“Follow up to our phone conversation. Confirming that Tom Reed has reserved the village board room from 5 pm – 6:30 pm on Feb. 20th for a public town hall meeting to discuss issues of the day (FYI we will be especially focusing on foreign affairs that day) with his constituents . Thanks!–Joe Sempolinski, District Director, Congressman Tom Reed (NY-23)”
Rep. Reed’s Penn Yan Town Hall Meeting drew 16 constituents plus Reed’s entourage and two local reporters. Five were part of the local progressive group, the rest included the local Yates SCOPE members (including its Chair), members of the republican committee (including its Chair and Vice Chair) and a couple who has moved into Yates County from Corning whom Reed quickly recognized. There were two Town Supervisors (Jerusalem and Benton). Please note that the Chair of the Yates Republican Committee started the local Tea Party and was its chair at the same time the GOP Committee Chair. One of the Town Supervisors is also the Chair of SCOPE.
I thought that the number attending would be smaller than it was—because of the cold, the odd time of the meeting, and the fact that the only public announcement was a small item in one of the weekly newspaper that came out the afternoon before the scheduled meeting. SCOPE placed it on their Facebook page the day before the meting. Obviously the politically active attend.
If people came prepared with questions about the “topics of the day”, and I know some did, they were probably disappointed. Reed’s Property Rights Act, and Social Security they were not discussed at all. Since the Foreign Affairs discussion took about an hour and fifteen minutes, there was little time to talk about anything else.
I was pleased that Rep. Reed really sounded sincere when he said that he wanted to hear our opinions on the ISIS situation. This is different from September, 2013 when he had his Listening Tour about the Syria conflict and started the session in Geneva saying , “I will tell you where I am at right now. Absent something coming out of left field, something compelling that no one has told us about, a new piece of information that we have not received and we have received a lot of information, I believe going into Syria is inappropriate and I will be voting against this resolution.”
Rep. Reed started by passing out President Obama’s “Proposed Joint Resolution” and praised the President for including congress on this matter. Reed summarized the ISIS situation well. He explained that there is (very) little chance that battles will happen on our homeland. His thoughts continued– since we are not likely to be attacked, why should we become involved? Are we willing to send American troops into this battle? Then, he gave the other side of the coin: He had watched the video tapes of the beheadings and the burning of the Jordanian pilot. How can the United States with all of the military power sit on the sidelines and watch the atrocities occur? That is the conflict he is wrestling with.
Reed believes there are between 20, 000 and 30, 000 active ISIS fighters. To put that in perspective, Yates County’s population is about 26,000.
The discussion was dominated by the SCOPE/Tea Party contingency. There was constant blame placed on our “incompetent”, or “lying”, or “clown” (or worst) President. Here a summary of:
- They don’t trust Obama.
- They think his Proposed Joint Resolution is a trick to get Congress to take the blame.
- They think Obama won’t send troops to fight ISIS because it would help Israel.
- One thinks that we should “Nuke Them”.
- They can’t trust the United Nations—they want to take away our guns, too.
- We should have seen the signs earlier—the speaker talked of our isolationist policies:
- in the 1930’s kept us out of WW2 until Pearl Harbor,
- the first bombing of the World Trade Center in the 1980’s (fact check: 1993) should have open our eyes
- The first Bush war should have taken out Hussain.
- Obama shouldn’t have taken troops out of Iraq. (It was pointed out that Bush negotiated the withdrawal of the troops—I don’t think too many believed it.)
- We are letting the terrorists out of GITMO to go back and fight against us.
- We should start the National Draft again. That would get more people involved in the political process.
- I stopped taking notes when one of the SCOPE elite said that he knows the reason ISIS won’t attack over here —our citizens have their own arms and “we are not afraid to use them.”
Rep. Reed didn’t rebut any of the statements about the President. He made the following points:
- When it was pointed out the Congress, not the President, declares wars, Reed agreed, but added different powers the President has from the War Powers Act of 1973, the powers congress gave him for the Iraq War muddies the question of responsibilities.
