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Poe speaks to chamber on health care reform

Monday, August 24, 2009

Kathy Parks

It was a packed house for the Humble Area Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon as members of the community gathered to hear District 2 Congressman Ted Poe speak on health care reform and the Middle East.

“It is good to be back in Texas and be around normal people,” said Poe. He made it clear that while he works in Washington, he lives here. Poe said although those in Washington may consider the current Congressional recess to be a break, he does not. He’s using the time in the district to check in with his constituents and is working as hard as ever.

Poe recently participated with a local project to place wreaths on the gravesites at the veteran’s cemetery on Veterans-Memorial, as part of the Wreaths Across America program. There are 55,000 veteran graves in the cemetery, and last year citizens laid 14,400 wreaths, more than ever before. The ultimate goal of the program is to place a wreath on every grave.

Poe said the local cemetery was larger than Arlington National Cemetery until just recently, when Arlington purchased additional acreage.

“It is important to honor these soldiers. When I was a judge, on Veterans Day and Memorial Day, people from my court placed flags on those graves,” said Poe.

Poe said 28 people from his district have lost their lives in the Middle East. Photos of each of the 28 can be found in his offices. Poe serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Subcommittee on Terrorism and offered an update on the work in the Middle East.

“Things are going well in Iraq,” said Poe.

He said Americans were giving the Iraqis democracy, but it would be up to them to keep it. He said in Afghanistan, Americans are serving with NATO forces. He said members of the Taliban fight in Afghanistan, then retreat to Pakistan, an ally of the U.S. 

Growing poppies for heroin is a big problem in the area. Americans have taught farmers in Afghanistan to grow wheat and earn more money, but the Taliban threatens families if they don’t switch back to growing poppies, since the heroin trade brings money to the Taliban. He said there is no law enforcement in the area and the troops do the best they can with what they have.

Poe called them the finest military in the world and said they are doing a tremendous job.

He talked about his recent visit to the Middle East and a conversation with a Texan, Billy Joe Morgan from Snyder, Texas, who said he stood in a long line with three friends to enlist on Sept. 12, 2001. The soldier told Poe he had no regrets and has been serving his country for all these years since the attack on U.S soil.

“That’s the kind of people we have serving,” said Poe.

As Poe shifted to the topic of health care reform, he said in the past six months, the government has spent more than ever, referring to the $790 billion stimulus package.

He said the government could not afford it and borrowed money from Japan and China. He said each person’s portion of the debt would come to $37,500 per citizen.

Poe said he did not vote for the bail-outs or for the stimulus, because it was money the country did not have to spend. He said in 2004, he pledged he would not vote to increase taxes. He said he favors an approach that involves spending money more wisely, not spending more money.

He described the package on health reform as a 1,017-page document. He said it was delivered near midnight and put up for debate at 9:30 a.m. the next morning, before many had the chance to read it. Poe said he has read all 1,017 pages.

“It is longer than War and Peace and not near as funny,” said Poe.

He said the House and Senate did not agree on the final bill, adding that there are five alternative bills to be considered, with no hearings on those yet.

Poe said 74 percent of his constituents felt proposed changes were not good for America.

He said the bill is confusing and no one agrees on what certain passages, such as those on end of life, meant. He said the bill would require interpretation and feared interpretation would be done by bureaucrats, adding that he believes in a system driven by doctors and their patients rather than bureaucrats.

Poe said if citizens wanted a glimpse of what government controlled health care looked like, they need only look at health care provided to Native American Indians. He called it a disaster and said some people die before they can get an appointment with their doctor.

Poe opposes making citizens pay for health care for those in the country illegally. He said legislators should be required to accept the same insurance they offer citizens.

Other options he supports include contributions to personal health savings accounts, being able to buy health insurance across state lines and the ability to join insurance purchasing co-ops to keep the cost down.   

Poe said Congress would be back in session in September, and he hoped all members were spending this time away listening to constituents.

Whether they agreed or not, Poe encourages citizens to stop by his new office at 1801 Kingwood Drive to talk.

Photo: District 2 Congressman Ted Poe spoke to the Humble Area Chamber of Commerce on health care and the Middle East. Photo by Kathy Parks

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