U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins stood just a few feet away as a young mother expressed frustration at not being able to afford a doctor for her son, but Jenkins was not swayed from her opposition to a new government-run insurance plan.
Jenkins, a freshman Republican representing the 2nd District of eastern Kansas, is part of a GOP-dominated congressional delegation that has largely decided against what's become known as the public option in federal health care reform. The delegation -- split 5-1 in favor of the GOP -- went into its summer recess opposed to the idea, and nothing in the town hall meetings Republicans have held appears to have changed that.
After several people at town hall meeting in Ottawa advocated a public option, Jenkins reached a not-so-surprising conclusion.
"We're just going to agree to disagree about the public option," she said.
One person in disagreement was Elizabeth Smith, a 27-year-old Ottawa waitress who wanted to know what was wrong with a government-run plan for Americans who are currently uninsured. Smith's 2 1/2-year-old son, Jonah, sat on a nearby table, swinging his legs, as his mother questioned Jenkins.
Jenkins told Smith she'd rather give subsidies to families to allow them to buy private insurance.
When asked directly why she was against a government-run program, Jenkins laughed and said, "A government-run program is going to subsidize not only yours but everybody in this room. So I'm not sure what we're talking about here."
Watch, via Mike Nellis [1:47 minute mark]:
Afterward, Smith said her son hasn't been to a doctor in 21 months, except for emergency room visits for ear infections, because she can't afford either insurance or a doctor's visit.
"I am frustrated," she said. "In a functioning, civil society, people take care of each other."
Jenkins is already under scrutiny for her remark last week that the Republican Party needs a "great white hope" to lead them back to power.