By Joe Mahoney
Defying his own party leadership once again, Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, was one of only 15 GOP congressmen who joined with House Democrats this week in opposing a measure that would slash $40 billion from federal programs supporting food stamps and school lunch programs.
That was Thursday. On Friday, Gibson was back in the fold, siding with the Republican leadership on a measure that would gut funding from the Affordable Care Act, the legislation considered by many Washington observers as President Barack Obama’s most significant achievement.
Interviewed by The Daily Star Friday night after returning to the district from Washington, Gibson said he calls them as he sees them, and votes in ways that buttress the best interests of his constituents.
“I never forget who I am and who I work for,” said Gibson.
On the legislation that would have made steep cuts in the food stamp public assistance program, opponents such as Gibson and Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Barnevald, objected on the basis that an annual reduction of a 5 percent - $4 billion per year - for 10 straight years was too steep.
Gibson said he is more aligned with a Senate bill that would trim the programs by $4 billion combined, rather than the $40 billion cut favored by 217 of his GOP comrades in the House. He said he believes that some reforms are necessary, adding, “We want a program for people who need assistance that is funded in a way that is fair to the taxpayers.”
Dan Maskin, director of the anti-poverty group Opportunities for Otsego, said he was pleased that Gibson bucked the House leadership on the food stamp vote. He noted that the local congressman has some 85,000 people living in poverty in his district.
“I think he has a good handle on the realities here,” Maskin said of Gibson. He said he is braced for the possibility of cuts to both food stamp and school lunch programs, but predicted they would not be nearly as deep as what the House leadership is seeking.
Gibson, commenting on his vote to strip funding from the Affordable Care Act, said he believes the implementation of the program should be postponed to January 2015, arguing that “there are certain aspects of this law that are not ready.”
He also questioned the President’s decision to delay implementing of mandates as they apply to employers but not to citizens.
“We should have the same standards for the American people as we have for Big Business,” said Gibson.
Addressing a gathering at a Ford plant on the outskirts of Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Obama rebuked the Republicans who tried to take funding from the Affordable Care Act, saying: “They’re not focused on you. They’re focused on politics. They’re focused on trying to mess with me. They’re not focused on you.”
But Gibson said there are now documented flaws in the software that would be relied upon in launching the insurance marketplaces, saying the technology fails to determine with reliability just how much people will need to pay for their health care coverage.