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Wichita Eagle- Spending, Social Security Dominate Pompeo's First Town Hall Meeting

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Location: Wichita, KS

Slowing federal spending was the topic new U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo wanted to hammer home during Saturday's town hall meeting at Wichita State's Hughes Metroplex.

And he did.

But an overflow crowd of about 350 focused more on Social Security and high gasoline prices.

Pompeo painted a realistic picture of the GOP's chances to fight Democratic spending: With the Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate, Pompeo used the word "challenge" often as he described House efforts to rein in the budget.

Pompeo said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., may not bring the House's action to repeal the health care reform law to the Senate floor.

But that's just one part of the deficit battle, Pompeo said.

"We've got to influence the tough decisions to get our financial house in order. Help me do that," Pompeo implored the crowd.

"When you see me standing on the floor talking and Barney Frank gets up and says I'm wrong, write me a note," he said, to laughter from the audience.

Pompeo was at his most optimistic characterizing last week's House vote on health care.

"I don't think it was merely symbolic. I think it was a symbol of what the people asked us to go do," he said. "I think it was a deep recognition that this House of Representatives ... is going to do the things we promised we were going to do."

The only issue on which the audience squared off was Social Security.

One elderly man, who identified himself only as Red, offered to return 10 percent of his monthly Social Security check to the federal government.

"I want to be part of getting this country back on track," he said.

But a woman who identified herself as a retired teacher asked Pompeo to consider what would have happened to the nest eggs of millions of American retirees had George W. Bush succeeded in partially privatizing Social Security in 2006, two years before the Wall Street meltdown.

She implored Pompeo to look toward "the people at the top" for financial help stabilizing Social Security, by removing the $106,000 wage cap for withholding.

Pompeo said that any Social Security solution shouldn't affect current participants.

He didn't elaborate on possible solutions, characterizing them as "tweaks."

"I'm not in favor of allowing Social Security to be totally privatized ...," he said. "I'd like to create with relatively low risk some opportunities for senior citizens to get more money back."

In response to one audience member's concerns about rising gasoline and diesel prices, Pompeo said the only solution is "creating more supply" -- including new oil sources and alternative energies, such as natural gas.

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