ZILLAH -- Rep. Doc Hastings leveled criticism at health care reform, cap and trade, and the federal deficit at a town hall meeting Thursday at Zillah High School.
Then, everything from Hanford cleanup to census questions to a tea party invitation came up during a question and answer session.
About 60 residents, mostly from Zillah and Toppenish, filled the seats of the high school's performing arts center for one of the Pasco Republican's signature hourlong gatherings.
Referring to PowerPoint slides, the 16-year congressman started by criticizing the health care overhaul passed by Congress and signed by President Obama last month.
Hastings said it will lead to a government-run health care system and, later, rationing.
Hastings said he advocates repealing portions of the law by the time it takes effect in 2014, especially the provision calling for fines for people who don't have insurance. He favors expanding health savings accounts, allowing purchases of insurance plans across state lines and making health insurance costs tax deductible.
Those things would give people more opportunity to find insurance and wouldn't require the government to simply mandate it, he said.
"If there's not enough coffee shops some place, somebody will open another coffee shop," he said.
Hastings called the proposed cap-and-trade energy plan, which sets carbon-dioxide emission limits on companies but allows them to purchase credits for more, "nothing more than a tax on energy."
In addition, Hastings called the 2010 federal budget deficit of more than $1.5 trillion unsustainable.
Craig Fisher, an audience member who introduced himself as a member of a local tea party group, invited Hastings to check out one of its gatherings.