Costello’s Belated Report
Congressman Ryan Costello released a special newsletter. It is a comprehensive discussion of a number of current issues. If this were released prior to a face-to-face town hall, the give and take would have been productive if somewhat pointed.
Copied from body of Ryan’s Report 27Feb17.
Welcome to a special edition of my weekly e-newsletter, Ryan’s Report: Asked and Answered. This week I hosted two telephone town halls that connected me to over 100,000 random households across our Congressional District’s four counties. I also Live Streamed the audio feed on my Facebook page where over 1,000 folks listened and were able to submit questions online. If you were able to stay on the line and join me, thank you I hope that you found it informative. If you didn’t have the opportunity to participate and would like to be called for future telephone town halls, I encourage you to register your phone number here.
For those who were wondering, I pre-announced the date and time of these telephone town halls starting two weeks in advance through Ryan’s Report and on my Facebook page – so for those of you missed that advanced notification or are receiving this message for the first time, I encourage you to sign-up for Ryan’s Report and read it in full each week or follow me on Facebook @CongressmanRyanCostello.
I thought I’d send around some snippets of my answers to some of the questions asked live on the air by constituents across the political spectrum. We covered a variety of important and certainly controversial topics climate change and the role of the EPA, healthcare and the future of the Affordable Care Act, Russia and the election, education, veterans issues, gerrymandering, Congressional oversight over President Trump to name a few. I wanted to ensure each of you had a chance to get a sense for my thoughts on the some of the top issues that were discussed and as a reference point given the large number of phone calls, emails, and letters we’ve been receiving.
ICYMI I also held a variety of in-person events across the District, including my candid Q&A session at Governor Mifflin Senior High School in Berks County. And a protest outside of my West Chester office turned into a “pop up” town hall that lasted about 90 minutes with about 45 constituents. Both of these town hall formats were reported by local press and contained my additional commentary on topical issues.
Keep reading below for some of my thoughts on
On the Environment/Climate Change/Clean Energy Innovation:
- I was born and raised around here, I lived right next to French Creek. I care about the environment and I try to not see it as a political issue.
- Climate change, I believe the issue is real, I believe we need to focus on reducing carbon emissions.
- I am one of 12 republicans that signed on to that climate change resolution, I was one of the founding members of theClimate Solutions Caucus.
- The EPA, I believe, serves a vital function in our country and while there are times where they may issue a rule I disagree with, I’m not going to [vote to] eliminate the EPA. I’ll continue to try to be a responsible voice for environmental protection [there is a] bill by some Member of Congress that proposed to abolish the EPA and I don’t support that. I just don’t. So I hope that gives you a flavor of how I feel about the EPA.
- I believe that wind has its place and has great potential as does solar. Wind and solar are playing an increased role but are still below 10% and it’s very difficult to see a scenario where they get higher than that, particularly in the near future. You’re only going to get so much out of your clean energy portfolio with them.
- You do need a nuclear, and again, that is much different today than the massive Limerick power plant options from yesteryear. The next generation of nuclear does not look like the Limerick power plant, it would be much smaller in scale but that is the cleanest energy that we have.
- The amount of coal we use is diminishing, but natural gas continues to increase, and that has largely attributed to why we have reduced emissions since 2007.
- Carbon capture technology particularly as it relates to coal is extremely important. If you look at carbon capture technology, while it’s not totally commercially viable, it does trap the carbon from the certain carbon emitting technologies such as coal and one thing to note is that ¼ of all energy in PA comes from coal.
- I did not vote for that [Stream Protection Rule], and for a couple of reasons. The rule was enacted in late 2016 and lacked transparency in scientific findings and sought to enforce regulations beyond its jurisdiction. I voted previously to require that we get a comprehensive study on the effectiveness of this regulation in conjunction with states including Pennsylvania. Additionally, if you look through the PA Department of Environmental protection, it has effectively carried out enforcement of the clean streams rule and the state’s stream protections. As a consequence, the last minute rule contradicted with the rulemaking of PA’s state specific standards around mining operations.
- I would also note that I helped pass the Delaware River Basin Protection Act last December. This legislation reauthorized our commitment to vital programs such as the LWCF [Land and Water Conservation Fund], Estuary Programs, and local watershed operations. I think it is very important.
