By TEDDYE SNELL
TAHLEQUAH — email@example.com
HULBERT – District 2 U.S. Congressman Markwayne Mullin fielded questions about adoption, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the food stamp program and sequestration Friday morning during a town hall meeting in Hulbert.
Mullin is the father of three children, and opened by explaining how he now has five.
“People may have been wondering why I say I have five children,” said Mullin. “I have three of my own, and my wife and I are in the process of finalizing the adoption of two, 2-year-old twin girls.”
According to Mullin, the girls are the children of a distant teenage cousin of Mullin’s wife. The pair were being raised separately by a great-grandmother and a great-aunt. The girls spent Christmas with the Mullins, and shortly thereafter, the couple agreed to seek adoption.
“We are now blessed with twin 2-year-old girls, and the adoption becomes final Aug. 21,” said Mullin. “It has been the biggest blessing for us and my three kids.”
Mullin opened the floor for questions, and considering the Dusten Brown custody case, Mullin was asked his opinion on the hotly-contested case. Mullin is from Westville and is a Cherokee citizen.
“I don’t believe it’s appropriate to comment on that right now,” said Mullin. “We’ve been getting a lot of calls about it, and I am concerned, but I think it best to let the courts work it out.”
Coleen Thornton asked Mullin, given his previous statements about the federal SNAP - or food stamp - program, what he would do to fix a system that the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds 1 percent fraud in.
“I am tired of helping those who won’t work”
“I don’t mind helping those who can’t work,” said Mullin. “I am tired of helping those who won’t work. The people I commented about weren’t buying ham and eggs, they were buying protein mixes.”
Mullin said he has an issue with vendors working around the system, providing food that isn’t considered appropriate. For instance, he mentioned convenience stores carrying “make-and-take” sandwiches.
“People are working around the system,” said Mullin. “We need to focus on what’s wrong with the program.”
Mullin said the House offered a Farm Bill that would cut $20 billion from the SNAP program, but what they ended up passing will cost taxpayers $10 billion.
“The Senate offered a bill with $4 billion in cuts, but no reforms,” said Mullin. “There’s a point where we have to realize what we’re working for. The people who voted for the amendment to make no changes to snap did not vote for the Farm Bill in the end.”
Mullin conceded the extremists on both sides of the aisle are costing taxpayers money.
“We have to learn to negotiate,” said Mullin. “I go in asking for 110 percent, but know I’ll settle for 70 percent. I have to know who I am, what my core values are, and know what I’m willing to accept. If we’re only willing to accept 100 percent, we’ll go flat broke.”
Sequestration still having its effects
Another attendee asked Mullin why so many state parks and boat ramps have been closed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“That is due to sequestration,” said Mullin. “We had to choose parks over infrastructure, meaning the locks that transport $2 million a day in goods through our waterways. We’ve opened the parks for adoption by communities, and urge people to take part in that. We also agreed that only one side of waterway access would be closed.”
Tahlequah businessman Al Soto asked Mullin if President Barack Obama’s proposal to raise minimum wage to $9 per hour is gaining any traction.
“We’ve seen some movement this week,” said Mullin. “I told them to go ahead and raise it, and we can all pay $20 for a hamburger. For the most part, politicians are just talking about it to gain a bloc of voters.”
Ann Lancaster asked if Republicans are working to defund the Affordable Care Act.
“The consensus right now is there’s a bipartisan effort to get rid of it,” said Mullin. “The problem is that it would take a two-thirds majority to keep it from being vetoed. There’s no way the president is going to pass anything that takes away from his signature piece of legislation.”
Mullin expects one of a couple of things will happen: The law will “fall apart on its own,” or Congress will get delays to its implementation, or they will come up with legislation to defund it.
“We like to present House and Senate bills to president that will fund government at its current level, with no additional funding for [the Affordable Care Act],” said Mullin. “He will either choose to shut down the government, or listen to the American people who elected him.”