Thursday, July 06, 2017
By James Lomuscio
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4) told a crowd of more than 600 persons in Westport’s Bedford Middle School auditorium tonight that he had to follow a nonpartisan rubric.
It wasn’t easy as the mostly Democratic and cheering supporters at Himes’ first Westport town hall style meeting in five years took aim at President Trump.
Himes came to talk about the healthcare bill before the Senate, one he said was more focused on repealing than repairing the Affordable Care Act, which he had supported under President Obama.
He also spoke about tax reform, simplifying the tax code, something the country has not seen since 1986 when President Ronald Reagan held a 65 percent approval rating.
Himes also addressed the nation’s dilapidated infrastructure, which he said directly affects Fairfield County and Connecticut overall in retaining and attracting businesses and corporations.
As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, he briefly talked about “investigating Russia’s attack on our election,” and its implications on the upcoming German elections “and perhaps our own in 2018.”
“I’m disheartened that on the eve of our president meeting with Putin, our president is not speaking in a clear voice on attacks on our democracy,” he said.
In addition, Himes discussed interventions in the Mideast.
“I don’t think anyone ways to repeat Iraq,” he said, adding that the United States currently has 1,000 troops on the ground in Syria.
“The Mideast has a way of drawing you in,” he said.
When it came time for questions from the audience, healthcare dominated.
Jeffrey Stewart asked about House Resolution 676, which would create a single payer system making Medicare available to everyone. Himes said it would need to be “looked at closely before I could support it” since Medicare is not stable.
“I’m open minded to it, but I’m not going to rush into it,” he said.
When a young man named Josh expressed his fear that the Republican backed healthcare bill would impact his mother suffering from breast cancer, Himes showed empathy and then assailed the bill.
He said it would leave 22 to 24 million persons without insurance. He added that even if Josh’s mother went into remission, it would be hard for her, under the new plan, to get insurance because cancer survivors are listed as individuals with preexisting conditions making them ineligible.
Environmental concerns were also raised in reponse to following Himes’ comments about the United States leaving the Paris Climate Accord and the administrations plans to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“How is your administration going to guarantee that my generation has a clean future?” asked Chloe Mandell, a student at Wilton High School.
Himes said the answer lies in eco-friendly innovations seen around the country, such as in Boston and Palo Alto, Ca.
Olivia Greenspan of Easton, who described herself as a rising junior at Fordham University, followed, saying, that she was offended “not to have clean air and clean water in our future.”
“You mentioned Palo Alto and Boston, but what about Connecticut,” she said. “How can we make Connecticut hospitable to these industries?”
Himes said the answer lies in educational infrastructure that attracts new businesses, such as Yale University’s bio-tech initiative. He also cited a number of new high-tech industries that have set up shop in Stamford and Norwalk during the past decade.
All of the questioners seemed supportive of Himes with the exception of Ira Robin of Fairfield. He criticized Himes for saying Russia attacked the election. He challenged Himes to admit there was no Russian collusion. The crowd booed.
“Let’s stay respectful,” Himes told the audience.
“They did engage in propaganda to influence our election,” he added. “I don’t know if they did. ...Context is important. Putin is a murderous dictator who kills. I don’t want anybody messing around in our elections, especially that guy.”
“Okay. Russia is bad,” Robin replied. “Tell me something I don’t know.”
Laura Cohen of Stamford was concerned that Walter Shaub, Jr, head of the Office of Government Ethics, resigned today.
“Is he (Trump) going to appoint someone who will rubber stamp all of his (expletive expletive)?” she asked.
Himes said a replacement for that post would be picked by Trump and confirmed by the Senate.
It was here that Himes, while previously saying he could not be partisan, appeared to wade into current politics. He said that if Mitt Romney or John McCain were president, he could disagree with them on a daily basis, but that the current situation is different.
“This is different stuff both ethically and just in terms of the dignity of the office,” he said.
Partisan rancor seemed to reach fever pitch when a woman spoke saying she represented “everything the Trump Administration hates.”
“I’m from Romania, I’m an immigrant, I’m Jewish, I’m a woman and I have a disabled child,” she said. “I feel like I’m back in Romania, and I feel like we’re becoming a police state.”
She also said that White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was behind a plan to systematically dismantle the government.
Himes said that while fear and division are very powerful political tools, “He is not dismantling the government.”
But he added: “We are in a moment where our president uses fear and division.”
“Each and every one of us needs to stand up and say, ‘Oh no you won’t,’” he said.
Posted 07/06/17 at 09:10 PM Permalink