- Last session of Congress, I voted against our Interior appropriations bill because I felt they did not have enough funding for the LWCF and that’s a critical program for [protecting] a lot of natural and recreational resources.
- A couple of other things, the Department of Energy has a clean power division, and a few other great divisions, and the other piece of this is on the job retraining side to make sure people work in these industries, you are seeing diminishing returns and we need to make sure we have training for individuals.
On Healthcare (not Affordable Care Act related):
- I believe every American deserves access to affordable healthcare coverage, no excuses, no exceptions.
- There are a lot of different pieces to our healthcare system and it is obviously very complex. I want to handle it responsibly and don’t believe we should play politics with this.
- Anytime you’re talking about healthcare or changes to healthcare system it is going to be deeply concerning to everyone because we all have families who we want to have health security and insurance coverage that is affordable. We all want provider networks that are local and take our insurance. And we want to make sure that those who are most vulnerable and those who have to undertake very expensive drug programs or physical care, that we have insurance plans that remain affordable.
- We are making sure that we are reinvesting in the private sector and public sector through government, like the NIH. We voted to increase funding for them last year and I am a big proponent of that because there are some diseases out there that private capital is not going to invest in them because there is no return on investment so that’s where, in particular, the public side of the equation needs to invest. And where we need to do a better job is to demand that those who engage with NIH funding grants recipients whose data needs to be shared because a failed study may plant the seeds of success for another treatment that may be unrelated to why that initial study happened in the first place.
- A huge cost driver in our healthcare system is going to be a few specific diseases, one is Alzheimer’s and related dementia diseases, which if we were to find a cure, or what you’re starting to see right now, is some research findings indicating that you can slow it’s progressivity… That actually relates to having to do testing before they get Alzheimer’s in the first place given the science of the brain and some medical terms that I won’t get into because I know how to pronounce some of them but not all of them. But if you look also at autism, and you look at diabetes, there are a few more diseases, those are going to be the huge cost driver in our healthcare system.
- The way to accelerate innovation and cures and discovery is by having people work better together and when the government is involved, and you have more collaboration and more transparency in terms of findings, I believe that’s one key way to go about accelerating discovery.
On the Affordable Care Act:
- I believe that there are a number of very laudable objectives to the Affordable Care Act. I think when people hear what the objectives of the ACA are, they agree with them. The issue becomes should it be the government that passes a 2,000 page bill that nobody read and then followed by 20,000 pages of regulations. And in some respects the law has contradictions within it. The law is very confusing. I believe it has driven up healthcare costs, it certainly hasn’t reduced them.
- What pieces get fixed, get replaced, that’s a legislative process. As it relates to the repeal portion, even under President Obama we had a number of votes that repealed certain portions of, changed or modified them, and over a quarter of all votes in the House were Democrats votes to do that. So I think that we need to view this through a bipartisan lens and have as many people as possible covered. I will do my best to do that.
- I met with a lot of hospital administrators, doctors and nurses. I met with folks who work in the health insurance industry and live in my District. I meet with people all the time and I do a tremendous amount of reading on the subject. It is the number one most important issue as I see it on the legislative docket upcoming this congress and I take my job very seriously in doing so.
- I would say we need to do a better job about speaking about which reforms we are going to make to the healthcare law to improve it. When we do start talking about repealing portions of it and all of it, that is what it will be simultaneously replaced with it. Consumers, patients, businesses need to know what is being proposed.
- I do believe we need a comprehensive approach to reforming our healthcare system but it’s done step by step so the American people understand what’s coming, the insurance companies understand what is coming, and so we do not cause confusion in the marketplace then what was created in 2010 because the ACA was a very very bumpy rollout and I want to handle this responsibly and thoughtfully.
- My general observation on the ACA is that has become too bureaucratic, [insurance premium] costs have been driven up by 2-3 thousand dollars, and that it is very confusing for consumers to navigate the market.
- I believe that the healthcare law has a number of problems with it and it needs to be fixed, but I believe many of the taxes in there need to be repealed. I have concerns over the individual mandate, and the amount of regulations have been thrust upon the healthcare system make it very difficult to have a medical practioner practice medicine and are better off when doctors are spending more time with their patients then when they are doing paperwork and data-entry.
