Following an hour-long "town hall" meeting-by-phone Sunday with his constituents in South Carolina's 1st District, Republican Rep. Mark Sanford told Newsmax that the message he got from them was "it's time for you and your colleagues to fight for what you believe on the delay in Obamacare."
Sanford, who spoke to Newsmax moments after concluding the phone-in session, explained that "we sure had a lot of calls, and I feel I have reached the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The calls we had today – and we had a lot – were a fraction of the letters, e-mails, and talks I had with people I'd run into at [high school] football games."
"And the perspective of the majority is 'it's time for you and your colleagues to fight for what you believe on the delay of Obamacare.' Those of us [in Congress] who feel this way may lose in the end. But at least we will have made a stand."
Prior to interviewing Sanford, Newsmax called in and listened to the hour-long session between the congressman and his constituents. As Sanford explained, "I've done many real town meetings but this is the first time I did one by phone. But it was the only way, since we're trapped in Washington this weekend."
A call from constituent Pamela Moore – in which she said she "applauded" the willingness of the House Republicans to compromise – gave Sanford the opening to make the case that his GOP colleagues have compromised while the President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have not.
"Right now, the House is negotiating with itself," he said. "We went from defunding Obamacare to voting to delay Obamacare last night. Where do we go next?"
Sanford mentioned West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, "whom I got to know well when he was governor of his state and I was governor of South Carolina. Sen. Manchin is saying, 'Hey, I'm willing to support a continuing resolution if it delays Obamacare a year. That's a fair compromise.' Why can't other Democrats follow his example?"
Sanford also raised the issue of what he called the president's "selective implementation" of Obamacare. In what is likely to be a major case made by his colleagues in the coming days, Sanford spoke of Obama delaying healthcare mandates for employers as "a constitutional issue. Through executive mandate, he has issued a delay for some people and outlined seven different areas of delay with the compliance."
"So why can't Obamacare be delayed for all of the American public?"
Several constituents implored him not to permit the government to shut down. But others urged him to stand firm in battling Obamacare. As a caller who identified himself as "Tom, Amy's husband," said, "It's Sunday and the federal government is closed, right? It's closed on federal holidays. Troops will be paid, people will get their Social Security and Medicare and I'm still breathing. So what's the big deal?"
Sanford strongly maintained that he would never "minimize the effect of a government shutdown." However, he quickly added, "We're not dealing with dynamite. We're dealing with a limited shutdown, and with the military paid, and the mandated spending such as on Social Security continuing, the only thing that will stop is discretionary spending."
In making a point many House Republicans are likely to make in the coming week, he pointed out that, "there have been 17 government shutdowns since 1976, many under Democratic presidents. Twelve of them occurred under a Democratic speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill," said Sanford, calling limited shutdowns a "reasonable tool for negotiating."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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