Saturday, August 22, 2009

Loebsack town hall

Loebsack Iowa City town hall

9:10 and after 45 mins of the UI wifi staring at me like a giant middle finger, I gave up so I'm on the phone. (The site was moved from the library to the UIowa campus because a bigger crowd was expected, but the UI campus is wifi-unfriendly to the general public, you need a university ID. A long time pet peeve.)

The crowd is split but intermixed. The Dems have preprinted Obama font signs; some say THANK YOU

The Rs are more handmade a big banner from the gallery says “it's not about health care, it's about govt control of your life”

I count maybe 300 people so far

Ed Flaherty has a GRASSLEY RETIRE sign

One woman with a "Obama is not my doctor" shirt

Crowd old by Iowa City standards (If you're coming here from outside Iowa: Iowa City is home to the University of Iowa, the ur-liberal college town. 70% for Obama last fall.)

A lot of Dems wore their Obama campaign gear but no one in Loebsack gear.

School candidate Tuyet Dorau here

There's a small cluster of leading local Rs. Deb Thornton has an "unemployment, change is wonderful" sign.

Some sign war in gallery, as Dems are seated near R banner.

One R banner says “look up FASCISM in the dictionary” so we're officially in the over the top rhetorical zone.

I'll go on a limb and say Dems outnumber Rs, but Rs disproportionately represented for Iowa City

Loebsack staffer struggles with audio and says “we might not be able to please everyone.” Kind of a meta statement I think. Crowd decides they would prefer shouting to the sound system--again a meta statement...

Loebsack introduced, far more cheers than boos.

Loebsack asks for opinions and not just questions. holds up phone book sized bill.

“I voted for HR 3200” (applause) and got an amendment on direct care workers underpaid and under appreciated

“There's nothing partisan about preexisting conditions” applause

caps on catastrophic (I think I typed that wrong and meant no) and real chance for uninsured to get insured

Q and a starts. First woman wearing flag hat and is anti choice anti euthanasia. Scattered applause.

Dave: nothing forces any provider to do abortion or provide any coverage. There's a lot out there about the bill that isn't true. Hyde amendment applies to this bill.

Nothing in this bill applies to euthanasia (applause) Some politicians stoking those fires (not named)

Crowd about 500, room full.

Next ? preexisting conditions

Dave: there is nothing in this bill that would stop you getting covered.

Dave says bill won't kick in till 2013 but they are trying to speed it up.

Next ? unfunded liabilities Medicare social security and prescription.

I see Tom Fiegen here (US Senate candidate)

? becomes a deficit question, some shouting in response “have a heart” says one “get a job” in response.

Dave says we'll fully pay for this deficit neutral; some scoffing from Rs.

Dave notes he'll be a first time grandpa this fall.

“I take responsibility for my spending votes we had to deal with the issues immediately” some shouts but I can't get details. (I'm seated first row)

Dave "so far of the five forums I've had this one has had the least interruptions" audience applauds itself.

next ? preventive care.

Dave says its included and gets applause from Rs for phrase “personal responsibility”

Single payer ? gets big applause.

Dave says HR676 is Medicare for all (big applause) I'm a cosponsor. It's publicly funded private care

Someone angrily yells "socialism!" and gets applause in a “that's a good thing” way. Welcome to Iowa City

Dave says I can't tell you about the hypothetical “will I vote for 676” if it gets to floor … but again I'm a cosponsor. (Laughter)

Question about insurance administrator salaries and suggestion to use use credit union as model.

Paul McAndrew (politically prominent Dem attorney) gets random pick. (Questions have been written and names drawn at random, staffer brings mike to original questioner and lets them speak.) McAndrew: I can't afford to insure small business employees.

Dave: Business will have to provide but smallest are exempt from having to cover. Level of exemption raised from 250k payroll to 500k. Small business owners tell me they want single payer (applause) that would level the playing field for them. Small biz can also get aid for part of costs.

Shouters shushed down, they seem isolated. The conversation has never been stopped and Dave just rolls with it.

Big applause at words “public option”

“When I was elected I had a a choice of 12 or 14 health care plans. It's a good deal and I want everyone to have the same deal.”

More shouting: “a bunch of professors have indoctrinated my daughter” from the same woman who shouted socialism

Dave says co-ops still not well defined and I still have ?s.

Shouting escalates a bit but none of it is coordinated, no chants etc

Dave says there are three separate house bills multiple senate bills.

Scattered boos at the name Grassley.

Will the public option cover all?

Dave: no coverage for illegal immigrants; applause from Rs but some Dems grumble.

Dave: Congressional budget office estimates that by 2019 only 4% on public option consumer makes choice. Tax dollars start public option but after that premiums will pay.

another wellness comment from audience

Someone shouts "run against Grassley", so let's start that rumor.

We have us a deather! Scattered applause and boos as he goes on. Dave and staff says let him finish.

The guy goes on for quite some time audience gets impatient. It finally ends with how do you pay.

Dave keeps composure and emphasized choices. “But I respectfully disagree that everyone will go on public plan.” The guy shouts “are u calling me a liar”

Dave says this will not lead to rationing (applause) I won't vote for anything that'll lead to rationing or euthanasia and the President won't sign anything like that, that's not what's in here (applause and shouts)

Last ? hospice care

Audience member shouts “we want your health care,” which I think is what Dave said

10:43 and done. Most of crowd stayed to end so a jam at exits; if there's a riot outside I don't know about it.

Afterword: No riots seen on the way home. An aside to the UI tech staff: why do you let your wifi connect just enough to change my Windows configurations, but then lock me out at the end? If you're going to demand a password, ask for that first so I don't waste my time.

Update: Gazette and PC say 700 people.

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