Thursday, November 5, 2015

Congressman visits Wellsville

WELLSVILLE:  Congressman Tom Reed met with about a dozen constituents at the Town Hall on October 24. He started with a statement about work in Washington saying that he expects Paul Ryan would soon be Speaker of the House.
                Reed said that both chambers of the legislature passed a defense bill but it was vetoed by the President.  Reed expressed confidence in an override. 
                This is only the 4th veto of the Obama presidency. Reed said that the veto made no sense to him but it might as a bargaining ploy to protect domestic programs from cuts that are directed in the 2011 Budget Control Act.
                Another bit of progress on the way is a 3 year highway bill - fully funded without a gas or other tax increase though he did not mention how the bill would be funded. He also discussed the possibility of a government shut down over the debt ceiling.
                A constituent wanted to address gun control.  He stated, “I don’t like Democrats. They are all communists.”
                This man said that he was concerned about the government taking guns from people. “Some people do stupid things with guns and all gun owners should be trained the way I was and the way I trained my kids.”
                Reed responded that there have been horrific events involving guns and that he attributes many of these to the lack of a good mental health care system in our country. He said that there needs to be a national conversation about mental health. We need to have insurance cover services and medications for people with mental illnesses and to treat mental and physical illnesses in the same manner.
                Fred Sinclair, former county legislator, asked if there is any evidence in Washington regarding an effort to disarm American citizens and Reed said that he has never seen any efforts toward disarmament of any kind and doesn’t expect any to develop.
                Barb Hetzel asked if there is any mental health test that can be used to determine if gun ownership is appropriate for a person and Reed said that Congressman Tim Murphy (R, PA) introduced  the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013” in order to change the national conversation for mental health services.
            Another constituent said that her husband was a police officer who noticed a change in the national attitudes after the film, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” She said that film changed attitudes the way that Uncle Tom’s Cabin had earlier.
            In the past police officers could pick up a mentally ill person and give them a meal and help them clean up and then bring them back to the street but that kind of service is no longer offered by the police.
            Reed said, “Mental Health issues have been driven underground and we all need to work on this.” He was also concerned about the pending release of 6,000 non-violent offenders.
            A great deal of time was spent asking about the Trans Pacific Partnership, which Reed supported in the Fast Track Authority vote. (This means that congress can approve or disapprove but cannot amend or filibuster the bill.)
            Reed supported a bill that removes the “Country of Origin” label for beef as well as the “Dark Act” that forbids labeling genetically engineered animals or plants. Both of these bills were seen as legislation that removes the public’s right to local rule.
            Reed said that these were only procedural votes and that he hasn’t even read the TPP so he can’t be for or against it. He also said that there would be a period of 60-90 days for public comment on the TPP but if members of congress have agreed that there would be no amendments or filibusters, can private citizens have any impact?
            One constituent said that he felt that these trade bills demonstrate that the government values money over human health.
            Two constituents complained that while congress got a cost of living increase that Social Security recipients did not.
            One person said, “Anyone who goes to the store knows that prices go up and prices for medications go up by dollars. We paid into the system so the money would be used for our Social Security benefits and not to have it raided. If you had borrowed it and put it back, that would be okay but it was raided.”
            Reed said that both Democrats and Republicans have raided Social Security and it has to stop. “If everyone had an IRA things would be different but that’s not where we live. Do we as a country want to throw 70 or 80 year olds into the street?”
            Some constituents said, yes, they did, Reed didn’t agree. “I believe in Social Security. “

            Reed spent an hour in lively discussion and invited people to call any of his offices at any time.