A crowd of about 150 people vented their frustrations with Congress and the ongoing government shutdown in a town hall-styled meeting held by U.S. Rep. Mark on Sanford Saturday night.
The crowd filled the North Charleston City Council chambers while discussing the congressional stalemate and its impact on the Lowcountry.
Early on in the meeting, Sanford encouraged attendees to remain tolerant of one another’s opinions, saying the group should take care to “kick around ideas, not each other.”
He welcomed the participation of a number of audience members who raised poster board and torn pieces of cardboard etched with statements like “Liberation in Our Lifetime” and “The ACA Will Help USA!!”
The meeting took place hours after the U.S. House unanimously voted to provide retroactive wages for furloughed federal workers when the shutdown ends.
At the center of the congressional stalemate that prompted the shutdown is the Affordable Care Act.
Some said they worried about the toll government mandated health care would take on an already sluggish economy.
Sanford urged audience members to consider the bigger picture, saying the time has come to rein in government spending.
“This shutdown is a precursor of much bigger things to come,” Sanford said. “If we don’t draw a line in the sand now, when will we?”
One man who took the floor said that he is one of those federal workers who is being placed on furlough.
“I wanted you to see my face,” the man told Sanford. He added that had it not been for his quality health insurance, he would have depleted his savings paying costly medical bills for his sick daughter.
One woman said federal workers who are on furlough are getting a small taste of what those in the private sector have been going through since the economy plummeted in 2008.
“I’ve just got to say to you federal workers, welcome to the party,” The woman said.
“The losses that we took in the private sector we’re never going to get back,” another audience member said in agreement.
Regardless of their stances on the ACA, numerous audience members expressed frustration with Congress, questioning whether a shutdown was really in the best interest of the country.
Another audience member questioned why Congress was deadlocked over a piece of legislation that it had already passed and was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States.
Sanford responded by drawing attention to the way in which the liberal-backed law had been handled in the time since it was approved.
“It’s been passed, but it’s being administered in a way that’s not constitutional,” Sanford said, referencing an op-ed the former governor penned that ran in The Post and Courier on Oct. 1, the first day of the shutdown.
Selective implementation of the law warranted its delay, Sanford said in the piece. “Can you imagine if George Bush or Bill Clinton had decided they only wanted to enforce tax cuts or increases on a selective basis?”
A similar meeting is set for Monday at noon at Aunt Chiladas, 69 Pope Avenue, Hilton Head.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.