- In terms of fixing and replacing the law. Get rid of the taxes that should be used for innovation like the medical device tax. That is money for one that comes right out of research and development to find more cures and innovation. We have the Cadillac tax that punishes employers for having really good health plans for their employees.
- I actually think we need to everything we can to encourage small businesses that fall below 50 employees, and those above if we change the employer mandate, but particularly for those below to be able to pool together .
- I think our system should look at tax credits, rather than deductions so that consumers have the ability to make their health insurance more portable. If you’re in a larger company, you likely have insurance through your employer, offered as part of your compensation package. But if you are a smaller company, they may not offer health insurance or it may be cost prohibitive to offer it. I believe the ability to pool with other small businesses, with your local Chamber of Commerce, or whatever industry you are in, is a great way to bring more healthcare insurance to more individuals.
- It is always been frustrating to me to have something called the ACA without any medical liability reform. And medical malpractice insurance continues to go up and the way to go about lowering healthcare costs is by maintaining innovation, developing more cures, making insurance companies able to determine risk and write policies knowing that if a judgement comes out it relates to what the damages actually are. These runaway, forum shopping jury verdicts do a lot to undermine the pricing integrity of the insurance marketplace.
- For those that have extremely expensive health care needs, number one, if you have pre-existing conditions, then you should have access to insurance and not face price discrimination. The key there though is to make sure that we have individuals that maintain their health insurance and we should do that through portable, advance-able tax credits so you always have the ability to have access to health insurance coverage.
- When we talk about the ACA exchanges, we’re talking about six percent of the marketplace, or six percent of people that have health insurance. When you look at the financial conditions of the exchanges, they’re in very bad shape. You have insurance companies leaving the marketplace and 1/3 of all counties in the U.S. only have one insurer. The best way to bring down the healthcare costs is to have multiple health insurance options to have provider networks that are broad and that patients have choice and to provide better cost transparency. When you have price transparency, the costs will go down. It is also a good way to educate patients on what healthcare costs are.
- The other aspect to this to bear in mind a very small percentage of individuals consume the large majority of healthcare costs. I want to make sure that we are not creating, but we have, I want to make sure we are not adding to or what we should be looking to do is remove the big government, duplicative, confusing, bureaucratic regulations on the 80% of healthcare consumers that do not absorb a lot of the healthcare costs, which drives up healthcare costs for them. I want to make sure, particularly by the means of high risk pools and there is several different way to do that or you can do a reinsurance model. I think that small group of consumers that we need to make sure are protected and we need to make sure we have affordable coverage for them.
- The last thing I will say about the ACA, which is important to note, a third of all counties in U.S. only have one provider available to them on the exchange and that is only going to get worse and premiums will continue to increase. When it comes to the exchanges, the insurance exchanges is where we have to deal with the healthcare reform right now. I know right now some people are frustrated because they either like the ACA and we shouldn’t do anything and we should hands off let everything work itself out, the ACA is working. But in truth of fact, the exchanges are failing.
- Those people who don’t have employer sponsored plans, aren’t on Medicare or Medicaid, don’t have VA care or Tricare and have to be on the exchanges, [the exchanges] they are not working right now, they are failing. We have to step up and intermittently shore them up and subsidize them until we get to a healthcare system that is subsidized in a more healthy [stable] fashion and the way to do that is to bring about market reform to the insurance industry and allow doctors and patients to establish a connection between them and to not have it be driven by government bureaucrats because that’s what is administered right now.
- There are a lot of other things we can do like reform the payment model in Medicare to make sure we can use telemedicine and e-health in a more effective way, which is great for preventive care. We should also be encouraging wellness programs to be as a part of as many insurance plans as possible. The best thing we can do is encourage people to live healthy lifestyles.
On Trump Administration/Impeachment:
- As a member of Congress my job is to hold the executive branch accountable through oversight and speaking out when I disagree with policy positions. When there are issues I disagree on I will speak out and that is probably best demonstrated through how I vote.
- If this President –or any President, I think that it is best that way to say it – were to do something that required me to stand up and speak out or hold them accountable that I would do so. The short answer is yes that is what I was elected to do and that is my constitutional duty to do so.
