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Kingston cools rhetoric
The day after the U.S. House of Representatives passed an overhaul of the national health care system, U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-1, came out swinging against it and pledged to repeal it.

But on Wednesday, nine days later, he opted for a softer approach as he delved cautiously into the divisive topic at a town hall meeting in Brunswick.

Kingston, in the second year of his ninth two-year term, shied away from talk of repealing the health care overhaul President Barack Obama signed into law. He didn't use the word "repeal" once during his hour-long talk to a packed crowd of constituents at College of Coastal Georgia auditorium.

Instead Kingston, who had joined all other Republicans in the House in voting against the overhaul, focused on changes he thinks should be made to make it better. He said lawmakers have "unfinished business" and both parties should work together to improve the nation's health care system.

On the heels of a legislative defeat, Kingston tried to turn down the volume on what has been a rancorous and drawn-out debate. At one point, he assured the crowd there are no "death panels," a charge made by some conservatives over the course of the year-long debate and echoed by at least one citizen in attendance Wednesday.

He also said it is too early to tell if the new law violates the U.S. Constitution.

"We really don't know if it is unconstitutional until the Supreme Court decides," he said.

There are parts in the bill that make sense to Kingston.

"There are a lot of things in this bill I think you and I certainly like," said Kingston, mentioning that he supports prohibiting insurance companies from denying health insurance to people with a preexisting medical conditions.

"But there are also things I have concerns about."

Among his worries are increased taxes on insurance companies, which he says will be passed on to consumers, and a mandate to purchase insurance, which represents a loss of individual freedom.

He also is concerned that more government bureaucracy will come between patients and doctors.

To improve the law, Kingston called for provisions to be added that would end frivolous lawsuits, which increase medical costs, allow people to purchase insurance across state lines and increase the transparency in cost for medical procedures.

The Georgia House of Representatives passed a measure Tuesday that would allow Georgians to shop for insurance out of state.

While Kingston wasn't touting repeal of the law, he was the day after the House passed health reform. On March 23, Kingston signed a pledge that he would work to repeal the law and announced on his Web site that he was joining the "repeal effort."

Kingston is not the only Republican backing away from demands from the party's conservative base to repeal the new health care law. Top Republicans are increasingly worried that a hard line repeal strategy could be risky for a party hoping to make gains in the November elections.

They note that repeal is politically and legally unlikely.

In a show of bipartisanship Wednesday, Vincent Joubert Jr.-Davis, chairman of the Glynn County Democratic Party, said he appreciated the opportunity to hand out information on the new federal health care law during the meeting.

"In expressing my thanks to Congressman Kingston before the meeting adjourned, his words back to me were encouraging when he said, 'we can disagree without being disagreeable' - something we might all learn from and try to practice," Joubert Jr.-Davis said.

Hearing concerns of constituents during his town hall stops, Kingston said it's evident, "The First Amendment - freedom of speech - is alive and well."

That was true Wednesday as dozens of citizens asked a host of questions.

Questions ranged from foreign policy to how to attract more jobs to Brunswick.

One man asked if Republicans had thought again of drafting something similar to the Contract with America, used by Republicans campaigning in 1994, that detailed their promises if they became the majority party in Congress (which they did).

Kingston answered that he is working with other Republicans to combine the ideas that they are hearing from their constituents to come up with something to present to voters.

When asked how he plans to work with Democrats to tackle big problems, Kingston said he sees room for cooperation and common ground on a number of issues, including promoting an energy policy of becoming less dependent of foreign oil.

He said it seems like there is "a lot of division" in Washington D.C. but "it's "more barking than it really is biting."

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