This election cycle Democrats have had the reputation of disrupting Republican Congressional Town Hall Meetings.
That did not occur at Republican Congressman Randy Hultgren ‘s Monday night Town Hall Meeting at the McHenry County Administrative Center.
Hultgren opponent Lauren Underwood’s supporters for the most part were civil.
The guy sitting behind me shouting every once in a while distracted me, but did not seem to faze Hultgren.
The forum was handled as the League of Women Voters conduct candidates’ nights.
Questions were written in advance,then grouped and screened by McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally.
“We don’t want to spend the time yelling at each other,” Kenneally said before he read the first question.
With Underwood having served in the Obama Administration in some health care capacity, there were predictably a lot of questions on the subject.
The first question, for instance, concerned the cost of health care.
Hultgren, who does not favor the single payer plan promoted by Underwood, said he wanted to make sure that patients can decide on appropriate care, not government or insurance companies.
He supported several free market alternatives–pooling risk for smaller entities, purchasing insurance across state lines (as with auto insurance).
The Congressman also said he supported insurance for those with pre-existing conditions.
With regard to immigration, Hultgren touted his work with refugee programs.
He criticized the “significant” decrease in the number of refugees being allow in the country over the last three years and the great increase in background checks.
Hultgren said there was a proper way to gain permission to enter the United States (through embassies) and an improper way: coming to the border and saying, “We want asylum.”
He said he was “absolutely” in favor of keeping families together.
The Violence Against Women Act was brought up.
Hultgren said there were two votes to protect women, one of which he voted for, that he “will vote for the Violence Against Women Act.”
Then, he told of his fight against human trafficking.
“I’ts a blight on our nation and our world.
“There are more enslaved today than when Lincoln was in office’
He was a co-sponsor of recent legislation that allowed charges to be filed against those using the internet for sex trafficking.
It has resulted in an 80% decrease in such activity, he said.
Asked about the Defense of Marriage Act, Hultgren said he would support the state laws and court decisions, but, “I’m in support of traditional marriage.”
There were outcries of disapproval.
Judge Robert Wilbrandt asked about long-term care beds for heroin and related addictions, none of which exist in McHenry County.
Hultgren reported the “largest funding increase” had been passed for long-term beds.
“Should Rod Rosenstein be impeached?”
“I want people to follow the law,” Hultgren replied.
“I think it’s a distraction.
“If people acted inappropriately [they should be] held accountable.”
Asked about the “inappropriate behavior” by President Donald Trump with regard to Vladimir Puten, Hultgren replied, “Russia is not a friend of democracy. He hates democracy.”
He pointed to larger international problems in North Korea (no longer a threat for an intercontinental ballistic missile), Iran (“a real threat”) and Syria.
“You have to pick your spots where you’re going to [engage].”
Bob Fisher asked about the tempter of the times. “What are you going to do to get both sides talking?”
“We need to learn to disagree without hating each other,” the Congressman replied.
“We have not done a very good job working together.
Hultgren told of his “Common Ground” initiative, which has taken place “dozens of times.”
For forty-five minutes his staff and a Democrat’s staff have coffee and donuts. They introduce each other.
Hultgren’s instructions to his staff is to “meet someone and don’t leave until you find something you can agree on.”
He pointed out that 70-80% of legislation is bipartisan.
“For things to last,” he said, “things have to be bipartisan.”
A person asked, “What are you doing to encourage Freedom of the Press?”
He encouraged people to “get information from various different sources.
“Try to find the other side?
“Why did you vote to give tax reform to the rich at the expense of the rest of us?” was the next question.
Applause greeted its reading.
Hultgren spoke of how the economy has improved since he was elected in 2010.
Then, he pointed out, unemployment was 8% in Illinois.
“Now, so many people are working.”
“The average family income has increased $1,600 a year” as a result of the tax reform bill.
Shouts of “No” rang out.
Someone claimed in a question that in a firm with fifty employees no one had seen an increase in their pay checks.
“If you haven’t seen it yet, I’m surprised,” Hultgren said.
“Will small farmers be getting a bailout?” was the next question.
“They’re not looking for a bailout. They want to be able to sell their soybeans,” Hultgren replied.
He said he disagreed with the tariff impositions.
