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Deal, Gingrey answer questions from concerned citizens at forum
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The Gainesville Civic Center was filled to near capacity for the health care forum featuring U. S. Representatives Nathan Deal and Phil Gingrey. - photo by Tom Reed

Before she was chosen as one of the few people who asked a question at Wednesday’s discussion of the federal health care reform bill, Peggy Hoynes of Dahlonega scrawled two statements on the notepad the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce provided to her.

When she was called upon by chamber President Kit Dunlap, Hoynes had to choose one.

Aloud, Hoynes expressed concern to the two Republican congressmen before her that elderly adults would not be treated equally under the proposed legislation. However, her other written statement, left unspoken with the verb underlined, may have more aptly described her fear.

"It is a violation of the U.S. Constitution to murder U.S. citizens," she wrote.

Hoynes was one of approximately 500 mostly silver-haired adults who gathered in the Gainesville Civic Center’s ballroom Wednesday morning to hear what two of the state’s Republican congressmen, Nathan Deal and Phil Gingrey, had to say about President Barack Obama’s proposed health care overhaul.

Crowd members came to the event prepared to ask questions, and some took their seats half an hour before the 8 a.m. event to write out questions for the congressmen on notepads the chamber provided. The few that were chosen to ask their questions aloud focused on how the bill would affect Medicare, small businesses and health services and why citizens could not vote on the bill in a referendum.

Deal told the crowd that although the bill passed through the U.S. House of Representatives’ Health Subcommittee, it is not yet ready for a full House vote.

"The product is not finished yet," Deal said.

Deal, the ranking Republican of the Subcommittee on Health within the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, voted against the bill when it came before the subcommittee on July 31. On Wednesday, Deal said he expects the subcommittee will consider additional amendments instead of sending it straight to the House floor for a vote when legislators reconvene in September. "It is passed out of the three committees of jurisdiction, and as a result of that, theoretically, could be sent to the floor of the House in September," Deal said. "I don’t think it will be that direct. I think it will go back to our committee for further deliberations."

While many in the crowd fervently took notes, Deal and Gingrey individually gave presentations on how they perceive the proposed health care overhaul will affect the country. The event, sponsored by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, came on the heels of several reportedly disruptive town hall meetings held by Democratic congressmen across the country.

Democrats’ meetings have been meant to shore up support for the planned health care overhaul, but Deal and Gingrey spent their time in Gainesville on Wednesday listing reasons why they are wary of the bill.

"The devil clearly is in the details," Gingrey said.

With the proposed legislation sitting on the podium in front of him, Deal said the bill would eventually bankrupt private insurance companies, and puts the country in the "posture of having a $17 trillion deficit." Gingrey said the bill would result in 4.7 million lost jobs and stagnate job growth.

"It’s just too darn costly," Gingrey said.

Aside from a few rounds of applause and a couple of cheers from the crowd, Wednesday morning’s event was fairly innocuous.

Gainesville officials were prepared, however, if the outcome had been otherwise. In the wake of a number of reported town hall meetings across the nation in which disruptive crowds have shouted down speakers, six Gainesville police officers were present, some of them wearing protective gear outside their uniforms, along the walls in the Gainesville Civic Center ballroom.

Although there were no significant disruptions, Gingrey said he understood why people have acted angrily at other discussions on the bill.

"You’re watching these town hall meetings, and people are very concerned, they’re asking some tough questions," Gingrey said. "In some cases, unfortunately, they’re being unfairly characterized as a right-wing extremist or mob mentality... they just need to get tough and realize that people are ... not public orators ... and when you get upset and you feel like you’re not getting your questions answered, and some politician is being evasive, you do get mad and you do feel like screaming and yelling. And that’s what happened, and you know what? That’s the American way. Thank God we have that kind of a system in our country."

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