ERIN - Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, spent the day Saturday touring the 23rd congressional district, holding town halls in Trumansburg, Geneva, Bradford and Erin.
He made his final stop for the day in Erin, where he met an audience of several dozen who largely opposed him on core issues.
Reed and the audience deliberated several relevant topics, including health care and the recent U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord.
Reed stated he supports addressing climate change as a member of the Climate Change Caucus in Congress, saying, “I do believe it’s an issue that needs to be dealt with.”
However, he did say he “respects” President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord. He said the primary concern from the president is the U.S. is asked for too much under the current agreement, adding that other countries should be asked to contribute more under the accord as well.
“The president is asking the question, which I think is a fair question: how about other countries step up further to the plate?” Reed said.
Members of the audience treated Reed’s take on the matter with skepticism.
“With four percent of the world’s population and being the second largest polluter, don’t you think we have a moral obligation to kick in a little more?,” one audience member said.
The crowd was also opposed to Congress’ passage of the American Health Care Act. The bill still needs to go through the Senate, where it’s not expected to pass in its current form.
Reed said the bill intends to ensure all Americans have access to healthcare, and was necessary to address rising costs of the Affordable Care Act.
“The present course under Obamacare is not sustainable,” Reed said. “We have a collapsing insurance market, we have multi-digit premium increases going up. I think it’s irresponsible not to address it.”
The audience confronted Reed on the bill’s $800 billion Medicare cuts and its recent Congressional Budget Office “score” stating 23 million people could lose their health insurance under the bill.
“You can’t say insurance is going to be ‘available’ or you’ll have ‘access’ when it’s going to go up ten times, especially on our elderly,” Horseheads resident Deborah Lynch said. “Access does not mean they can afford it. I have access to go out and buy a $200,000 car, but I can’t afford it.”
Elmira resident Peter Keenan, who has osteoarthritis, believes he will be denied coverage under the AHCA due to his preexisting condition. The bill allows states to apply for a waiver to opt out of covering preexisting conditions under a limited set of circumstances.
“I was denied medical coverage prior to the ACA specifically for the osteoarthritis condition,” he said. “I will lose insurance immediately.”
Reed and the audience also discussed the latest federal budget proposal. Dora Leland, a teacher, raised concerns regarding proposed cuts to education under the preliminary draft.
“To cut education by nearly 15 percent, I think is unconscionable,” she said.
Regardless of the disagreement, Reed said he remains passionate about holding town halls and believes it’s a step in the right direction to repairing the nation’s crippling partisanship.
“Obviously there’s a lot of anger in folks, there’s a lot of fear in folks, and the more we can engage in the conversation this way, I hope alleviates that fear and misinformation,” Reed said. “And by doing this, I hope we can do our part of setting the example of ‘let's engage and let's see where we can come together.’”