Recap of Congressman Bill Huizenga’s 11/22 Town Hall Meeting in Muskegon Heights

Andrew Trzaska | November 23, 2013

Over 50 people attended a town hall meeting Friday held by U.S. Congressman Bill Huizenga at the Louis McMurray Transportation Center in Muskegon Heights, where answered questions on topics including government shutdown, monetary policy, and the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Congressman Huizenga has held his seat since 2010. Michigan’s second Congressional district covers the West Michigan’s lakeshore from Zeeland to Ludington, includes Lake and Newaygo County inland, and encompasses many of the southern and eastern suburbs around Grand Rapids, including Walker Wyoming, Kentwood, and Grandville.

During a brief introduction of himself and the range of the second District, Huizenga gave a preface statement about himself and his answers:

“I am who I am. I’m not going to try to be someone else. The best person I know how to be is Bill Huizenga. My background is a small business owner, and a husband and a dad, and someone who has been involved in government at different levels.”

 

From Muskegon Community College trustee Sean Mullally: Using tactics like the debt ceiling vote and the government shutdown, it’s not good government. Would you pledge not to use those tactics in the future?

Huizenga said no, he would not pledge. He cited Tip O’Neill, a Democrat, who used it against President Ronald Reagan, and noted that the tactic is not tied to any specific party and has happened dozen of “This is not a unique situation where we’re finding ourselves. To me, we are talking about fiscal issues… It’s fair game to start talking about fiscal issues. When we’re having that discussion about the debt ceiling, let’s say, I want to support reforms that curve our long term spending.”  He said that his vote for the Budget Control Act of 2011 was an attempt to do that, and the cuts today were not intended to be a destination, but a beginning toward cutting spending.

“It’s about how you strike the balance, so we don’t crash and burn our entire economy… I personally don’t think Lord of the Flies is the way to go.”

 

A follow up statement from another audience member said that the tactics and reasons for the October government shutdown were wrong.

Huizenga responded by stating the last bill relating to the Affordable Care Act put forth to the Senate before the shutdown started offered a one year delay of the healthcare bill. Huizenga continued by saying that with the Obama administration pushing off the employer mandate for a year, that final September bill was, in effect, what is happening today. He then said it was hypocritical:

“If you’re not willing to live under the law you wrote, then what is the point?”

 

A series of comments from another audience member focused on the privatization movement in education and prisons, as well as the “out of whack” cost of higher education.

Huizenga started with education. Early on he stated he is not in favor of No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top. He said that the current debate on Common Core is different, because it was state governors that came up with the Core idea instead of the federal government mandating it.

 

Huizenga made some brief comments on the situation currently happening in the Senate with regards to rule changes for filibusters. Called the “nuclear option”, the rules changes passed Thursday would allow bills to pass the Senate on a simple majority, without threat of a filibuster. It used to require 60 votes.

“With the nuclear option being deployed, I don’t know what’s going to happen with that.”

Huizenga gave credit to Carl Levin, one of three Democrats who voted against it yesterday. “Unfortunately, Harry Reid has chosen to go in that direction.”

 

After talking about government waste with one audience member, Huizenga was asked by another member why profitable oil companies are getting government dollars.

After briefly alluding to the “two sides” tax credit side and the expenditure side. He called for full tax reform, and said, “I am a flat tax guy.” He would even be okay with a “tiered flat tax” but did not elaborate in the course of the discussion on how that might work.

 

Do you want Obamacare to succeed, yes or no?

Not the way it is written. “I don’t believe it is going to lower costs, and the way it is written I don’t believe it’s going to provide more healthcare.”  Huizenga stated his constituents he interviewed are seeing their deductibles go up, new taxes levied but no more care received. “Where are you going to get the money for the subsidy? We’re already 17 trillion dollars in debt, and we’re spending more than we’re taking in.”

Do you feel monetary policy in the United States should reward spending or savings?

“I personally feel it should be savings,” said Huizenga, though he noted in the same breath that the head of the Department of Treasury and the Federal Reserve do not agree. He used interest rates on mortgages as an example, saying his sister’s interest rate in the 1980s was in the double digits. Today, it is only single digits near 3-4%. He claimed it is bad for the nation’s long-trm interests.

 

A follow-up question pointed out that Huizenga has signed Grover Norquist’s pledge not to raise tax rates. The audience member questioned the wisdom to not raise new revenues and rely completely on cuts.

Huizenga countered by saying the Norquist pledge only covers rising tax rates, not raising revenues. He said the way to raise revenues is through economic activity, citing the natural gas boom in North Dakota.

“How are we going to structure our tax system so it encourages economic activity?” said Huizenga.

Several questions later, Huizenga revisited the topic of Norquist: “Grover Norquist is not a member of the House of representatives. And Grover Norquist does not set the agenda.”  This was met with laughter from most of the room.  Huizenga went on to explain the only two pledges he has signed are his Right to Life pledge and the Norquist pledge, but doesn’t see the need to be loud and blustery about his convictions:

“Sometimes people confuse volume with conviction. That’s not my case. I believe not screaming at someone and working with people will bring a solution down the road.

Huizenga also suggested that the Left has pledges too, like Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood and Organizing for Action, which he said evolved out of Obama for America.  He also said that unlike Norquist, these organizations raise money, and are solely focused on that.  He said that “both sides are getting sick” of outside groups.

 

An audience member asked Huizenga his thoughts on immigration reform and how it’s stalled again under a second president in a row.

Huizenga said that the problem with the Obama administrations early overtures on immigration reform is it was a very large, sweeping bill.  He was much more supportive of the Obama administration’s new tactic of tackling immigration reform on an issue-by-issue basis.

“I think that has a much bigger chance of getting some action in the House.”

“There is no appetite to pass comprehensive bills on any issue. We’ve had enough of passing it and then finding out what’s in it later… We’re not going to do a comprehensive. The Speaker has said that.”

 

An audience member asked about the progress of a bill that would allow the federal government to audit the Federal Reserve. Huizenga co-sponsored the bill with over 100 other representatives.

Huizenga said he support auditing the Federal Reserve and is in favor of a balanced budget amendment.


Regarding the Affordable Care Act, Huizenga suggested every American needs to know more about how the system works and how to make low-cost choices for health care.

Huizenga cited the difference between taking his kids to the ER on a Sunday night at high cost, or to Urgent Care the next morning for less cost.  Those kinds of decisions

“We need to have people more engaged in how they make healthcare coverage decisions.”

When someone suggested scrapping the Affordable Care Act and going back to the old system of employer-based care, Huizenga didn’t think it would be right to do.

“I don’t think what we’d be returning to is success… We need to turn around but take a different path.”

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst