CHAMPAIGN — The 90-minute time limit meant that less than a quarter of the 120-plus questions submitted by audience members were asked of the two Republican representatives on stage.
So several of them skipped the moderator route altogether and went straight to the host himself, producing some of the most-talked-about sound bites from Monday’s Open Government Night with U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis at Parkland College.
One came early in the program, after moderator Scott Beatty of WDWS Radio asked Davis a question about recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.
Following Davis’ response, in which he referenced being shot at himself during a congressional softball practice in 2017, a man in the crowd yelled: “So you dodged a bullet. That makes you an expert?”
“You know what’s amazing to me?” Davis responded directly. “You have somebody so politically intoxicated that would say ‘So you dodged a bullet.’ I didn’t know there was a political litmus test for people who are gun-violence victims. Would you have the audacity to say that to a survivor of El Paso or Las Vegas or anywhere else?”
Later, when chided by an audience member for accepting money from the NRA following a question about the influence of political action committees, Davis responded: “I’m a member of the NRA. I give them my money. My vote is never for sale. Not a single dollar can influence my vote in the United States Congress.”
And back and forth it went, with many in a decidedly Democratic crowd letting Davis and state Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, know what they thought about their answers, which covered topics ranging from immigration to prescription drug prices to whether President Donald Trump was to blame for the behavior of white nationalists.
“I don’t think President Trump is a racist,” Davis said to a chorus of boos, similar to the reaction he received after the no fewer than 15 times he cited his opposition to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or the multiple references he made to being “the 50th most bipartisan” congressman in either chamber.
Other topics Davis was asked about during his second Open Government Night, following last month’s debut in Decatur:
— On clean energy: “You cannot run the American economy on renewable energy alone.”
That came after a question about climate change, which Davis said “I believe in. ... (But) at what point are humans causing most of climate change? The discussion point is the United States can’t control 84 percent of the world’s emissions.”
— On the high cost of prescription medicine: “The Trump administration has done more to reduce the cost of prescription drugs than we have seen from any administration in the last few decades.”
— On Trump’s comments about members of Congress: “I certainly wish he would not single out some of my colleagues. They are duly elected by their constituents, just like I was. We can have a government in Washington that decides to have members in Congress from both sides respond to social media, or we can sit down and work in a bipartisan way.”
Later, he drew a comparison between Trump and one of his chief critics, saying: “In the end, none of us are going to stop President Trump from tweeting. But none of us are going to stop Bernie Sanders from (tweeting) that Republican policies are killing people.”
— On calls by the GOP to construct a border wall: “You may not agree with me, but I think we need a border security structure on our southern border.”
— On farm tariffs: “Right now, China is incentivizing not to sit down and put an agreement together with the United States of America to ensure that we have a trade agreement in place.”
— On Social Security: “If you want to save Social Security and Medicare for our kids and your kids and grandkids, then we’ve got to do something to make sure that system is going to be solvent.”
— When asked for one specific part of the GOP platform they disagreed with party thinking on, Halbrook failed to cite an example, saying he wasn’t familiar with the Democrats’ platform.
Said Davis: “Medical marijuana is something I supported. Medical marijuana is a viable use for prescriptions in states like Illinois.”