Some spoke earnestly and others angrily at Rep. Mark Sanford’s October 5 meeting in North Charleston, but their sentiments were similar overall.
The government shutdown should cease, the budget resolution should pass, and Congress shouldn’t hold taxpayers hostage on a completely unrelated issue, most offered at the last-minute meeting.
Sanford’s office only told media of the event on the preceding afternoon, but about 200 local citizens still showed up at North Charleston City Hall at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Tea Party members and 9-12ers sat on one side and tie-dye t-shirts and nose rings occupied the other, but middle-of-the-road, middle-class citizenry took up the middle seating section of the council chambers environment.
They dominated the tone of the meeting, as well, and despite Sanford’s continued statements of shutdown support.
One attendee identified himself as a Sanford voter, but then told the congressman of two reasons he disagrees with the shutdown: first, it left him unemployed from his federal government job, the Charleston resident said. Second, his young child just had surgery, which made him personally reflect on and disagree with the true basis of the shutdown – House Republicans’ attempt to wreck the Affordable Care Act.
Both the national and local economies are at risk, a West Ashley resident said, noting that needed improvements to the Port of Charleston, which both Sanford and Vice President Joe Biden spoke of at an on-site event in September, were now on hold.
A Mt. Pleasant woman warned that the shutdown could even affect national health. Because the Dept. of Health and Human Services and the CDC are so limited in operation at the moment, there’ll be no public notice of flu season, she offered as example, and no vaccination drives, either, she said.
The full closings of other offices, such as the Civil Rights Commission and National Council on Disability, restrict the rights of many, said another.
An agriculture major at the College of Charleston told Sanford that the shutdown ended his internship, in which he was aiding a project on development of anticancer vegetation.
A Summerville man told Sanford he found the circumstance to be hypocritical. “The government’s been shut down by blocking the budget extension, but based on something that has nothing to do with that budget extension.”
Two attendees even agreed with Sanford’s disregard for the ACA, but still asked that the budget resolution be passed so that government can continue normal operation.
The recently-elected congressman respectfully received all comments, but still held to his shutdown support. Even though it had nothing to do with the budget extension, and even though it still continues operating – it even expanded the next day after the shutdown went into effect – Sanford still defended House Republicans’ plan to thwart ACA.
He not only opposes the healthcare plan, but he questions its current status, too, he said.
Broadly referring to 1,200 companies that have temporary exemption from an ACA rule that makes particular insurance policies a taxable benefit, Sanford said “it’s being administered in a way that’s not constitutional.”
Sanford’s argument, which he’s distributed many times, isn’t well-founded, however.
The Affordable Care Act does apply an excise tax to “Cadillac” plans – high-cost insurance policies that exceed a benefit cap of particular dollar values – that is payable by employers.
Health insurance for those who work in hazardous occupational fields could exceed those caps, though, and many companies have traditionally offered high-value insurance to employees in lieu of pay raises, as well.
The waiver has allowed corporate applicants in such circumstances to remain exempt from the excise tax.
Sanford made other comments that indicated rogueness and even hurt feelings might be playing a part in his support for the shutdown.
He said that during his previous congressional term he and Sen. Tom Coburn, who then was representative of Oklahoma’s 2nd District, would offer hundreds of amendments to bills to delay their final vote, “a method of filibustering,” he acknowledged.
Because the president formally stated he wouldn’t sign a resolution that included any defunding of the AHA, that indicated Pres. Obama was attempting to block such a delay-by-amendment tactic, Sanford said.
He also took as personal insult that the White House didn’t host a 4th of July barbecue for members of Congress. “That’s a tradition,” he said.
Instead, the president celebrated this year’s Independence Day with over 1,000 military troops and their families at a USO-sponsored event on the White House lawn.
Some did offer support to Sanford and his argument. The shutdown can be a positive avenue to privatization of government, said one wearing a “don’t tread on me” t-shirt, and many offices should be closed permanently, a female retiree offered.
The 90-minute reception answered no questions, though, as Sanford only alluded to darker days arising on October 17, when the federal government will be completely default, resting on assets that could be depleted within only days.
According to the U.S. Treasury, “credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, U.S. interest rates could skyrocket, the negative spillovers could reverberate around the world and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse” would be the results if default occurs from this shutdown, which it refers to as “political brinkmanship.”