'TOWN HALL' MEETINGS
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann will hold four meetings in Hamilton County today.
• 8:30 a.m. -- Soddy-Daisy Municipal Building, 9835 Dayton Pike
• 11 a.m. -- North River Civic Center, 1009 Executive Drive, Hixson
• 1:30 p.m. -- Red Bank City Hall, 3117 Dayton Blvd.
• 4 p.m. -- Signal Mountain Town Hall, 1111 Ridgeway Ave.
As U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann wrapped up the day's third "town hall" meeting and opened the floor to questions, two generations challenged their congressman.
The older man began with a little praise.
Bob Strange, a 79-year-old Lookout Valley man whose business card says "retired," identified himself as a conservative Republican and said he voted for Fleischmann in last year's elections.
"However," he said, "unless you become reasonable, I'll be one of those who will vote against you."
At Thursday's four Chattanooga meetings, Fleischmann, R-Tenn., trumpeted his votes for legislation that cleared the GOP-controlled House, but never had a prayer of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Specifically, Fleischmann emphasized his vote for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's "Path to Prosperity," which would have turned Medicare into a voucher program within 10 years. The Senate rejected Ryan's plan in a 57-40 vote.
"Voting on a bill which has no chance to pass and bragging about it doesn't accomplish anything," Strange told Fleischmann.
The congressman was undeterred, saying Washington endured "too many compromises over too long a period of time."
"I feel a duty to stand on principle," he said.
At all of his Thursday meetings, Fleischmann stressed his conservative record and the fact that he's never missed a vote. He took questions about corporations, taxes and a new federal report that showed defense contractors have wasted $60 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We've got a spending problem in this country," he said. "I've only got one vote out of 435, but rest assured ... I fight like heck for the people of this district with that vote."
At the third meeting, a few minutes after Strange addressed Fleischmann, 25-year-old Perrin Lance raised his hand to ask about "the very real and terrible consequences" of Fleischmann's vote against raising America's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. Credit-rating agencies warned of government default if Congress failed to strike a deal before Aug. 2.
Just before midnight on Aug. 1, Congress approved a deal to increase the ceiling.
"If everybody had voted like you, I don't know if my grandparents would have their Social Security check," Lance told Fleischmann. "And I don't know if my college-age friends would have higher interest rates on their loans."
The different approach was something of an about-face for Lance, a community activist with Chattanooga Organized for Action -- the group behind last week's "Trial of Chucky" protest in which demonstrators dressed up like the "Child's Play" movie villain and blasted Fleischmann outside his Chattanooga office.
Fleischmann said Lance asked "an excellent question." But instead of addressing what would have happened had the debt ceiling not been raised, Fleischmann said he didn't support the final deal because it didn't include enough spending cuts or a balanced budget amendment.
"He didn't answer your question, did he?" someone said.
Lance shook his head.
Chris Carroll covers federal politics for the Times Free Press. A Chattanooga native, he went to Red Bank High School and graduated with honors from East Tennessee State University. Chris investigated violent crime, municipal government and hospitals before taking the political beat. For tornado coverage, he and Pam Sohn won a first-place Tennessee Associated Press Managing Editors deadline reporting award. In 2010, Chris won the Golden Press Card Award of Merit and another deadline reporting ...
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