- It does not mean though that I play pundit on what the President said at a press conference or there are times when he or someone in the Administration may say things that contradicts one another. There is a lot to this job that I do. I make sure I weigh in and you know what my opinions are whether they are in agreement with President Trump and his Administration or not. But there also times when President Trump may speak about things that you may really like or you may really not like but that don’t directly relate to what my job is.
- You will continue from time to time hear me offer my opinions on President Trump pro and con that much I can promise. You will also hopefully hear my opinion on a lot of other things more often than that more substantially relates to the lives and the jobs and the families of the people I represent.
- I take seriously concerns that people have over everything that the President does because he is the President.
- I was the same way with President Obama, I would encourage everyone to go back and look at my first statement after President Obama’s State of the Union, different parties but I wanted to find common ground with him and work with him on tax reform, infrastructure, I think we all want, I would hope, that you want your local Member of Congress, you might not always agree with how they vote on everything, but you want them to work to find the common good, work with whatever Administration is in power to the best of your abilities and make sure that you’re trying to be open minded and hear the concerns of everybody in the District.
- Most of the votes I’ve taken that some people may take issue with are the regulations that Obama Administration implemented in the final months of his presidency because last minute rules by an outgoing administration are not the way to do things. A new administration should be able to evaluate them because it’s the new administration’s executive branch agencies that have to enforce them. One day President Trump’s Administration will be outgoing and I don’t want to see rules and regulations come out at the end of the Administration. I don’t think that there is accountability when that happens and there isn’t transparency because there is no way for congress to roll it back and the American public has no ability to get feedback and determine why the rule was actually issued. That’s been a source of frustration for me, but look, we’re a democracy and hopefully we’ll improve our country for future generations. That’s why we do what we do.
- Do I support full congressional investigation into our elections? The short answer is yes.
- They should do a review and wherever the evidence leads, they should evaluate the evidence and make recommendations there from. And it should be within the House and Senate so that you have sets of eyes without regard to what political party they are in.
- Having the Administration do an investigation, I don’t think would be sufficient. What needs to happen, and what is happening, is that we make sure that the House and Senate Intelligence Committee -these are committees that have both Republicans and Democrats on it – has all the resources they need to conduct their separate investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016. I think it’s clear there is some interference but the scope and depth of that is unknown.
- I am not on the Intelligence Committee and sometimes those that are on the Committee receive highly classified information and cannot disclose what it is they know. Having said that, they should embark and continue to embark on an investigation. We are a sovereign country and have free and fair elections. We have more than enough federal laws to protect our elections and protect them from foreign interference.
- We’ll hear more information on that in the months to come but because I don’t know what I don’t know, I’m better off not saying anything because there is an investigation ongoing in the intelligence committee.
- I want to see Medicaid there for those who need it most.
- When Medicaid was expanded, the expansion population now gets reimbursed by the federal government or will, at 90%, the Medicaid reimbursement from the federal government for [others], is a lower reimbursement and so what concerns me, as every single state is starting to face a Medicaid budget crunch, you’re now going to have people on waiting lists. And what deeply concerns me is that our most vulnerable are going to have longer wait lines because their reimbursement rates from the federal government are lower and states are going to be in a cash crunch.
- We should also note that the program integrity of Medicaid, in other words, insuring that we don’t have abuse by providers, by anyone, is upwards of 10% of the Medicaid program. I don’t want to see fraudulent abuse of a program that would take money away from [those] who need it most and right now we spend about $470 billion a year on the Medicaid program, that’s three times what it was during the Clinton Administration, and it is projected to more than double in ten years.
- We obviously need to make sure that it’s there for our most vulnerable which means we need to protect it and make sure it’s there, and the best way to do that is to root out the fraud and is to, much like the VA, provide the technology that’s needed to update eligibility in real time and make sure providers aren’t billing improperly and through the use of big data, you can identify a lot of trends in the Medicaid program, that without the right technology you would never have access to.
- What would I like to see? I would like to see the American public have more confidence in this American political system. And whatever that takes to do, that’s what I would like to go about doing. Because I enjoy my job a lot, I really do, it’s a great honor to serve this Congressional District. I don’t know how long I’m going to do it, but I’m at least going to do it another year two years, just under two years. There’s a lot to this job, it is high pressure, there are a lot of very difficult issues, we’re in very tumultuous times and anything that we can do to restore the credibility of our institutions, I think is critically important, particularly at this moment in our country’s history.
