CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham told a rowdy town hall in South Carolina that health care is going to change in the United States. Just don't ask him for details.
"Can I let you in on a little secret? I don't know what the GOP plan is," the Republican Graham told the roughly 1,000 people who packed a theatre at Clemson University on Saturday.
He is still vehemently against a single-payer, government-run health care program — saying it costs too much and doesn't provide choices. Instead he would like states to be able to choose whether to keep President Barack Obama's health care plan but with tax breaks to encourage the use of health savings accounts.
Many of Graham's proposals were met by boos and jeers in an audience that was more liberal than Graham appeared to expect.
"I didn't know there were this many liberals in South Carolina," Graham joked about his birth state where just 41 percent of voters picked Democrat Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.
But Graham briefly won them back by promising to push for the health care debate to be held publicly. He said he was bothered that Republicans seemed to be making the same mistake Obama made: of coming up with a plan and trying to pass it quickly with as little discussion as possible.
Graham said he used the Affordable Care Act to get his health insurance in South Carolina shortly after it passed, and his deductible rose from $750 to $6,250 and his premiums quadrupled. "That's not health care. That is a redistribution of income," Graham said.
Graham has since moved to the military's health plan, having retired from the Air Force, where he spent much of his three decade career serving in the reserves.
He asked the crowd if they wanted health care like him. When they yelled yes, Graham said "then serve 33 years in the Air Force."
Graham and the audience did agree that insurers shouldn't be able to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Graham covered a wide range of topics Saturday. All the audience's questions were placed in a bucket and randomly drawn, leading to five different queries on whether President Donald Trump should be forced to release his tax returns.
Graham supports a bill requiring presidential candidates to release their taxes starting in 2020.
"We can subpoena his tax returns," Graham said of Trump today as the crowd roared.
"I'll do that when there is a reason to," Graham followed up, grinning.
Graham said he believes Russia worked to influence the U.S. election in 2016 and is working to tip elections in Europe in 2017. He said they must be punished through sanctions.
The crowd cheered Graham when the town hall ended. Charlotte Holt said she appreciated his time. Some other congressmen in South Carolina have not held in-person town meetings.
"He's as close to a responsible senator as you are going to get in South Carolina," Holt said.
For the most part, the freewheeling Graham appeared to have fun. He stuck out his tongue at a woman who shouted out she didn't like the patriotic video he showed to start off his town hall. He repeatedly reminded the audience that elections have consequences and that he wanted Trump to succeed as president.