- ISIS was receiving $2 billion a day from black market oil reserves. Reed pointed out that Fracking is really a Geo-Political issue. He commented that our country and military have really benefited since Fracking is happening in our country.
- The Fracking/ Geo-Thermal comment sidetracked the conversation to Keystone Pipeline, and the chair of the Yates Republican committee wondered where is the Keystone XL Pipeline bill. Reed told us it is sitting on the President’s Desk waiting to be signed or vetoed. Obama has 10 days to sign it after it “hits his desk” or it will become law. Reed didn’t know know when the “sign or veto” period ends.
- The President is sending mixed messages.
- Reed is excited that Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu will be talking to congress.
- Reed responded to a non-SCOPE question about if our government tried talking to ISIS leaders. He told the group that is happening—not to the leaders themselves, but through 3rd and 4th parties countries we have been able to get and give information.
The discussion ended when a progressive asked, “Could you explain how voting against Obamacare again is helping our ISIS efforts?”
Reed looked dumbfounded, then realized that it might be time to move to a different issue. He responded that the recent vote was important since there were a lot of new representatives in the House, and their constituents should know how they stand on that important issue. (In other words, it was a great political move.) Reed had to be reminded that the last Obamacare vote was their 56th.
At that point someone added a “Didja hear that today they realized that about 1 million Obamacare-ers were charged wrong rates or something? Jeeze, can’t they do anything right?” Reed explained that when people were filling out their Obamacare information they were asked to submit their income amount for the year. The system accepted what the clients reported. They have reconciled the information and realize that a lot of people gave inaccurate data. Reed said that some were probably done on purpose, but he feels that most didn’t know (exactly) how much they were going to make and filled in the wrong number. Their bills will be adjusted. He reminded us that Obamacare may be a thing of the pass when the Surpeme Court rules in June.
That lead to a question on how this year’s federal income tax deals with Obmacare. The questioner said that his return was quite a bit smaller, and thought that he was being tax on his health care benefit paid by his employer. Reed didn’t think that it was it the case.
A progressive had hand a series of questions to Reed’s side kick, Joe. He had an hour or so to narrowed them down to the one question he wanted our representative to answer. Instead abortion, Social Security, harmony in DC, internet quality, property rights act, and immigration, Joe decided to read, “Do you support of funding homeland security? It will take away resources from the fire departments.”
When Joe read it, Reed looked a little puzzled. I raise my hand and explained our concern in Penn Yan. We have one of the 89 FEMA Firefighter Grants applications in the NY-23rd Congressional District which will be greatly delayed or unfunded altogether if the DHS doesn’t get re-funded by next Friday. I explained that we are now working on the Village budget for 2015-16, and need to know if we are going to be approved for the grants. I reminded him that by approving the funding bill’s five amendments that affects immigration was done to either embarrass the President or try to force him to to veto the funding.
Reed got angry.
He responded in a boisterous voice telling me to “Ask your Senator Schumer and your Senator Gillibrand that question. The House has done our job and the Senate has not debate the DHS funding at all. The Senate…should do their job…”
He then told the rest of the crowd that the problem is the Senate Democrats are hiding behind the 60-vote rule and not acting on the legislation being passed in the House. Questions flowed about changing the rule, and Reed reminded them it is there to give the minority a voice.
I realize that someone gets angry because they have been put-on-the-spot and can’t defend himself. He is known to support the local firefighters and first responders, but not in this case. I also feel he thought that the crowd would be on his side. (People from both groups came to me after the meeting to tell me how embarrassed they were for Reed’s reaction—some of the SCOPE members are firefighters). We’ll see what gets in the Press.
Rep. Reed, or someone from his office, plan this series of Town Hall Meeting well. We definitely had a different theme than Owego on Thursday night. He didn’t want to get in to his Property Rights Act in Penn Yan; it probably wouldn’t fly here. He didn’t want to get into Social Security for obvious reasons. What Reed said here did not change anyone’s opinion of him. It would if great if every Rep. Reed Town Hall Meeting has NY 23rd readers there and ask questions and, hopefully, a short report about it. Consider it.