“At this time, I do not have a town hall meeting on health care scheduled for the northern part of the 15th Congressional District,” said Hinojosa, a Democrat whose House district includes Bee County. “My staff and I are working hard and listening to my constituents as they share their views with me via phone calls and visits to my offices. I value their feedback and encourage them to continue their efforts.”
However, some Bee County residents wonder if Hinojosa truly wants to hear what his constituents have to say about the proposed health care bill.
Three of them visited Hinojosa’s Beeville office on July 17, and they are wondering what happened to the answers to 16 health care questions they sent to the congressman that day.
Robert Bridge, Virginia Pendley and Ann Allard met Thursday morning to express their concern about the lack of answers from the congressman.
The three said they had been told that there was “not much of a chance” that Hinojosa would be holding a town hall meeting here, even though he did say that such a meeting might be possible during a telephone conference held on July 17.
The three were among about 35 protesters who were invited inside Hinojosa’s office after they gathered there at 11 a.m. that day. They were part of a nationwide demonstration organized by people calling themselves “Tea Party Patriots.”
Many of them had taken part in or had attended tea party events at the Bee County Courthouse on April 15 and July 4.
“I don’t know that he hasn’t,” Bridge said when asked if Hinojosa had read the list of questions, “because I haven’t had a chance to ask him.”
Bridge did say Hinojosa had said he wanted to have a town hall meeting in Beeville.
But Hinojosa announced Thursday afternoon that he wasn’t planning a town hall meeting in Bee County or anywhere else close by.
The congressman said he still wants to hear what his constituents have to save about the health care bill, even if he can’t talk to them face to face.
“I am looking into some additional opportunities for dialogue, such as a telephone town hall, that we could arrange soon,” Hinojosa said. “The issue of health insurance reform is critically important for our country and I am committed to finding an American solution that will lower costs, increase access and improve the quality of life for all Americans.”
Bridge, who is chairman of the Bee County Republican Party and a retired peace officer, said holding a discussion on the telephone isn’t the same as meeting in person.
“I’m very disappointed that we aren’t going to have a chance to discuss the issues on a face-to-face level,” Bridge said, adding that he was speaking out as a concerned citizen and not as Republican Party chairman.
Steve Clegg, director of the Joe Barnhart Bee County Library, said he extended an invitation to Hinojosa to hold a town hall meeting at the library.
But he said he has yet to hear back from the congressman.
Democrats who have held similar town hall meetings in recent weeks have come under attack by citizens concerned about how the proposed health care bill will affect their pocketbooks and health.
Many senior citizens are upset about the bill proposed in the House of Representatives because they believe it will cut $500 billion out of Medicare.
“(The Obama administration) is talking about cutting fraud and abuse out of the Medicare system,” Bridge noted.
“We could do that now,” Allard said. She wondered why the government feels the need to reduce Medicare spending before it reduces fraud.
Bridge said the protesters at the town hall meetings are not just speaking out against the proposed health care bill. People are concerned about the bailouts of banks, Wall Street, automobile manufacturers and mortgage lenders, as well as other issues, he said.
All three residents pointed out that the federal deficit is four times what it was when former President George W. Bush left office in January.
Bridge said one of the statements that caught his attention during the town hall meetings came from a woman who demanded the Obama administration and Democratically controlled Congress, ‘Quit dismantling this country!”
“I believe in the American people,” Allard said. “I believe American citizens are capable of making their own decisions and sustaining themselves.”
Bridge said he called two of Hinojosa’s representatives on Tuesday and was told that the congressman still did not have any formal answers to the 16 questions. One of the spokesmen said Hinojosa had some handwritten answers but that they had not yet been typed up for release.
“I told him I intended to talk to the newspaper and let them know there had been no answers in three weeks,” Bridge said. “I thought two weeks would have been enough time to respond and that he didn’t think much of our questions.”
Bridge said that on Tuesday one of the men he spoke with had said some answers might be ready in two or three days.
It was Thursday when Bridge spoke to the Bee-Picayune and he had not received any answers.
Allard said the August break is the time lawmakers should be explaining what is in the bill the House is considering.
“Both sides are swallowing a lot of disinformation and they need to start getting the facts,” she said.
Clegg said he and his staff at the library can help people find answers to their questions.
“I have access to the health care bill, Cap and Trade, voting records of congressmen — or any other bills before Congress,” he said. “Anyone who wants to see details of the health care bill can simply come to the library and we’d be glad to help.”
Allard said interested citizens are invited to attend a special meeting Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the home of Virginia Pendley at 1104 W. Hefferman St. for the creation of a group which will gather the facts about the direction this country is going.
For more on the meeting call 358-8329.
Read the 16 questions Bridge, Allard and Pendley asked Congressman Hinojosa. Read the letter from Steve Clegg to Congressman Hinojosa.