson said in Cross City, at which point the crowd erupted in cheers.

Boyd did not defend Pelosi, but moved on to other subjects and said he understands his first mission is to do what his constituents want. Boyd was re-elected last year with 62% of the vote in his district.

The Republican National Committee is currently running an ad trying to drive a wedge between Boyd and his constituents. "The dangerous experiment President Obama and the Democrats in Congress want just can't be the right answer ... The question is what Congressman Boyd will do."

Some audience members left feeling the congressman avoided directly answering their questions.

Several people at different events asked whether Boyd would vote to mandate that members of Congress get the same coverage Americans would get under the bill.

His response did not go over well with the audience: "Let me make this clear. I don't want all Americans to have the same. I want you to have your choice about what you have."

When a questioned pressed him for a yes or no answer on whether it was irresponsible for a member of Congress to vote on a bill without reading it, he said, "We need to understand what is in the bill."

When he noted that sometimes a member of Congress has to vote on a bill without fully reading the legislation because to time constraints, me was met with boos. He added: "We ought not to vote on bills we don't understand."

Filed under: Florida • Health care
soundoff (64 Responses)
1 2 3