Sen. John McCain faced a supportive but skeptical crowd in Sun City Tuesday morning, and answered questions ranging from health care to the safety of the U.S. Constitution.
Standing before an audience of more than 1,200 people at Grace Bible Church, the Arizona Republican thanked each person in attendance for keeping the health care debate alive.
"I want to thank you all for being here, and thank everyone who has attended these town halls," McCain said. "If not for these town hall meetings, I sincerely believe a health care plan with the public option would have already been railroaded through. If not for these town hall meetings, we would not be here today still debating the health care plan."
McCain made his feelings on health care reform clear: The public option has to go.
"What we cannot do is approve the government plan, and that's what I'll be calling it from now on because that's what it is - the government plan," McCain said. "I sincerely believe that if we approve the government plan, it will mean the death of private insurance in America."
Much of what McCain had to say regarding health care reform drew applause and standing ovations from the audience. However, McCain was loudly booed several times as well. When a woman in the audience questioned whether Democratic President Barack Obama "even remembers there is a Constitution," McCain refused to play along.
"I'm sure that he does. I'm sure he respects the Constitution," McCain said, barely audible over a chorus of boos. "I really do. I think what we have is a difference of philosophy. I think he is sincere in his beliefs. He is the president of the United States, so let's be respectful."
McCain stayed mostly on message, outlining his ideas for effective health care reform without a public option. Some of those changes include addressing medical malpractice lawsuits, increasing incentives for wellness and fitness and creating risk pools to make sure those with serious illnesses are insured.
"I want to reform health care, I really do, but let's not forget the quality of health care must be maintained, too," McCain said.
One woman asked why McCain and his fellow Republicans did not reform health care during the Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush or George W. Bush administrations, when Republicans had the same power and control the Democrats have now.
"We should have done more, there's no question," McCain said. "We should have done more, but there is plenty of responsibility to go around. We need to work on a bipartisan basis. That's what we need to be doing now, too. The time is now to make this happen."
Another member of the audience told McCain health care is fine the way it is and to go back to Washington, D.C., and propose that Congress leave it alone.
"With all due respect, ma'am, I can't just go back to Washington and suggest we do nothing, because our children and our grandchildren need health care and Social Security, too," McCain said. "Let's have some straight talk here, my friends, let's have some real straight talk. The system is broken. I hope you appreciate that to do nothing would be unacceptable."
McCain wrapped up his appearance by again thanking the audience for their participation in the town hall meetings.
"I think what we're seeing is the beginning of a peaceful revolt, and I emphasize peaceful," McCain said. "There is corruption in Washington, but I believe the American people can overcome it. I believe we can overcome the special interests. It is too important to our future and the future of our children not to."