PRYOR, OK —
“I know this is a time everyone is full of questions. I know it is frustrating to get the same information over and over again.”
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R) wasted no time before jumping into the hot topic of government shutdown during his telephone town hall meeting Monday.
“The Democrats want to win the fight and make the Republicans look bad. The Republicans want to win the fight and become empowered. The people losing are the American people who are stuck in the middle,” said Mullin, who said he was representing the common sense ticket rather than a party.
Mullin ran through a government shutdown fact sheet, saying there is a lot of misinformation circulating.
“Veterans benefits. These are the people that put their butt on the line for Congress to come up here and act like this. Their compensation should continue,” said Mullin of the education, pension and vocational rehabilitation benefits. “The claims and payments should continue unless this goes through late October. They are funded through this month, so it's vitally important we get this fixed before we run out of money.”
Mullin said veterans affairs medical facilities are funded through fiscal year 2014 and should not be interrupted.
He said that contrary to popular rumor, social security and disability payments should not see any disruption. He said the government did furlough one-third of those employees, so while the payments are coming, they may be a little slower.
Mullin said mail service and the federal treasury department will not be affected.
“Medicare payments shouldn't be effected whatsoever. Medicaid is funded by the state and Oklahoma said they should be OK,” said Mullin. “Passports have been considered vital, so passport offices have remain open.
In regard to school lunch programs, senior citizen lunch programs and food stamps, Mullin said there should be no disruption. He said he has heard of a disruption in school lunches, but says that is not due to the government shutdown.
“National Parks are closed simply because the Senate hasn't picked it up. The Senate has passed the order to get them open but they just haven't done it,” said Mullin.
One caller from Okemah asked about the World War II Memorial being shutdown, calling it mean spirited and shameful.
Mullin said the site is an open-air monument as most of the monuments and memorials are, and like a lot of the things that are shut down, visitors could see them all hours of the day or night.
“What the White House is saying is the monuments and memorials are shut down because there is nobody to pick up the trash. I've never seen a full trashcan there. There's no food being sold around there,” said Mullin.
“Now this isn't politically correct so bear with me, whoever the joker is that's calling the shots on this right now, is doing it for show. They had to spend more money on gates around these open air monuments, which is just a photo-op, than it would have cost to just keep them open.”
Mullin said some politicians are trying turn public opinion to support a side by inflicting pain on the American people.
“And it is 100 percent disgusting to me,” said Mullin.
The representative was outraged talking to the next caller who he referred to as Ms. Maxwell from Delaware County.
Maxwell explained that her son is in the Army, stationed in South Korea. She said he didn't get his pay on the first of the month and was told he would not receive his pay on the Oct. 15 either.
“We think they are purposely doing this to cause pain so people will start grumbling. There is no reason this is going on other than for political purposes,” said Mullin.
“Your son does not deserve this, I deeply apologize. Tell him I will look into this for him,” said Mullin, who asked Maxwell to leave his office a message with her son's name and contact information so someone can get ahold of him and make sure the soldier is paid.
“I did not know our men and women in uniform were not getting their checks. He should not have to worry about that, he's in uniform protecting our rights. That's what makes me so upset, we're not doing what's best for our country and we're putting our hard working military in the middle of this.”
Mullin took call after call from constituents all over the Second Congressional District, some confused, some heartbroken and some outraged. Whether calls supported or opposed the Affordable Care Act, they all wanted to know how to get out of the current stalemate.
Mullin said a compromise must be reached. He said the House wants to defund Obamacare, but will compromise and accept simply delaying the penalties. He said the Senate refuses to budge.
Mullin said he learned the importance of negotiating in his 20s, and he knows if he hadn't he would have gone “flat broke.
“That's what's happening with our government. It's going flat broke because people have forgotten how to negotiate,” Mullin said. “There are two important rules to negotiation, knowing what you want and knowing what you'll accept.”
Multiple callers expressed confusion that furloughed workers will return to work and receive back pay for the time they were off work because of the shutdown. The question on their mind was: why not put them back to work if they are being paid anyway?
Mullin shared their confusion.
Mullin said it is all a game tactic, that the Senate cannot pick and choose what they are willing to pick up. If they agree to send workers back to work it would give the House a foothold to ask why they are willing to concede that point and leave others on the table.
“I have learned that the president does not get paid during a government shutdown. I didn't know that, I think it's a good thing,” said Mullin, who has been open about returning his pay to the treasury.
Mullin, an Oklahoma business owner, said he maintains a lean/mean shop and makes sure all his employees are essential. He said he and his wife know that the boss is the last to get paid, so he did not hesitate to return his pay to the treasury in an attempt to pay his staff.
Mullin, who has voted against Obamacare at every opportunity, said the bill is still not ready.
“They've been talking about it for three years and even now that it's technically started the bill is literally still not ready,” said Mullin. “If you are enrolled, I want to know your enrollment number, your plan and your provider because no one has been able to answer those questions.”
Mullin said he has not heard from anyone in Oklahoma that has been able to successfully enroll.
“I have not seen any insurance program that has not been affected in some way. I don't know of any carrier that hasn't increased some,” said Mullin, encouraging constituents to send letters of change from their insurance company to the Senate side.
Toward the end of the meeting, a caller thanked Mullin for taking the time to keep his constituents informed, saying he’s never known another politician to do that.
Mullin said he hoped the meeting was informative.
“I'm sorry this is even happening everyone,” he said. “I'll talk to you later on down the road.”