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U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie explained a strategy for repealing Obamacare, explained his vote on behalf of a National Security Agency telephone monitoring and fielded questions Tuesday ranging from bureaucratic burdens to veterans benefits and pediatric arthritis.
Without the aid of notes, the Republican Congressman stood before back-to-back town hall gatherings in Hodgenville and Elizabethtown fielding questions from residents across the political spectrum.
While he opposes the Affordable Care Act for practical, philosophical and financial reasons, Guthrie disagrees with a strategy to withdraw funding from the president’s health care initiative.
The legislation is scheduled to take effect Oct. 1 and Guthrie believes the government will be unable to implement the sweeping reforms. He said a Senate proposal to remove funding for Obamacare will benefit the administration, which already has acted to delay the legislation’s mandate on employers.
“We will be pulling their iron out of the fire,” he said.
He said action such as shutting down the federal government to stall Obamacare’s implementation will divert blame for its failure to Republicans.
Describing the massive policy as being on the verge of “imploding,” Guthrie said he favors a 30-day continuing resolution to maintain government operations. He said no independent observer thinks the administration can have Obamacare ready on time.
“It’s unpopular, unworkable and it’s unraveling,” he said.
He called uncertainties related to Obamacare as stifling business activity and “an albatross on our economy.”
He said it is important opponents “be in favor of something” and not just oppose the health care reform bill. Guthrie wants to develop legislation to repeal the bill and replace it with more modest and workable approaches.
Under stern challenges related to his vote in favor of NSA collection of domestic telephone records, Guthrie explained secure briefings in which administration officials described the program’s aims. He compared the collection of telephone numbers to standard billing information stored by phone companies and said judicial oversight should be required to monitor calls or explore email.
Guthrie said intelligence gathered through the NSA efforts had averted terrorist attacks in the United States. But he said the program must function without violating Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure.
Faced with conflicting information that suggests NSA operatives have monitored private conversations of Americans without a search warrant, Guthrie said he has reservations about the situation.
“If I knew then what I know now, I might have voted differently,” he conceded.
The town hall meetings Tuesday are part of a series of question-and-answer forums he has scheduled this month in all 21 counties in the 2nd Congressional District. He said the NSA threat to privacy is a recurring theme in those meetings.
“Your point is well taken,” he told one audience member. “You can’t give up freedom for security. I get that.”
Ben Sheroan can be reached at 270-505-1764 or bsheroan@