DUNCAN — U.S. Rep. Tom Cole on Wednesday reiterated his opposition to the federal health care law but told participants in a town hall meeting that he wasn't willing to shut down the federal government to try and stop it.
Cole spoke to about 50 people at the Red River Technology Center in this city of about 24,000 people, which has been rocked by the arrest of three local teenagers in the shooting death of a visiting Australian baseball player.
The Republican from Moore opened the question-and-answer session with a moment of silence for 22-year-old Christopher Lane, a baseball player from Melbourne playing for a small Oklahoma college was shot dead Aug. 16 on the city's north side.
Three local teenagers — ages 15, 16 and 17 — have been charged in the killing.
But many of the questions Cole fielded centered on the federal health care law — referred to by several participants as Obamacare — and what he plans to do to stop its implementation.
Cole said that while he continues to oppose the law, shutting down the federal government by voting against an increase in the debt limit is not the way to stop it.
“I not only voted against the original bill, I've voted against it 40 times,” Cole told the audience.
“Will I vote to defund Obamacare? Yes, I will. Will I shut down government to do it? No, I will not.
“If I thought it would work, I'd do it, and I'd be happy to do it.”
Cole said if the debt ceiling is not increased, soldiers would begin missing paychecks in October, thousands of workers at nearby Fort Sill Army Post in Lawton and Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City would lose their jobs, and U.S. military veterans in centers across his district would see their benefits cut.
“The idea that we would turn off the ability to give those veterans medical care, a roof over their head and a hot meal — no, I will not,” he said.
Cole said the upcoming negotiations over the debt limit should provide House Republicans with an opportunity to gain some concessions, particularly in the area of reduced federal spending.
“If the president wants a deal on the debt ceiling, he's going to have to meet us halfway,” Cole said.