Raucous crowd greets Rep. McClintock | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Raucous crowd greets Rep. McClintock

Dawn Hodson
Mountain Democrat

Best described as Civil War II, Congressman Tom McClintock seemed in the middle of a shooting war Saturday as he defended the Trump administration and its policies to a town hall audience composed of people with opposing ideas about what the government's role should be.

An estimated 1,500 people filled the gym at Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills Saturday, dressed in hats and T-shirts announcing their positions and carrying signs and flags. Most appeared to oppose the Trump administration and McClintock's support of Trump's policies.

Standing outside the gym with a sign, David Kiene, of Rancho Cordova, said he was there because he is "deeply concerned about the direction Trump was taking. He is shattering democratic norms," he said.

Nancy Symons, of El Dorado Hills, said she is concerned McClintock is aligning himself with Trump and presidential advisor Steve Bannon and sees it as a threat to American values.

Others at the meeting came to support Trump and the congressman as well as to promote the idea of splitting California and creating the State of Jefferson. However, they appeared to be less numerous and quieter.

Taking on the boisterous and argumentative audience for two hours, McClintock fielded questions and responded to charges. Like Romans in the Coliseum, instead of thumbs up and down, they flashed colored signs to show when they approved or disapproved of what he said, accompanied by shouting, boos, chanting and stomping.

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Many of the concerns brought up by the audience were in response to the issues Trump ran on, as well as some of his appointments.

The congressman began by noting that last November the country went through a significant political re-alignment and "with profound change comes profound controversy."

Asked about his biggest concerns, McClintock, who sits on the Budget Committee and the Committee on Natural Resources, said the country has a $20 trillion national debt — $8 trillion of which was added during the Obama administration — and that the cost of paying the interest on the debt will soon eat the country alive. He also spoke of the need to revive the economy and replace the country's dysfunctional healthcare system.

Opening up the meeting for questions, one person suggested a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate claims of Russian influence on the Trump administration and the election. Others worried the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would be repealed, leaving people without health insurance. Veterans in the audience asked if there are cuts in the budget, would they still get their benefits, while others said changes to the Environmental Protection Agency would threaten water quality and the environment.

In response to the ACA questions, McClintock noted that premiums have increased an average of 26 percent and there are now fewer providers, giving people fewer choices. He maintained more competition would help bring prices down and deliver better care. He also spoke in favor of health savings accounts, which the audience soundly booed.

In response to questions about the EPA, McClintock repeated what he has said before, criticizing the agency for being a law onto itself as it enacts regulations, enforces them and adjudicates those violating them. Instead he believes the agency should stick to its original mission of ensuring there is clean air and water.

Some in the audience also spoke in favor of supporting global warming programs and taxes while others came forward to advocate for immigrants, telling personal stories of trying to become a citizen. Those stories drew cheers from the audience.

The subject of forest health also came up as people discussed the disastrous King Fire, the loss of the timber industry in the county and state, and the large-scale die off of trees in the Sierra Nevada. In response, McClintock said he has sponsored the Resilient Forest Act and is trying to get it approved.

Questioned about government spending on the military and plans by Trump to spend even more, McClintock said he wants the defense budget at a level needed to defend the country but with the waste cut out. He went on to suggest our allies need to share a larger portion of the cost of defending them.

Among those in the audience was former El Dorado County District 4 Supervisor Ron Briggs, who raised the issue of infrastructure spending. In response McClintock said taxes assessed at the pump are supposed to go toward transit infrastructure but are being spent elsewhere. He said those tax dollars need to go where they are intended before any additional taxes are assessed.

An audience member also asked about repealing the Dodd-Frank Act. McClintock said the act is actually working against smaller banks and that he was opposed to bailing out the big banks saying no bank is too big to fail.

With the meeting hitting the two-hour mark, McClintock thanked everyone for coming and participating. The townhall concluded without incident.

El Dorado County Sheriff John D'Agostini, who was there with a large contingent of deputies, said everything went great. He thanked everyone who participated in the process and praised McClintock for having a good handle on everything.

Asked for a comment before he left, Darwin Throne, president of the El Dorado Hills Tea Party Patriots, summed up the meeting by saying, "We have a part of the country that still believes in the original founding principles of freedom and responsibility and then the other half believes government is the solution to all the problems."

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