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July 28, 2016

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Nevada Wonk

Politics:

Heck dodges Social Security questions at forum

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Rep. Joe Heck speaks to Veterans at the American Legion Post 40 in Henderson on Wednesday, June 8, 2011.

Joe Heck Veterans Town Hall

Rep. Joe Heck speaks to Veterans at the American Legion Post 40 in Henderson on Wednesday, June 8, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Joe Heck town hall

KSNV coverage of town hall meeting featuring U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, June 8, 2011.

Republican Rep. Joe Heck on Wednesday was more than happy to answer questions about high school sporting events and Disney’s plans to trademark the “SEAL Team 6” name, but he refused to answer any substantive questions about Social Security.

Heck, who has represented Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District since November, spoke to about 75 constituents at a town hall meeting in Henderson. He took 30 questions from the audience and had time to spare before the scheduled end of the meeting, but he refused to go into depth about his positions on Social Security.

All he would say on the topic was, “I’m there to preserve those benefits for future generations.”

Heck and his staff were clearly in damage-control mode after the congressman came under fire for calling the federal social welfare program a “pyramid scheme.” He made the comment during a town hall last month.

It gained national attention, and Heck backtracked by saying he misspoke. He even distributed fliers to explain his comments.

But Tuesday while on a radio show, Heck repeated the offending comment. He told a caller who described Social Security as a pyramid scheme that he was “exactly right.”

At the town hall meeting Wednesday, a reporter again asked Heck about his pyramid scheme comments during the public question-and-answer portion of the event. Heck refused to answer.

“I’ve given my stance on Social Security,” he said. “I’m not going to comment on that question.”

Because the forum was held at an American Legion hall, Heck said he would answer only questions related to veterans’ issues. Social Security arguably falls into that category, but Heck wouldn’t budge, even though an announcement advertising the event, posted Monday on Facebook, listed Social Security, Medicare and Veterans Affairs as the main topics for discussion.

Still, Heck took many other off-topic questions.

A casino worker wanted information about housing and foreclosures. Heck referred her to his staff.

A man offended by high-school sports teams that don’t take the field for the National Anthem asked Heck what could be done. Heck agreed that it was disrespectful.

A man complained about Disney trying to buy the rights to then name “SEAL Team 6.” Heck explained that the request had been withdrawn. The answer elicited cheers from the audience, the first and only of the night.

The assembled veterans didn’t seem upset by Heck’s refusal to clarify his Social Security stance. They were more concerned with getting answers about benefits and combat pay.

Heck spokesman Darren Littell insisted that Heck has been consistent in his views about Social Security.

“He’s never changed his position,” Littell said. “He admits he used a poor choice of words. But people are over-analyzing things. It’s being twisted. He stated his position several times, and there’s nothing left to say.”

Heck apparently agrees. Despite telling the audience that he would stay to address additional questions, Heck ran into a private room when approached by reporters at the end of the town hall.

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