- I don’t like having constituents feel that politicians just rig it by drawing districts to keep them in office forever. I can assure that the way my District was drawn, it’s not a district that’s going to keep me in office forever – I will have to work every day to keep the confidence of the constituents in my District or I won’t be here. But there are districts across this country, in fact the majority of them, where either due to areas that are overwhelmingly Republican or overwhelmingly Democrat or by virtue of gerrymandering, where certain incumbents get districts drawn just to protect them.
- I don’t think that using the redistricting process as an incumbent protection program is a good thing. It’s not a good thing for the elected official because they’re not out meeting people that disagree with them or have difference of opinion and they only have to worry about getting primaried from their right or left. That’s not good for our country.
- Whether this is a center right country or center left country might be up for debate, but we are not a far left or a far right country. So we should be encouraging redistricting that brings people together and almost requires or it becomes a political imperative for every member of Congress to work with other people because we have a lot of big challenges in this country and if we’re not working together, guess what, the big tough challenges aren’t going to get solved.
- If we create a redistricting system that somehow means I lose my seat, that’s okay, this isn’t about me, I’m not interested in having an incumbent protection program. I’m interested in working hard, serving to the best of my abilities, keeping an open mind and if people disagree with me, making sure that they have the right to voice their displeasure or their disagreement with my office and with me.
- My big problem with gerrymandering or redistricting, whatever term you want to use, is I don’t think that the compactness of the district is taking into consideration enough.
- So, I think there’s a certain point in time where if we’re trying to make things too perfect some unintended consequences are going to happen which is why I think the main thing is the compactness of a district. So I think there needs to be some sort of algorithm or something that means you can’t create this ridiculously shaped district. I mean I just think people look at that on a map and they’re like ‘that’s ridiculous,’ and I think it’s ridiculous, okay, that’s what I think.
On Governing Philosophy:
- The more people engaged in our democracy the better off we will be as a country, the more the truth will prevail. There’s a lot of tension out there and I understand that, and I am trying to listen to both sides and am trying to bring people together.
- This is a free country, and we have a first amendment and those who wish to engage and are not happy with myself or the President, we have the duty to encourage peaceful protest and assembly and the right to criticize. You will never hear me complain about people exercising those rights.
- The way that I am trying to responsibly address a lot of the concerns that people have and let’s be honest, the Congressional District that I represent did not vote for the POTUS. The President has made comments in the past six weeks that made those who never supported him are agitated by him and some of his Executive Orders. What I have to do as someone who is representing 705,000 people, my office is set up so that everyone who wishes to voice their opinion or share a comment or give me advice on how to vote on bills, as well as complain about the President and what he said he did, or say anything about me that we accommodate that.
- We are a republic and I am very proud to have this job for a year and a half, and I will continue to encourage people to reach out.
- I’m here to listen, and I welcome feedback from my constituents across the District.
- In the 114th Congress, I did 20 tele-town halls, I’ve visited over 140 businesses, did site visits, did town halls, I meet people in my office whenever I’m back in the District and my staff does as well.
- There are a lot of ways to meet with people and speak with them, and provide content and every single week, everyone knows exactly how I voted on every single bill because I explain it.
- I spend a lot of time meeting with constituents, voting, committee hearings, traveling the District. The District starts in West Chester and goes the whole way to the upper Perks School District and runs from West Norrington out through Pottstown and out through Wyomissing and out to the city of Lebanon and Lebanon County. It takes a lot of time to travel around the District. It is important you show your physical presence all around the District.
- From an accessibility perspective, this tele-town hall, we called like 30 or 40 or 50 thousand households. So if you’re in the District, this is by far the best way to be able to communicate with me and to hear what I have to say and to have it done in a very in depth fashion. That’s something that I’m very proud of.
- I encourage constituents to email my office. We are happy to speak on the phone but just so you know I have about seven caseworkers in my District Offices, most of them help out with veterans, IRS, passports, or other related federal agencies, and are used to help my constituents that way.
- I think it is important I go out and visit companies that employ people so I understand what the legislative and regulatory environment is for their specific company and where they need relief and what their challenges are from a workforce development perspective, from a tax perspective, from a trade perspective and the ACA is impacting them in their company. Any number of different things.
