Report from KYAQ, Lincoln County’s local public radio station
Kurt Schrader Holds Town Hall Meeting In Newport
by Bill Dalbey, KYAQ News Director
Lincoln County’s representative to the US Congress, Kurt Schrader, held a well-attended town hall meeting in Newport on Saturday. Schrader gave about 12 minutes of opening remarks to an estimated 400 people.
He praised the recent examples of the checks and balances written into the constitution, talked about the Russian influence on the 2016 elections, his concern about the “demonization” of immigrants, and a variety of other issues.
Schrader said he is “not a fan of the current President”, and expressed concern about the investigation of Russian influence on our elections, agreeing with House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff’s concerns about how they can conduct an effective investigation amid the apparent “lack of impartiality” displayed by committee chair Devin Nunes.
He also said he is concerned about the Supreme Court hearings, “that for the Republicans to not fill a slot for 10 or 11 months, and then expect the rest of us to roll over and confirm this nominee, is unrealistic.”
The congressman talked about the 10 month process and “bigger town halls than this” that took place when the Affordable Care Act was initially being considered. He said, “you’ve got to be able to listen to people on both sides of the aisle”, and that the Democratic administration and congress tried to reach out to republicans again and again, with no success. “But they to expect us to rubberstamp a complete rewrite of that, after 3 weeks, and when you look at the bill, you have to say, what’s the point, man?”
He said that the Republicans wanted flexibility and choice but “They didn’t care how many people had health care. That truly shocked me a little bit.”
“In the end”, he said, “I think they understood that the ACA is very important to a lot of Americans.”
After his introductory remarks, he devoted the balance of the hour to answering constituent’s questions.
Regarding the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russian influence, Schrader said, tongue in cheek, that it appeared that Chairman Devin Nune’s loyalties are “slightly divided”.
“He works for his colleagues but also appeared worried about the president, and that makes me worried about the president too, but not in the same way”.
The audience cheered when Schrader said that Ranking Member Adam Schiff will watch very closely to ensure that this investigation will go forward in a bipartisan manner, or call for a special independent prosecutor.
To a question about the proposed Federal budget, Schrader said that the president has put forward a “budget of sorts” but wouldn’t put a lot of stock in it, because it’s simply not feasible. He said that budgeting and appropriations are actually a bipartisan process, although leadership sometimes puts “poison pills” in legislation. It takes 60 votes in the Senate, but that can by circumvented by the reconciliation process. “This budget will require 60 votes in the senate and there’s no way we’re going to have a 30% cut in the CG budget, it’s just not gonna happen.”
In response to a question about gerrymandering, Schrader said that “Citizens United gives some people a greater say than they should have in our democratic process, like billionaires who are willing to buy a seat. That’s wrong, it shouldn’t be allowed. If you’re concerned about that, talk to your state senator about how district boundaries are drawn. Redistricting shouldn’t be done by the party in power, but by a more independent group.” Schrader sponsors a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizen’s United and to ensure that money does not equal free speech.
Schrader said he is not concerned about the proposed budget cuts, as NOAA and the Coast Guard are vitally important for many reasons and have broad support in congress. As for the EPA, Schrader said ““I disagree with some of the decisions the EPA has made, you know that, but I support their budget every single year because they are necessary to make sure our streams and air are not polluted.” He went on to say that despite what the media would lead you to believe, the president is a non-factor in congress, nor is he a player in the upcoming tax reform.
Our Congressman’s stance on GMO’s was not popular with the audience. “I guess I come at it from a scientific aspect, and I believe there’s no trouble with GMOs. We’ve been doing it for 2000 years, if you do it in a lab, you can avoid harmful mutations. There’s a lot of good folks in agriculture that do a lot of good things with GMO, feed a lot of people, increase yields. We passed a GMO labeling law, and the people won, my side lost.”
The crowd erupted in the biggest cheering of the night at a statement by a questioner that “Jeff Sessions needs to be fired.” and “We’re running out of time on the Russia investigation. How can we make this happen now? “
Schrader responded that “We’re close to doing that, the intelligence committee is on the point of breaking down, I’m afraid, and when that happens, I think in a week or two, the committee will be making a decision as to whether there is room for a bipartisan investigation. If there’s not, then myself any many others will make a call for an independent investigation.”
On a question about immigration, Schrader said “the fear that this president has instilled in a lot of people is just terrible. They’ve worked hard, gone to school, and are trying to become good citizens. Oregon welcomes immigrants. What we’re doing in Oregon is trying to set a different tone, I’ve talked to the head of ICE in Oregon, and not to put words in her mouth, I think they’re as confused a we are, and upset that it seems open season on immigrants.”
He went on to say that many of the immigrants at the southern border are not Mexicans, but from Central America, escaping horrendous and inhumane living conditions. “What the hell kind of message does that send to the rest of the free world, that we’re building a wall so people cannot get into freedom?”
At the end of the town hall, Congressman Schrader thanked the attendees and urged all citizens to continue to be involved in the political process, saying that it gives him and other elected representatives valuable information and leverage when trying to do the people’s will in Washington DC.