By Raymond Neupert/South Metro Observer

WAUSAU, Wis. – The first of two town hall meetings by Congressman Sean Duffy was held Thursday at Northcentral Technical College, where about 40 people took part in a presentation and question/answer session.

A number of topics got the crowd heated during the discussion, including a debate over what actually started the Trump/Russian investigation, to a contentious exchange over the ‘boyfriend loophole’ in regards to domestic violence and gun control. A number of attendees also complained during the meeting about the early start time, and the lack of notification that was given ahead of the meeting.

An early question in the meeting was from a Wausau resident concerned over the recently passed tax bills and the repeated continuing resolutions that are being used to fund the government. “This just can’t go on forever where we’re borrowing a third of the money we spend,” the resident said. “Somehow the house of cards is going to cave in.”

Duffy shared his concerns over the continuing resolutions, because it especially affects long term planning for the military.

“The military can’t do long term planning without a long term budget stream,” Duffy said. “This makes it extremely difficult.  We’ve been at war a long time, and men and women are dying in training exercises because we don’t have enough money getting to them.”

He also defended both his vote on the tax bill and the bill itself.

“I believe that when you reduce your regulations and reduce your taxes on companies, I think companies grow, and you’ll see taxes grow,” Duffy said.

When asked about the lack of movement in the Child Health Insurance Program and how the reduction of funding is going to hurt community clinics like Bridge Community, Duffy said that that’s something the government shouldn’t be involved in.

“Why are we setting up a government funded dental center when the facility gets reimbursed at 95 cents on the dollar, when there’s capacity in the private sector, and they’re getting 40 cents on the dollar,” Duffy questioned.

He also said that the GOP wanted to vote for a bill that would fund the CHIP program, but that Democrats turned that down. Democrats have started that the GOP was adding riders to the bill that would put restrictions on the Affordable Care Act and were calling for a ‘clean version’ of the bill.

The congressman also deflected questions on funding for local food banks in schools in response to a question from Wausau resident Tricia Zunker, who is currently running for a seat on the Wausau School Board. Duffy says that programs are already in place to help children, like the school breakfast and lunch program, and that he can’t legislate at the federal level how funds and food are provided to individual schools.

Duffy also brought up his upcoming Rural Hunger and Homelessness Summit that’s being held later this month. That summit will be held Jan. 24 at the Central Wisconsin Convention and Expo Center, bringing in Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson as well as other dignitaries.

After the question and answer section of the meeting, Duffy told reporters he had no interest in running against Senator Tammy Baldwin in 2018.

“I’m in the House, I love the House,” Duffy said. “I get a great local reception and conversation, as you can see in the town hall. So no I’m not running.”

Duffy also defended President Trump’s use of Twitter as a public speaking platform, claiming it’s a way to bypass an unfair media.

“If you look at the analysis of news stories, 60 percent negative, 5 percent positive,” Duffy said. “Through his Tweeting, he’s got an ability to talk directly to the American people, and put his viewpoint on what’s happening in the news, and he gets around those talking heads.”

Duffy did say that Trump needs to be more judicious with the language he uses, but said he doesn’t think Trump should stop using the platform.

Duffy also held a meeting in Lincoln County this morning. They are Duffy’s first two town hall meetings of the year.