Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cohen's Town Hall Meeting

The picture on the left is Congressman Cohen listening to questions coming from constituents shown in the photo above.

The Daughter and I went to our 2nd of Steve Cohen's Town Hall Meetings this morning. This one was held in Whitehaven, and we had heard it would be _packed_ with muggles, ummm, I mean tea-partying ringers. That turned out not to be the case, though Cohen mentioned that he had heard the same rumors and appeared to have been prepared.

We arrived at 9:50 for the 10:00 meeting, signed in and entered the mostly empty room. There was a man on the other side of the room who had printed "Thank You" signs (from The DNC Organizing for America Project), and he gave us two. I held mine up a couple of times. The Daughter took a picture of hers, which is at the bottom of this post. The venue filled up fairly quickly with a mostly sympathetic audience, and the event started promptly with the pledge of allegiance to the flag. Cohen contrasted this recitation with the one at the August meeting during which the phrase "under God" was screamed. He said he thinks God didn't hear it any better then than today. He said the pledge is "everybody's pledge." Although how a pledge with "under God" in it can be an atheist's pledge escapes me.

He spent some time talking about the financial mess that this president and congress has inherited. He talked about the economy. He said he was proud of his vote on this health care bill, and at that point I heard boos for the first time. He spent some time on the monies that will be received locally from the stimulus funds. He spent time on a few other bills, mentioning his efforts to prohibit credit reports from being used in the job application process, a justice integrity act and sentencing issues involving victimless crimes. There was some discussion of transportation issues, including MATA funding and livability issues. He made his support for the death penalty clear. He made his disdain for Gov. Bredesen equally clear.

I am unsure exactly who the woman sitting next to Cohen is (bad notes), but Dottie took the microphone to discuss further the local disbursement of monies received from the Federal government.

Cohen expressed his thanks for his supporters, saying it was better than the August meeting, at which a lot of people came who weren't from around here. He specifically thanked a representative from Planned Parenthood who had come. He then opened the floor for questions, asking that folks line up in the aisle to his left and take turns at that microphone. There were a lot of questions. Some of them were long and rambling. Some were about personal issues that seemed more appropriate for a private call/email to Cohen's staff. There was a man who spoke out stridently in support of Canada's heath care system. A doctor who works with cystic fibrosis patients spoke about the need to prevent insurance companies from refusing coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. There were several people who expressed concern over accountability and doubt that the money that's supposed to be used for certain programs will actually be used as intended. One man, very angry, said he'd just found out that morning that Cohen was his representative and had expected some of his like-minded conservative friends to be in attendance at this meeting. He accused Cohen of rushing the vote by holding it at 9:30 on a Saturday night and of locking the doors to exclude the opposition. Cohen responded by explaining the scheduling rules and saying that no one had been locked out, that the gallery was full, the proceedings were covered on C-SPAN and that there were plenty of Republican votes against the bill so they must have been present. One man asked if his little girl could lead us in the pledge to the flag, so we stood for a repeat of that. He voiced one of my pet peeves: that folks aren't demonstrating, threatening and throwing fits over the deficit because we're throwing money we don't have at Iraq and Afghanistan. We don't see demonstrations from conservatives demanding there be no rush to a war we don't have the money to wage. He asked that we consider our Christian duty to help the poor. He got a good bit of applause.

The whole event ended on time at noon. We're planning on going to the next one. The Daughter took the photos included in this post. They are used with permission.


  1. The congressman is right we have a Christian duty to help the poor. The government however only has a duty to follow the constitution.

    This is why screaming about over spending on health care happens and not the war efforts. Spending money on defense is part of what the constitution mandates. Taking money from one group of citizens and giving it to another is not mandated.
    Part of the outrage about the cost of this health care legislation is that it is not the most cost effective way to manage health care. Anyone who watches government programs at all has seen that when they project a budget they invariably go over.

  2. ooops, I'm sorry my post was unclear. It was the _questioner_ who talked with some passion about our Christian duty to help the poor. He challenged us to help our neighbors in need.

    Cohen did quote that bit in the Preamble to the Constitution about promoting the general Welfare. He also quoted Hubert Humphrey's statement: "It was once said that the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped." Cohen talked a bit about the outrageous percentage by which insurance premium costs have gone up in this country as against the amount of inflation during the same period.

    Things are in drastic need of change. I'm disappointed we're not getting more _drastic_ change.

  3. Cohen did quote that bit in the Preamble to the Constitution about promoting the general Welfare.

    The preamble is a statement of intention, hence the words "in order to". It is not a statement of authority. To the contrary, the Founders placed limits on federal power in order to promote the general welfare.

  4. "the Founders placed limits on federal power in order to promote the general welfare."

    That is certainly one way of looking at it. Cohen takes a different view.