The likely suspects were brought up for discussion during a town hall meeting on Tuesday with Rep. Tom Cole, R—Okla., fielding questions from citizens.
The meeting was the second on Cole’s tour of town hall meetings, with this stop seeing him take questions in the Ardmore Convention Center during the lunch hour. A collection of 30-40 people listened as Cole opened the meeting with general statements about topics in Washington, D.C., ranging from tax reform and the budget to pushing deregulation and health care reform.
Citizens wasted no time asking Cole about hot topics. One citizen asked Cole about the current health care system. With the failure of a reversal of the Affordable Care Act, one citizen was asking the question why the United States doesn’t consider models being used in other countries.
“It’s a great question because it’s one we’ll be wrestling with for a while,” Cole said of health care. Cole countered that making a universal health care, such as extending Medicaid, would disenfranchise the free health care market. Cole also said Medicaid is “going broke” due to more patrons pulling more funds than what is being paid in.
Cole also received a question about a recent House resolution that would allow internet service providers to sell data about their customers’ browsing history, with the citizen asking why Cole voted ‘yes’ for the resolution.
“The problem here is the principal,” the citizen said in asking the question, comparing the information to medical records.
Cole rebutted by claiming the information is limited to basic demographic data, such as age. Cole said the data is similar to that collected by Neilson ratings for the television industry.
“Nobody can sell your private information,” Cole said of the question.
The resolution deals with an FCC rule preventing the selling of data. The FCC rule required that service providers get permission from customers before selling the information. The resolution, which passed through both the House and Senate, has been heavily debated, with legislators sticking to party lines during votes.
Cole, in answering a question, addressed the apparent division amongst legislators along party lines, saying that specific regions have become a clear shade of red or blue.
“The polarization in Congress is very real,” he said. “And that doesn’t come from Congress, it’s reflecting what’s happening in the country.”
Cole said the two sides have worked together to accomplish some goals, citing the Every Student Succeeds Act as an example of bi-partisan legislation. ESSA replaced the No Child Left Behind Act enacted by the Bush administration. Cole said with some media tailored to speaking to a specific viewpoint, it has become easier for individuals to reassure their way of thinking. Cole said government goes through phases and “shifts” of division.
“It is more divided than it was when I arrived and it was certainly divided then,” he said. “I think it’s more divided than it was a generation or two generations ago, I really do.”
Discussions involving social security and the proposed federal budget were also discussed during the town hall meeting. Cole said he is “cautiously optimistic” the federal budget will be passed, though he said the clock is ticking on the issue. When asked about specific programs that would be affected by the proposed budget, specifically arts and humanity endowments, Cole said he believes the programs “would survive.”
Cole said it gives legislators an idea of how the presidential administration plans to “run the government.”