Bob Corker followed in Lamar Alexander's footsteps and spent over an hour at the Court House annex Friday, discussing a range of topics with a capacity crowd of over 100 Marshall County residents.
The senator told the group that he was visiting 31 counties in the state over the summer break. When Senate colleagues expressed concern because of the violence that has erupted at some town hall meetings, Corker said he told them, "Tennesseans are great patriots - we're looking forward to civil discussions."
"Town halls will effect public policy," the senator said. "I think we're going to have a great chance when we get back (to Washington)."
He acknowledged that the nation's healthcare system needed "some reforms." Applause greeted his call for tort reform and later he said, "My sense is we could pass it in this state in the next few years - California and Texas have already passed it."
Corker got more applause when he said, "There is no way I could support a public option."
"Let's preserve the best things about our system," Corker said, while admitting "we don't have the best outcomes" and "our citizens are not the healthiest."
He recommended more emphasis on prevention, and said perhaps doctors should be paid for keeping their patients well.
"In 60 days we can't write legislation to do this," the senator said, adding that he was going to urge President Obama to study and do some pilot programs, remembering what physicians swear in the Hippocratic oath: first do no harm.
Talk then turned to other matters, and Corker introduced Mike Herron as "the one I talk to at Spring Hill."
Applause rang out again when Corker said, "We need to keep it as a right to work state - card check would tilt us in the wrong direction - it's terrible public policy."
He said they had worked hard to get the sub-compact built at GM's spring Hill plant, but it was "a political decision." Corker is confident that once car sales come back up the former Saturn plant will be back at work, building a cross-over vehicle. After all, it is the best designed and most modern of all the GM plants.
He then took questions and comments from the audience, who voiced concerns about the high cost of healthcare and health insurance, and also about the problems facing small business, but never became rowdy or disrespectful.
The audience supported its members with applause, as remarks like, "When I was growing up, if you didn't work you didn't eat," "Why can't we cut the space program and foreign aid?" "I'm against the government telling anyone what they can charge!" "Anyone who gets a driver's license and applies for food stamps should speak English," "Why can't the companies that are sending jobs overseas be taxed until they keep the jobs here?"
Industrial Development director Terry Wallace said the County's unemployment rate was 19.3 percent, and pleaded for help with more jobs and industry. Insurance agent Peggy Hubbard said that as an agent it pained her to tell people they were uninsurable. She said that in New York state, where she worked before, the "uninsurable" were distributed between the insurance companies. "I think people should pay something for their health insurance," Hubbard said.
"We're sacrificing," said County mayor Joe Boyd Liggett. "No one's getting pay raises. Who in the Federal government is getting raises?"
Corker didn't answer this directly, but said, "I don't take my pay check - it goes to charity." For this he got another round of applause.
"I wish we could clone you," said Corker admirer Harriet Campbell, who is a newly appointed member of the Tennessee Republican Party's State Executive committee.
Corker left Lewisburg to fly to Chattanooga for another engagement.