BREWER, Maine — Freshman Congressman Bruce Poliquin explained himself to any Republicans in the room disgruntled by his recent vote against repealing Obamacare during a speech Sunday afternoon at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer to highlight his first month in office.
Poliquin delivered the keynote address at Sunday’s Lincoln Day Dinner, hosted by the Penobscot County Republican Committee.
“I’m working my tail off down there [in Washington, D.C.] and taking some arrows,” Poliquin told the crowd.
Sunday’s dinner drew a larger-than-expected crowd, according to organizers. About 75 people registered, but more than 100 showed up, filling almost all seats in the room.
Poliquin’s off-the-cuff speech drew boisterous applause and shouts of agreement, especially when critical of President Barack Obama, and his keynote started and ended with standing ovations.
That support came in spite of strong criticism from some Republicans stemming from Poliquin’s recent vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Poliquin raised eyebrows last week when he was one of only three House Republicans to vote against a bill to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act. Some conservatives viewed that vote as a broken promise. That vote lost him the endorsement of the National Board of the Republican Liberty Caucus.
“I’m not about grandstanding, I’m about fixing problems.” Poliquin told the crowd. “I knew I was going to take some flak on this.”
Poliquin explained that he voted against the repeal push because he didn’t feel an adequate replacement to the ACA had been proposed.
“I want to get rid of [ACA] bigtime,” Poliquin said, “but what’s the plan?”
Two days after he voted against most of his Republican colleagues, Poliquin’s office issued a statement celebrating a Republican alternative.
“I hope all of you give me a little slack on this,” Poliquin said. “I know the headlines don’t look good, but there are reasons I did what I did.”
There had been chatter about potential protests or demonstrations at the Lincoln dinner by hardline Republicans, but no such action was apparent before or after Poliquin took to the lectern around 3:30 p.m.
Poliquin spent much of his time highlighting his first few days in office, including a couple instances in which he pushed his way up to President Obama to urge him to support natural gas pipeline regulation reforms that could bring higher natural gas capacity to Maine and reduce energy prices.
Poliquin discussed his support of the high-profile House vote favoring the Keystone XL Pipeline, drawing a big round of applause.
“Every one of us who’s been in the business community knows that if you increase the supply of a commodity, you decrease the price,” he said.
He also touched on abortion, saying, “We need to make sure we’re a party of life.”
The U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 22 backed a ban on taxpayer funding for abortion, with Poliquin among the supporters.
The Lincoln Day Dinner also featured a 50/50 raffle and silent auction to raise funds for the party, as well as meetings of the Student and College Republicans and Republican town chairs in Penobscot County.
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.