Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Barletta & Marino Speak at King's College

Tuesday was a good opportunity for students on campus to get to know newly elected Congressmen Lou Barletta and Tom Marino in a Q&A forum held at King’s College called Congress on Campus. The main topics of discussion were repealing Obamacare, the US Government’s debt, and upcoming budget cuts.

It was sort of a coming out party for Tom Marino as he has emerged from his campaign cocoon meant to protect him from questions about DeNaples. Tom Marino was very open about his beliefs and opinions. He sounded just like regular guy expressing his political views, but was definitely more impressive and informed than the average opinionated guy. He also told of the busy schedule he and Barletta keep, having to work from 8am to 10pm sometimes; and even as late as 4:30am when votes are being cast. The two freshmen reps often need to hold walking meetings as they walk to their other meetings. Both are members of three committees.

Barletta was his usual smooth self, and had good touch with his answers, but was not as talkative as Marino.

The format was Marino and Barletta each answering questions; first from moderator Sue Henry, then from King’s student Ashley Scarpetta who read audience members’ questions from index cards that had been handed out.*

One of the main topics of discussion was budget cuts. Marino said many lobbyists approached him, saying they didn't mind if other programs needed to be cut: just not their own. Barletta told of Kanjorski’s advice on how to deal with lobbyists: if they lie when you ask for the other side of the issue, never meet with them again. Marino said he’s already stopped meeting with one such lobbyist.

Both men answered that they would oppose the DREAM act, meant to give a pathway to citizenship to illegal immigrants who have completed high school in the US and are currently in a 4-year college. Later, Barletta recited his reaction to the Kichline murder and other crimes committed by illegal immigrants in Hazleton, saying these were what influenced him and Hazleton city council to try to require businesses to verify the US citizenship of employees.

Although both congressmen called for a repeal of Obamacare, Marino implied that he would favor legislation that would make health insurance available for people with pre-existing conditions, more affordable, etc., but said he wanted these changes passed with multiple bills, one at a time according to the change it made. It is not known whether he planned to accomplish this with socialistic legislation or through deregulation or by a combination of the two ways.** Barletta said he wanted to make healthcare more affordable, but didn't say how. Never did it cross either of their minds that, ideally, it ought not to be their jobs to make healthcare more affordable. But since certain laws and government dealings inevitably make healthcare more expensive, perhaps the government could enact tort reform as Marino suggested, and other changes that have to do with scaling back ways government drives up health care costs, but otherwise, a politician has no obligation to play the role of provider.

After the Q&A, one King’s College student personally approached Marino and said to him: “I want no free healthcare, I want no free education, I want no more entitlements; all I want is liberty.”

Despite having to rely on index cards instead of their own voices, it was a great event for people to get to know their congressmen better, and vice versa. Hopefully there will be many more meetings like this.

*During the index card Q&A, one audience member interrupted whoever was speaking and complained that his card had been placed in one of the collector’s pockets, presumably never to be read. Sue Henry glared at the man as it was explained that some cards were put away so no duplicate questions would be asked. One audience member seemed to concur with the man’s frustration: “I sort of had my heart set on asking a question with my own voice.” The notecard Q&A format may allow more audience members’ questions to get through since questioners don’t have the time to opine for great lengths of time before they must ask their questions. But the thing about being allowed to speak directly to a speaker is that you can call him out on any fibs or misstatements he's made. For example, Marino said he was a tea party member, but he has not joined the congressional tea party caucus. Nevertheless, the index card conundrum was not a major aspect of the event.

**Sorry, we misreported earlier that Marino wanted socialistic legislation. This was not clear from his comments.

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