Hundreds of residents in Washington’s 1st Congressional District came to ask and listen to U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene’s answer questions during a town hall meeting at Glacier Peak High School last Tuesday.
Topics ranged from President Donald Trump’s political strategies to health care reform, and a last-minute discussion on climate change. Many wanted to know how they could make a dent in policy decisions at the federal level.
The 1st Congressional District consists of most of Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties, and part of King County.
“I represent a diverse district,” said the Washington Democrat. “It’s set up to be the most evenly divided in the country by our districting commission, and we have people here throughout our district who have many different points of view politically, and I think that has been incredibly important for me as a member of congress, because I hear every point of view possible somewhere in our district.”
She said what matters people sharing their values and talking about how to make progress.
DelBene defined those beliefs as “justice, inclusion, diversity, making sure that we treat every person in this country with respect and dignity,” and that there is equal opportunity and fairness for all Americans.
She said to repeal the Affordable Care Act would accomplish just the opposite. She opposes the Republican’s health bill that could effectively leave 24 million citizens without healthcare.
Mark Ainsworth, who lives with his wife outside Monroe, asked if phasing people into programs over time might be a more affective approach to ensure all citizens have coverage.
He said what “comes to my mind every time I see these bills from both sides of the aisle is they are very big, very massive, you know. A single bill impacts 16 percent of the nation. I was wondering if a more gradualist approach might be better?”
DelBene said no single bill will solve the issue of affordable health care, and her position remains that “everyone in the country should have affordable health care, period.”
Last Tuesday’s town hall meeting was one of five DelBene hosted over the past two months. The other two were in Ferndale, Redmond and Kirkland, with a town hall in Mount Vernon set for Friday, April 21.
DelBene said constituent participation has spiked recently. She noted her office has received double the amount of calls this year than in her first four years in office. The congresswoman was first elected in 2012.
She encouraged her audience to “talk to people, have healthy debate, agree to disagree.” DelBene also stressed the importance of bipartisan legislation, and said a political party shouldn’t be the only test used to determine whether a bill is sound.
After questions on health care dwindled, content largely switched to Trump’s recent actions, including authorizing the use of missiles on a Syrian government airbase that carried out chemical attacks, killing dozens of civilians.
One audience member said he believes the U.S. is on the verge of nuclear war; another asked DelBene to support cutting off the president’s access to nuclear weapons altogether.
The congresswoman said she believes that power and those decisions should involve the members of Congress. The prospect is made challenging by the Republican majority that commands the U.S. House of Representatives, she said.
During the town hall, DelBene also touched on her recent vote to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court decision that eliminated limits on contributions corporations can make for campaigns. She also talked briefly about her involvement in the House Select Investigative Panel that reviewed the practices of Planned Parenthood, a process that wrapped up this winter. She called the investigation a “witch hunt” that “wasn’t about facts and data,” but about restricting a woman’s choice.
Diana Edinger, 13, who lives near Snohomish, said she was impressed with the congresswoman’s responses Wednesday evening. It seemed like the content had been exhaustively examined ahead of time. She said she had come wanting to know DelBene’s position on the Paris Agreement, which addresses global greenhouse gas emissions. The topic came at the very end of the evening.
DelBene said she supports the use of science and data, which Edinger said she felt was a good answer.