Town hall meeting Jim Banks

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, listens to a constituent during a town hall meeting Wednesday at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne.

FORT WAYNE — A town hall meeting with U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, on July 3 grew heated when the subjects of Medicare for all and the Mueller report were broached.

Banks opened the meeting at Indiana Tech by emphasizing the strength of the economy, “especially here in northeast Indiana.” He also pledged to continue advocating for conservative values.

Expressing concern for the rising national debt, now at $22 trillion, Banks said he supports 14% cuts to discretionary spending in the House appropriation bill except for national defense.

That raised questions among attendees, including one man who questioned Banks’ views on providing help to those struggling to pay off student loans.

“Why should anybody pay off student loans for someone else?” he said. He prefers seeing more transparency in student loans going forward, so students are more aware of what the loans will cost over time. He also wants to emphasize alternatives to pricey four-year degrees, such as trade school.

That didn’t satisfy one man struggling to pay off student loans. “How am I supposed to survive?” he said. “Why is defense spending not touched?”

Banks said the most important thing that government does at the federal level is keep the country safe.

When the subject turned to universal health care, also called Medicare for all, Banks acknowledged reforms to the U.S. health care system are needed, but said of Medicare for all, “This is a dangerous proposal brought forth by the left.”

When he said “Obamacare was a disaster,” the crowd erupted, shouting their opposition to his statement.

Marty Lemert was one of those voicing opposition. “Every other developed country has some form of socialized medicine,” she said.

When asked about the Mueller report, Banks said he had read it and saw no evidence of collusion or obstruction of justice. That triggered another outburst from many in the crowd of about 60 people. Banks challenged a dissenter by saying, “Show me in the report where there’s an impeachable offense.”

The meeting lasted a little over an hour, and the audience groaned when told time was up. Retired schoolteacher Vicky Lomont didn’t get to ask Banks about a climate change bill, but said Banks’ answers were partisan. “He’s really just repeating the Trumpisms,” she said. She’s been on Obamacare (actually called the Affordable Care Act) and didn’t have any complaints. She believes better, cheaper health care is needed, even if it results in socialized medicine. Referring to socialism, she said, “it’s not a bad word.”

Banks will face some competition in the May 2020 GOP primary from Dr. Chris Magiera, a Warsaw resident. Magiera wants to “cure” the afflictions that plague the federal government, and he pledges to legislate, not delegate.

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