The debate surrounding the proposed health care bill can seem distant. The bill is some 1,000 pages. Those who claim to have read it become experts either for or against the legislation. But last night, a cherry-faced, white-haired politician successfully tied this unwieldy document to a singular concept his constituents can really get behind: freedom.
"Freedom will be lost if we have a government that tells us how to do everything," said Republican Congressman Pete Sessions last night inside the Richardson Civic Center.
An estimated 1,200 people showed up to hear Sessions speak about health care, but not everybody could fit in the main room. The fire marshal, with the help of Richardson police, moved several hundred people -- who were stuck in the hallways, pushing against the person in front of them -- into an overflow room.
The vast majority of folks attending the rally were Republicans, but they came ready to fight any opposition. One man held a sign that read, "No government hellthcare [sic] takeover. Stop the Marxists."
Sessions had put together a PowerPoint presentation to run through at the beginning of the town hall-style meeting, which was scheduled to run from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. but ended closer to 9:30. But he decided to skip it and go straight to taking questions from the audience.
"I think everybody studied for the test," Sessions said, to big applause and laughter.
He invited women over the age of 60 to ask the first round of questions. The first woman just wanted to express her support for Sessions and his position. "Taking our liberty and freedom away is not part of the Constitution!" she said. The crowd roared in agreement.
Next, a woman questioned Sessions's vote in favor of a tax-supported war, wondering what this might foreshadow for his vote on the health care bill.
"I do not accept government insurance and have not been on it in 13 years," said Sessions, and the crowd stood up and cheered, screamed and whistled, as if their favorite football team had just scored a touchdown. "You may count me a no on the bill."
Another woman took the the lavalier microphone and said she was "in the vast minority here." A study, she said, released in California -- and someone heckled, "Broke California?" -- showed that a universal health care plan would save that state billions. Another heckler answered her: "But what about your freedom?"
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The questions didn't always remain on topic. What about Sessions's vote to authorize the government bank bail-out plan? Simple, really. Sessions only voted for that because he thought the companies were going to pay back the government. And the companies are indeed trying. Only, the government doesn't want their money, he said.
"They don't want it paid back," said Sessions. "They want to own these companies!"
A woman seated in the second row, who seemed at all times ready to jump up from her chair, yelled, "They want to own you!"
In closing, Sessions thanked the crowd for the respect they showed to the different opinions expressed here tonight. He added, "Please be for freedom and not for something that would be run by somebody else."