MANATEE -- Jobs, the economy and health care.
Right off the bat U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, announced those as the three issues he would focus on during his town hall meeting Saturday morning at Bayshore High School.
“I’m here to listen to you and get your thoughts and comments and to answer questions and concerns you may have,” Buchanan said in his opening remarks.
About 200 people attended the event, which drew supporters from both sides of the aisle to discuss those topics in a civil manner.
Although, things did get compelling.
While discussing the economy, the congressman referred to members of Congress as “morons” for not being able to balance the budget.
“We just passed $14 trillion in debt. We’re running deficits that are a trillion and a half dollars a year. It defies logic,” Buchanan said.
He said he recently reintroduced a bill that he originally proposed in 2007 that says Congress should balance the budget by not spending more than what is taken in.
“I’m saying, let’s start hammering away at the deficit and balance it in five years,” Buchanan said. “The city of Bradenton and Manatee County, they all have to balance the budget, families have to balance their budget. What’s wrong with the morons up there?”
He added: “No one is going to bail out the U.S. if we can’t pay the bill; we’re the end game, so we have to find a way to stay within our means, like families and businesses.”
Health care also proved to be a hot button issue.
“I don’t always agree with you, but it’s an act of courage for you to be here,” said Sheryl Wilson, a Democrat. “I understand that not everyone likes every tenet of the Affordable Health Care Act, but I would rather see work done to improve it than a symbolic vote to repeal it.”
Buchanan responded by stating the two can agree to disagree on that issue.
“There are a lot of people who have different opinions about certain things and it’s not political,” he said. “I’m concerned about the health care bill because it does little to nothing in my opinion.”
He said he’s spoken with several business owners, including a private pharmacy owner, who have seen increases in their health care bill.
“My biggest concern is bending the curve on health care -- helping small businesses get access to affordable quality health care,” Buchanan said. “All the costs of health care continue to go up and at a time when we have a massive runaway deficit, and there is plenty of blame to go around on that. I don’t know if we should start up another gigantic entitlement program.”
Buchanan said he feels there are some “good things” in the health care bill, such as the language of pre-existing conditions and children being able to stay on their parents’ plan for longer; however, he said, “We need to look at how to reform the whole health care system.”
When it came to job creation, Buchanan made it clear where he stood: Put America first. “I think we sold out America in a lot of ways, we need to fight for our jobs here,” Buchanan said. “Many immigrants come here, they come from oppressed situations and their vision is this is the land of opportunity. You work hard, you play by the rules, anything is possible. And that’s the America I want my children to grow up in.”
During the talk, a former deputy from Pima County, Ariz. -- site of the recent shooting that killed six and wounded a congresswoman -- announced his concern over people crossing the border without documentation.
There were plenty of references made throughout the town hall to the shooting in Arizona and security.
“It was an isolated incident, but at the same time I got to make sure my staff and the public is safe,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan mentioned how his thoughts and prayers are with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.