Duffy fields constituent questionsMore than three dozen people took advantage of an opportunity to get the scoop on Washington D.C.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
More than three dozen people took advantage of an opportunity to get the scoop on Washington D.C.
U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Weston, hosted a town hall meeting Thursday morning at the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center to explain recent issues in the nation’s Capital, and field questions from constituents.
Questions ranged from the unintended consequences the Affordable Care Act to outrage elicited by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her response to Sen. Ron Johnson’s, R-Wis., questioning over the terrorist attacks in Benghazi.
And the congressman took the time to explain his decision to vote against legislation designed to keep the nation from going over the fiscal cliff.
The deal that was cut two hours into the New Year — had some good things in it, such as making sure income taxes for the middle class didn’t go up, Duffy said.
“It was a good thing we didn’t go over the dairy cliff,” Duffy said. “If a farm bill hadn’t passed, the dairy law was going to revert back to a 1946 law.” Consumers would have been spending about twice as much for milk as they do today.
It also avoided giving congress a pay raise, Duffy said.
However, the bill wasn’t a balanced approach that would address the nation’s deficit. With the nation facing a $16.4 trillion national debt and annual borrowing of $1.3 trillion, Duffy said the bill, while it raised revenue, did nothing to address spending.
“It is out of control how much we spend, and this bill did nothing to reform the way the country spends money,” Duffy said.
Duffy kept his own comments to about seven minutes to field questions for more than an hour.
Louise Beyea of rural Superior kicked off the questioning by asking the congressman about what ideas he would be willing to support concerning the nation’s firearms policy.
“I will take a look at legislation the senate will pass,” Duffy said. “They’ll pass bills that will talk about mental health … about background checks, those things that we can have an honest conversation about.”
However, the congressman said, the nation has a constitution that protects the right to bear arms, and he doesn’t support stripping law-abiding Americans of their rights when there are root causes of mass shootings that are more complex than gun ownership.
Duffy admits that news of the shooting in Newtown, Conn., where 20 elementary-age children were killed in a mass shooting in December was unfathomable for a father of six with children the same ages as those killed, but disarming law-abiding citizens isn’t the only option for addressing the issues surrounding mass shootings.
“If you’re willing to follow the law, it will have an impact on you, and if you’re not willing to follow the law, it will have no impact on you,” Duffy said of gun control.
Ron Nyman questioned whether a probe into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives efforts to stem the flow of firearms into Mexico — in which the ATF allowed illegal straw buyers to walk with guns, hoping to track the guns to the Mexican drug cartel — would be investigated.
Duffy acknowledged he hadn’t reviewed the case recently, but believes those efforts are simply taking a back seat to the probe into the terror attack in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11.
Lynn Maas of Poplar said she was outraged over what happened in Benghazi, and how Americans and the military are treated by President Barack Obama’s administration.
“He’s constantly breaking laws with his executive orders,” Maas said, suggesting the president should be impeached.
Duffy said despite Benghazi and the ATF gunrunning scheme, the American people put the president back in office “handily.”
But domestic issues are also a concern. Tim Sauter, a Superior insurance agent who sells benefit insurance to employers, said he’s been unable get an answer to questions concerning deductible limits in the Affordable Care Act that could drastically increase the cost of providing health insurance to employees.
“Over the last many years, employers have increasingly built up their deductibles to keep the possibility of insurance alive, and then they have reimbursed their employees for the cost of deductibles,” Sauter said. In most cases, the actual deductible paid by employees is less than the federal limits. He said the move has allowed employers to keep the cost of health insurance under control and keep the benefit in place. However, those deductibles that keep the cost down exceed federal limits and he hasn’t been able to find out if employers reimbursements count toward the limit. It also affects people with health savings accounts with embedded deductibles that have a minimum deductible of $2,200, Sauter said.
Duffy said he’s heard from other health insurance providers concerned about the same issue and offered to assist Sauter in getting answers to his questions.
On a lighter note, a distant relative, John O’Sullivan, took the opportunity to introduce himself and find out if he was indeed related to his congressman.
As it turns out, Duffy’s grandfather, Walter, was a first cousin to O’Sullivan’s father.
“It was really interesting to hear what everyone had to say,” said Mike Herrick, Superior City Council president. Herrick said since he had the morning off, he decided to head to Bong Center to hear more about what’s happening in Washington D.C. and concerns of people here.