U.S. Rep. Don Bacon drew shouts, boos and cheers at a wide-ranging town hall meeting in north Omaha on Saturday.
The Republican congressman from Nebraska’s 2nd District answered questions on several hot-button issues, including racism, health care and President Donald Trump’s proposed ban on transgender military members.
Moderators Willie Barney of the Empowerment Network and William King, founder of The Boss radio station, drew written questions from the several hundred attendees. Questioners were allowed to ask follow-up questions.
After more than an hour of sometimes tense back-and-forth at North High School, Bacon said he heard about two issues that he wants to study more: proposed cuts to Community Development Block Grants and federal employee retirement benefits.
Several attendees wanted to hear Bacon’s take on the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, that erupted into violence and the president’s response.
Trump has been criticized for saying that “both sides” were to blame for the violence, which led to a woman’s death, and that “there are two sides to every story.”
Bacon noted that in scripted comments a day after the event, Trump condemned white supremacy. But Bacon said the president’s unscripted comments were “ambiguous,” and “there should be no ambiguity.”
Bacon said Trump should have said: “When it comes to how we verbalize our displeasure and our protest, we’ve got to do it in a peaceful way.”
On health care, Bacon said he’s heard both from people who support the Affordable Care Act and those who have been harmed by rising premiums under the law.
So far, Republican majorities in the House and the Senate — who have pledged to repeal and replace the ACA, also called Obamacare — have not come to an agreement on a new health care bill.
Bacon said he wants to see changes broken into several bills that could be passed piecemeal.
“Walking away and doing nothing is a failure,” he said at a press conference after the town hall event.
On Trump’s objection to people who are transgender serving in the military, Bacon said the military “owes us” a study on whether there is an objective reason that a transgender person wouldn’t be able to perform military duties.
The president on Friday directed the Pentagon to end recruitment of transgender individuals, though he left the door open for those currently in the military to continue serving. Trump had earlier said he would not “allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity.”
Bacon noted Saturday that people with relatively minor health issues are not allowed to serve.
“There’s a lot of good people who can’t serve, today, who want to,” said Bacon, a retired Air Force brigadier general.
He said Trump’s reasons appear to be subjective, and Bacon wants to see objective data.
“I believe that anybody who wants to serve, who’s physically fit, who meets the requirements, should be able to serve,” Bacon said.
At the press conference, Bacon said he does not support Trump’s threat to shut down the government if the House and Senate don’t agree on funding for a border wall.