COLUMBIA -- South Carolina congressmen faced more than 400 business executives Tuesday and took on their questions about the new health care law with the promise that it would both wreck America's sacred free enterprise system and become the country's saving grace.
The division between the congressman -- Republicans U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, 4th District Rep. Bob Inglis and 2nd District Rep. Joe Wilson and Democrats U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and 5th District Rep. John Spratt -- reflects the split across South Carolina on how the sweeping health care plan will change the state and the country.
About 20 minutes into the hour-long debate, Clyburn and Wilson sparred over whether Congress had enough time to study the legislation before the vote. Clyburn said the 2,409-page bill was available on the Internet for 72 hours before the House vote, and he said he read it more than once.
Wilson said he did not read the final version of the bill, but he said he had twice read the version the House initially passed.
"I don't see how anyone had the chance to read it," Wilson said. He added that the final version of the bill was revised within hours of the vote.
Clyburn interrupted: "It did not change in the last 72 hours. I am not going to sit here tonight and let anyone misrepresent what we did."
Clyburn went on to accuse Wilson of being untruthful in some of his other assertions about the bill. For example, Wilson and Clyburn disagreed about support for the reform plan from the business community.
Earlier, Clyburn showed the crowd his small voice recorder and said he would be taping the event so no one could twist what he said.
Wilson said the difference in his and Clyburn's factual interpretation of the new law was based on their different ideologies.
"I look at this as an intrusion by big government," Wilson said afterward. "The reason for America's success is its free enterprise."
Clyburn said the new law is the "Civil Rights Act of the 21st century." He said its high points include its protection of insurance coverage for people when they get sick and its ending of annual and lifetime caps on insurance payouts.
The new law falls short in some areas, he said, including covering 32 million of the 45 million Americans without health insurance; doubling, not quadrupling, the number of health care centers across the country, and not further increasing the Medicaid reimbursements for doctors.
DeMint said the law started with "laudable" goals, but it will "destroy the health care system as we know it." He said the law treats doctors like "pawns," it hands cash-strapped South Carolina a $1 billion bill for increased Medicaid coverage and it will make it difficult for people to find doctors to treat them.
Absent from "Washington Night in South Carolina," hosted by the state Chamber of Commerce, were Republicans 3rd District Rep. Gresham Barrett, who is running for governor; 1st District Rep. Henry Brown, who is not seeking re-election; and Sen. Lindsey Graham.