He added that one local manufacturer cannot purchase the type of steel needed in America.
The next question:
“Why have Republicans abandoned unions?”
The best thing for the trades is opportunity and growth.
He told of visiting the training facility of Local 150 of the Operating Engineers at the southern edge of his district.
“I’ll continue to fight for them
“I ‘m a supporter of the Davis-Bacon Act,” he added.
Hultgren did criticize public employee unions, however.
With regard to Social Security and Medicare being “plundered to pay for undeclared wars,” a question asked by David Truss, Hultgren said nothing had been done to change either.
“I think the benefits have not grown with the cost of drugs.”
Somehow a question mixed the single payer health care proposal with financing wars.
Hultgren said the highest cost of wars is the “loss of life.”
He pointed out that eighty men and women had lost their lives in training accidents, which he blamed on inadequate equipment.
Then, another question about changing to a single payer health care system.
He argued that a single payer system would mean people would not be able to make decisions and choices about their health care.
“I want choices.
“It shouldn’t be one size fits all.
“We need more price transparency.”
A constituent asked for more financial support for Alzheimer’s research.
“We’ve seen significant increases,” Hultgren replied. “I’ll continue to be very supportive of the NIH (National Institute of Health). It’s money well spent.”
David Truss asked another question, this time about the “right to choose.”
“I’ll support the Supreme Court and the law of the land.”
Continuing, the Pro-Life Congressman argued for freedom of belief and freedom of conscience for medical providers.
He said he opposed” taxpayer funding of abortion.”
I have “boo” in my notes at this point.
A questioner wanted to know what Republicans were not talking about fiscal responsibility.
“I am one who wants to see our debt turned around,” Hultgren replied.
He advocated doing so by controlling spending and growing the economy, which he argued the Tax Reform law is doing.
“I haven’t voted for a perfect bill year.”
He said that the individual tax rate reductions need to be made permanent.
Gun violence in schools was the next topic in the hour-long meeting.
Hultgren said that a Federal grant program had passed the House.
“There ought to be a larger discussion about violence.”
He pointed to the seventy-one shootings in Chicago in sixteen hours the weekend before last.
He said that the authorities were not so good at getting guns away from criminals.
He also pointed to increased mental health funding.
A question about criminal justice reform brought the admission that he regretted having supported mandatory minimum sentencing.
“I think it is important for our judges to have discretion.”
He praised Veterans Courts.
The man behind me yelled, “Do you even sense the rage in the room?”
Hultgren told of Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams’ telling of his brother’s being incarcerated in a Maryland prison for ten years because of stealing $200 to feed his habit.
“No treatment,” Hultgren reported the Surgeon General said in a visit to his Congressional District.
Hultgren also praised a Lake County program in which those with drugs or paraphernalia could given them to law enforcement personnel without getting arrested. He said he didn’t think it would work when heard about it, but that it had hundreds of times.
A question about what is being done about clean air and clean water had Hultgren relying on making “sure we enforce the laws on the books.”
He pointed out, “We don’t have the answer of what is the next big important energy source, [but] we want to leave this earth better than we found it.”
In answer to a question about global warming, Hultgren said, “I’m a believer in climate change.”
He then told of visiting a 14th District manufacturer where “the air coming out of the factory was better than the air coming in.”
Hultgren said he was looking at hydrogen and supporting Argon’s attempts to build a better battery, but he “hasn’t seen” that significant break through yet.
Asked if he thought the Special Counsel’s investigation was “a witch hunt,” the Congressman replied, “No, I don’t.”
However, he added, “It’s frustrating to me it’s taking such a long time.”
Asked about President Trump’s behavior, Hultgren said, “I just wish some of the personal attacks didn’t happen.
“I love how the economy is gonig.
“[I wish we could] agree to disagree without hating each other and without attacking each other.”
And the Town Hall Meeting ended.
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Here’s another take on the meeting:
Congressman Randy Hultgren stood firm in his support for the federal tax overhaul despite fervent booing from more than 150 constituents in a forum at the McHenry County Administrative Building Mondaynight. Full Story
A crowd gathered Monday at the McHenry County Administration Building in Woodstock to ask questions during a town hall meeting hosted by U.S. …