By Rick Moriarty
Ann Marie Buerkle captured her seat in Congress by staking out conservative positions. As she prepares today to start circulating petitions for her re-election bid, she's sticking to what got her there.
During a nearly two-hour town hall meeting Monday at Onondaga Community College, Buerkle spoke out against "big, bloated, bureaucratic government," attacked President Obama's health care plan, and called for more oil drilling and fewer business regulations.
"The way it's always been done just isn't working anymore," she told the approximately 50 people who came to Storer Auditorium for the 15th public question-and-answer session she has held since defeating incumbent Democrat Dan Maffei in 2010.
She called for lower corporate taxes, elimination of the capital gains tax and less regulation of businesses to promote job growth.
Buerkle said "changes" have to be made to keep Medicare, the government health care program for the elderly, from going bankrupt. She did not say what changes she would support, other than to say they will not affect those who are currently 55 or older. However, she criticized the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as "Obamacare," the health care reform legislation signed into law by President Obama in 2010.
She condemned the law's creation of the 15-member Independent Payment Advisory Board. The appointed panel is tasked with finding ways to slow Medicare's cost growth, but Buerkle said it will "ration care" for the elderly by deciding what services Medicare will pay for and which ones it won't.
Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, in center, talks to guests at her town hall meeting on Monday March 19, 2012 at Onondaga Community College.
With gas prices approaching $4 a gallon, Buerkle said more oil drilling in places like the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska and approval of the proposed Keystone pipeline from Canada would help make the country less dependant on oil imports from the Middle East.
"It's supply and demand," she said. "If we can increase supply, hopefully we can get the price down."
Obama has said that drilling in the United States will have little effect on gasoline prices because they are set by world oil markets and are easily influenced by rising demand in China and other emerging economies, as well as by even just the hint of war in the Middle East.
Six people stood outside Storer Auditorium to protest Buerkle's positions. Katie Barrett, 52, of Onondaga, said the congresswoman's opposition to federal funding for Planned Parenthood was part of a "war on women" by the Republican Party.
Anthony DeFrank, 21, of Syracuse, a student at OCC, also criticized Buerkle's opposition to federal funding for Planned Parenthood, as well as her opposition to extending unemployment benefits.