For a brief period last week, the prevailing conservative side of Teller County took a polite but firm beating.
In a town hall meeting last Thursday, Congressman Doug Lamborn, who represents the 5th district encompassing Teller, Park and El Paso counties, found himself under assault from a growing and vocal group of progressives and liberals in the Pikes Peak region. The crowd of about 50-plus residents in Cripple Creek marked a much different look than past town hall gatherings, dominated by staunch conservatives and such issues as illegal immigration, gun rights and national security.
Last week, an enthusiastic crowd made it clear they aren’t happy with the GOP’s new proposed health care plan, efforts to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and bombing Syria without congressional approval. And even Donald’s Trump’s frequent excursions to Florida on the taxpayer’s tab, raised the ire of many progressives who attended the gathering. “Donald Trump has played more golf (since he became president) than Barack Obama did in an entire year,” yelled Eric Barrows, who was donned in a shirt advocating a pro-environmental outlook on the world.
Not surprisingly, health care dominated much discussion. Lamborn reiterated his previous opposition to the Affordable Care Act, enacted by President Obama. He mostly took the Republican Party’s position in advocating his support for efforts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. “We just don’t think it (Obamacare) is the right direction,” said Lamborn, when addressing the crowd last week at the Centennial Building. “I want everyone to have access, so they can afford it (health care).
Lamborn especially expressed opposition to the individual mandate requirements, making it a law for all Americans to have health care coverage, or face financial penalties. He argued that so many problems exist with Obamacare that the best and more sensible route consists of starting from scratch. But like many GOP leaders, he was sketchy on the details of the Republicans’ replacement program, called the American Health Care Act. His anti-Obamacare comments generated strong vetoes from the people attending the meeting. They viewed these as efforts nothing less than throw millions of people under the bus when it comes to their health care.A few speakers outlined how Obamacare benefitted their friends and family members. Instead, some meeting-goers supported making tweaks and improvements to the program started by the former president.Another Cripple Creek resident got a huge round of applause when she stated that the health care coverage for all members of Congress should be eliminated, based on the current stand taken by Republican lawmakers.
Some also viewed Lamborn’s stance as an eventual assault on Social Security and Medicare. “This is not social welfare. This is social justice,” blasted Marilyn Callan of Teller County, in referring to attacks on Social Security and many of the entitlement programs provided to senior citizens. “This is a great injustice.” These comments ignited a near standing ovation.
Lamborn, though, responded that the Republican majority in Congress has no intention of tampering with Social Security or Medicare.However, he indicated that aspects of the Medicaid program are being further evaluated.
Don’t kill the EPA
While health care took center stage, the most contentious issue, generating the most jeers from the audience, dealt with Lamborn’s critical stance towards climate change and the Environmental Protection Agency.“Let’s talk about science and not emotions,” said Lamborn, a strong advocate of such mining endeavors as fracking. He also has expressed limited support for renewable energy technology and legislation to protect the environment.
“Fracking is not a hazard to people’s health,” said Lamborn. This comment generated a hefty round of jeers from many environmental activists. “You have multiple cases,” blasted Barrows, in describing all the tornado problems in Oklahoma that many attribute to fracking.
Still, the congressman held firm in his critical attitude of the EPA. “We need to get the EPA back to their core mission.
They have exceeded their authority,” said Lamborn, comments that didn’t sit well with some meeting attendees. Several crowd members voiced strong opposition towards efforts to scale back the EPA by measures proposed by the Trump administration. Lamborn also found himself on the defensive about Trump and his excessive spending for his weekend trips to his home in Florida and for his excessive golf outings. One audience member asked what could be done to halt these expensive travel excursions.
The six-term congressman appeared uneasy in discussing this subject, and even a little reluctant in discussing certain aspects of Trump’s recent move against Syria. “You will have to ask Donald Trump about that,” he commented at one point. “You are parroting Donald Trump,” yelled one person. Although many Americans supported the bombing, questions have arisen based on Trump’s previous comments regarding the situation during the reign of President Obama. At that time, he opposed any type of military action against Syria. That said, Lamborn voiced strong support for Trump’s efforts to increase military spending by $54 billion. He said one of the best strategies for grappling with a dangerous world consisted of a better trained military.
Teller County Commissioner Norm Steen also chimed in and sought Lamborn’s assistance in continuing the payment in lieu of taxes federal program that provides monies to government entities where a large chunk of public lands are located. In Teller County, about 50 percent of the land area is owned by the federal government and can’t be taxed. Lamborrn said he supported this program, describing it as a fair way to provide equity to counties like Teller.
Other residents were critical of the infighting occurring in Washington D.C. One forum-goer even criticized the congressman for never supporting any Democrats. Lamborn, though, disagreed, saying he supported a number of former President Obama’s drone attacks, to the dislike of his Republican colleagues. On the upside, he said that Colorado’s congressional delegation actually works together quite well on “bread and butter” issues like transportation.
Last week’s forum was part of a series of town hall meetings Lamborn has conducted throughout the district, encompassing five counties. The meeting in Teller was much tamer than one held a day earlier in Colorado Springs. Still, the same main contentious issues prevailed. “This is democracy in action,” said Lamborn,in referring to the lively tone of these meetings, representing a definite changes from past town hall gatherings. On a national level, many progressives and liberal activists have jammed the halls of local meetings conducted by U.S. senators and congressmen since the election of Donald Trump.