- I’ve been in session for seven straight weeks. During that time, when we’re not in session, I have been meeting with people who wanted to meet with me in October or November. People are requesting more meetings and I accommodate that the best I can. I always have staff available as well.
- But look I’ve had plenty of town halls and will continue to embrace feedback from everyone regardless of if they voted for me or not or supported me or not because that is my job.
On Gun Control:
- I think someone who is mentally unstable should not have access to a firearm so one of the things I always make sure to do is look at what the constitution says, look at what Supreme Court case holdings provide for and make sure that I am looking and I vote according to what the constitutional safeguards that are afforded individuals are.
- In this instance, the rule, by the way the rule came out December 19, 2016, right at the end of the Obama Administration, and if you receive disability insurance, or SSI, and you have some mental health condition but there’s no real any specificity beyond that then the Social Security Administration sends that information to an instant background check and so an individual who is getting SSI or receiving disability insurance doesn’t even know that information is going there and they’ve just lost their Second Amendment rights and there’s no due process afforded that individual. The rule itself spoke about how there might be an appeal process but it doesn’t protect an individual’s due process rights and that’s the issue because you always need to make sure someone has due process and when you don’t have due process it’s unconstitutional in its promulgation to begin with.
- I voted to override a rule which was unconstitutional, that’s what I’m supposed to do, even if I agree [with the rule]. So if a rule prevents some people from not having access but applies to all people, then the rule is ambiguous and its void. I mean that’s what the law is and that’s what the constitution provides. I felt like I had to vote according to what the constitution protects, but I do want to emphasize your point, and that is making sure those who are mentally unstable don’t have access, and if you look at the Pennsylvania background check system I think it does a very good job of screening out anybody who is mentally unstable. So if there is a rule that is narrowly tailored, that passes constitutional muster to accomplish that objective. I’m all for it.
- And if you would like to learn more about my position on the Second Amendment and gun safety, there is a Daily Local News article on it. The Daily Local News asked a bunch of questions about that subset of issues about a year and a half ago and I gave very in depth answers and its very long so make sure you have 10 or 15 minutes to read it.
- I went to high school in this Congressional District and I will be outspoken if I feel that the Administration goes in a direction I don’t like on public education or anything else. Just like if the Administration does things I agree with, I’ll share that with you too. I don’t want to see the Department of Education at any level undermine the integrity of our public education system.
- We passed a bipartisan bill last Congress, the Elementary Secondary Education Act, and what it did was, it took a lot of federal government curriculum mandates, testing requirements, and teacher evaluation mandates and basically returned it back to the states. Which I think is a good thing as did most people; it was a big bipartisan vote. And I had an amendment in there to get the federal government out of school testing because I think states are better off doing that.
- I would like to see this Department of Education enforce the law which is to return to the states more discretion over the items that I just raised. I don’t think the federal government has fulfilled its obligations related to the special education law so that’s one area where I would like to see the Department of Education step up and do more.
- If you look at this specific Congressional District, we have a wonderful public education system and there are people who support charter schools if it’s a level playing field that’s fine but I have always been concerned about diverting resources from the public education system. I would encourage you to look at my voting record. I do not object to charter schools, but they need to play by the same set of rules and they sometimes get to choose their students and particularly in the area of special education, the cost to educate many students continues to go up..
- I do make it a point to visit every school district in my Congressional District within a two-year term. And usually I’ll speak to government class, kids, let em fire away with questions. I never get political but I’m happy to answer political questions. I let them know that government is going to be a part of their lives whether they like it or not and there are a lot of employment opportunities within government. You don’t have to run for office to be involved in government. The other piece of when I go to a school district is I always try to meet with a couple school board members and/or the school superintendent [school administrators] and/or a pilot program. I was in Governor Mifflin School District and it was their dyslexia program to make sure that I am aware of the strains placed on public school districts.
