Russia, Health Care Main Topics at Town Hall
Congressman Eric Swalwell hosted a town hall meeting last Saturday at Granada High School in Livermore.
He began the session with a touch of humor, noting that upon the birth of his son, "We got the cutest baby monitor from the Russian Ambassador."
About 500 were on hand, many attending a town hall for the first time. Their primary interests focused on health care and the Russian investigation.
A lone heckler kept interrupting Swalwell to shout comments about Russia, the election and Hillary Clinton such as "Get over it." He demanded specific information from Swalwell on proof of Russian interference, "There are no facts whatsoever."
Swalwell said that the speaker did not need access to classified information. He said a known fact relates to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III having convened a criminal grand jury to investigate the presidential election, including Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
Swalwell, a Democrat, serves on the House Intelligence Committee. He has called for creation of an independent commission to look into interference in the election, not just by Russia, but other countries. He pointed out that intelligence reports had shown President Vladimir Putin used hacked emails and the spread of fake news through social media trolls to undermine Hillary Clinton.
Swalwell commented, "The Russian effort didn't change votes, but changed minds. I will leave the investigation to Robert Mueller. It is important to learn how and why we were so vulnerable."
Asked what he saw as the end game of the investigation, he replied that not only Russia, but other countries see a divided country and figure they can get their preferred candidate elected by using similar tactics.
“If we do anything, we should make sure that the 2018 election is more secure than the 2016 election,” Swalwell said, drawing a round of applause from the audience.
Constituents were invited to ask questions about such topics as jobs and healthcare. In discussing the most recent jobs report, he noted that jobs are being added, the stock market is going up and the GDP is rising slowly. "However, those figures don't mean anything to most of the people I talk to. Faced with $500 in unexpected expense, three out of four Americans are wiped out."
As a Congressman, Swalwell said his goals are for people to be more, make more and dream more.
One pathway is through education. "Schools are so different on their ability to prepare kids. A school in Hayward looks a lot different than one in Danville." He will advocate for modern schools that value teachers, provide the resources for teaching, and where parents can learn.
He viewed it as important to have open community colleges, where people can learn relevant skills in this digital age and economy.
On healthcare, Swalwell commented. "Boy were your voices heard when it came to taking health care away from 20 million people," referring to the defeat of an effort to change the Affordable Care Act.
Swalwell supports expanding medicare to include everyone. Constituents quizzed him on who would pay for such a plan. Swalwell pointed out that those with insurance are already paying for health care for others when people without health care who are sick have to go to an emergency room. Funds are collected through FICA. Healthcare is an earned benefit. "Pooling together, we can bump down overall costs."
He talked about local traffic resulting in long commutes. He said that extending rail 11 miles up the Altamont would take 30,000 people off the road each day. He mentioned the Alameda-San Joaquin Rail Working Group, which is the process of moving forward in a bipartisan, bi-county way, to build the project.
Taxes are an ongoing issue. "Tax reform is needed for the 99%. Corporate taxes could be lowered if there were profit sharing plans for all in a company, not just CEOs and upper management."
"There could be tax breaks for businesses who locate in distressed areas with high unemployment rates, such as deferring the payment of payroll taxes for three years.
When it comes to climate change, he supported rejoining the Paris Accord. Working towards clean water, clean air, green energy - all create jobs.
One comment by an audience member concerned the president's statement calling the White House "a dump." She said, "It is the people's house. If he is so unhappy, we should evict the man."
Swalwell said, Congress is not helpless in its ability to rein in the president. We are a co-equal branch of government. If we have to be a babysitter, that's what we have to do," referring to recent bi-partisan legislation, such as increasing sanctions on Russia.