Texas 21

Devoted to discussion about the 21st Congressional District of Texas. Currently occupied by Congressman Lamar Smith (R).

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Lamar Smith Gets Schooled by Sensible Constituents

As reported by TXTiger, over at Dkos, Rep. Smith had a town hall meeting today. It didn't go like he expected.

Excerpts below (with emphasis as in the original), but I recommend following the above link for the whole report, and some very interesting Kossakian commentary.
The Response to Hurricane Katrina

Asked how Hurricane Katrina will affect the Congress' legislative priorities, and whether this should require a shift away from tax cuts, Smith said, "Yes, mostly." He said he believes that tax cuts do (or can) spike the economy, but remarked, "Realistically, the estate tax will not be repealed this year."

At this point, a man with silver hair stood up. "Representative Smith," he said firmly, "I have been a Republican since the early 1960's." Oh, no, I thought, here it comes - shill time. This guy had to be part of the crowd called in by the Travis County Republican Party this morning to give Smith some cover.

"I pay a lot for taxes," he continued, "and I consider it a social investment. I am outraged! When this catastrophe hit, the president's response was that we should 'give to private charity.' I am outraged that this party can't support our country. We can't deal with our own self-defense. You need to fire Chertoff and these FEMA clowns. What are you doing with our tax dollars?!"

At this point, the audience broke into applause.

Not an auspicious beginning. Let's move on to a more reliable talking point. How about "support the troops"?
Iraq and Support for the Troops

A young woman stood up and introduced herself as a small business owner and from a family of veterans. "The Republican party claims to support our troops," she said, "but a bill providing medical care for veterans missed by one vote, and you voted 'No' on that bill. How do you defend your vote?"

Smith said that veterans received an 8% increase this past year, and "any more would have broken the budget and the general agreement." This excuse was received with hisses.

She followed up asking about a bill to increase health insurance rates for Guard and Reserve troops to the same level as Tricare which regular troops receive, which missed by 7 votes and for which Smith voted 'No.' She said service people are losing their businesses because they have been called up for so long.

Smith said, "We have to do more and do better, but at some point we have to say that 8% is enough."

But to applause, this young woman said, "I don't think you've done as much for our servicemen as you've done for the top 1% in our country."

I love the way he spoke about the budget as if it hadn't been broken beyond most powers of calculation by this Republican controlled Congress.

There was more lively discussion. On the subject of Tom Delay, TRMPAC and the mugging of Congressional districts in the off cycle redistricting, Rep Smith played dumb. At least I don't think he's that dumb, though I'd not hazard a guess as to how much wattage there actually is under the hood.
Another questioner stood up later and thanked Smith for coming out to meet with his constiuents. Playing off Smith's opening assertion that only 20% of his colleagues hold town meetings, the man said, "The reason they don't go meet their constituents is because they don't have competitive districts due to gerrymandering. When will congress pass laws requiring independently-drawn districts?"

Smith said, "That's up to the states to do."

"Then why was Tom DeLay involved here in Texas?" shouted someone.

"He wasn't, the state legislature - "

"Oh, c'mon, Lamar!"

"The legislature - "

"Everyone knows DeLay was running it!"

The shouting and hisses continued for a few moments. Smith pretended not to understand what redistricting people were talking about (he "thought" they meant Texas house districts, not Congressional). He complained that he had been a victim of redistricting in the Texas House back in 1981. And he denied that Tom DeLay had any hand in the matter at all. "Redistricting is up to the states," he said.

"It was wrong split Austin into three districts," said the original questioner.

There's more, and TxTiger reports it well, but this last excerpt is irresistible.
And when asking about his votes against stem cell research and for extending Terry Schiavo's life, the questioner remarked, "If you spent so much effort on living people as on these issues, New Orleans would never have happened."
May she rest in peace, Terri Schiavo is the gift that keeps backfiring on the Mullahs of Congress.

By the last ten minutes, Smith was looking at the clock pretty regularly.

Well, I would imagine so. This must have been one of the 10 longest hours Rep Smith has ever had in his life.

At least to date.

One thing has become crystal clear about this Republican leadership. They will expend the very minimum of effort to keep embarassment off their backs. Preferrably PR effort, but if pushed they will resort to more substantial efforts.

Our job as constituents is to keep flipping over the rock, and pelting them with enough pebbles to keep them moving in the right direction.

Crossposted at Come and Take It.


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