- Obviously there’s a lot of federal funding that makes its way into our school districts, I happen to believe that our curriculum decisions, student testing, and teacher evaluations should be done at the state and local level. But having said all that if you look at special education and the cost driver that it is on the public school system, and the school nutrition program, the federal government does not adequately fund IDEA, not based on what the law provides and for those of you who are aware of special education law, you know that, and on the school nutrition program, I feel that when you have low-income students going to school and they don’t have proper nourishment, that physiologically they are not ready to sit in the classroom and learn. And so there are things that the federal government has done that are good and that I’ll support, but I will look at these things pragmatically with the best interests of my District and country in mind.
On Immigration/Immigration Executive Orders:
- Job number one of the federal government is to protect the American people, and I support a comprehensive review of this process over the next 90 days, and especially concerning the 7 countries identified by the Obama and Trump Administrations as being dangerous terrorist hotspots. This review is something every new administration should be expected to do.
- I would say [the] same thing if it were President Clinton who wanted to put a pause in such a program for national security review purposes. Where I have problem with it and where I said this in my statement and where I am going to double down and add to it is green card holders and those assisting us in the war on terror should not be denied entry, and actions to the contrary must be remedied immediately. My office has dealt with several cases where the failure to properly and effectively to implement that executive order has caused problems. And I spoke out on that and that’s how I feel.
- The final thing I would like to say I found those executive orders to be temporary in nature and as a consequence of that I think the orders came out late on Friday. I did not find out about it the executive order until Saturday at lunch time. I spent that weekend reading the executive order and trying to learn about as much as possible. I then issued a statement, which I felt reflected some consideration for the new Administration having the ability to review these programs but also reaffirming that we are a country that welcomes the persecuted and the oppressed and we welcome them in a safe and orderly manner and I am somebody who believes that immigrants make this country great.
- I will share with you two other things about immigration. Number one, I just became a cosponsor of the Enlist Act, it is bipartisan bill that authorize enlistment in the armed forces of certain undocumented immigrants who are otherwise qualified for enlistment. This provides a way for undocumented immigrants to be lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence by reason of their honorable service and sacrifice in the United States military. Something of note, back in the 1840’s almost half of the army enlistees were immigrants and more than 660,000 military veterans became citizens through naturalization between 1862-2000.
- Something else I would like you to know I cosponsored The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act which would make a technical fix to fix federal law to improve our employment based immigration system that allocates green cards based on the individual applicant not the applicant’s country of birth.
- We have had some protests outside my office regarding President Trump’s immigration order and while I believe that the President has the right to pause the program look at it and make sure it is in our best interests and our national security is protected. At the same point and time I have always been very outspoken that we are a country of immigrants and we should welcome those in a safe and orderly manner.
- One of the ways to go about dealing with DACA children, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and let me just do a detour for a moment. I was in office for less than a month, and we had, we were facing the shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security and there were a lot of Republicans that were willing to shut down the Department of Homeland Security if President Obama kept the DACA program which basically said we are not going to prioritize the deportation of children who have lived here their whole life and who are here through no fault of their own. So I felt we shouldn’t close down the Department of Homeland Security over that policy. I thought that was pretty reasonable that we have a problem regarding people that aren’t here legally but if you were to prioritize it, that the last people you should focus on are the children.
On Building a Wall:
- I’ve always felt that the physical erection of a wall along the entire border was not the most efficient way of securing the border. I mean, particularly if you look at certain parts of the border, which I’ve never been there, but I’m good friends with somebody who represents and has the longest border district in the country, his name is [Representative] Will Hurd. He said that’s not the way to go about doing it. Some places it’s going to be technology, it’s going to be aerial surveillance, and it’s going to be any number of different ways.
- Let’s just say you secure the border tomorrow and interior enforcement works perfectly, what do you do with the eleven million people who are not here legally? Everybody knows that you cannot deport that many people. So, it seems to me that part of a securing the border comprehensive view of this, involves dealing with the difficult questions raised
- Obviously President Trump said that Mexico is going to pay for it. I’m not at this moment persuaded that Mexico is going to pay for it and I’m not going to sit here and say that I’m going to vote for it or against it because I don’t know the wall’s going to cost, I don’t know how much wall we’re talking about versus other means of enforcement, and what I try and do is make sure that I have a full set of facts in front of me.
- I felt that as laying out my perspective on [President] Trump’s immigration policies, as well as my past votes on it as well as how I would approach the issue, would be the best way for me to give you a sense of my philosophy and how I’m going to evaluate future votes.
Member of Congress