Swalwell discusses national issues at mayor's breakfast

February 10, 2014
In The News

National issues took center stage at San Ramon Mayor Bill Clarkson’s monthly breakfast meeting on Friday, with Congressman Eric Swalwell speaking and taking questions from the crowd.

The event drew about 50 people, the largest yet for the monthly meetings initiated by Clarkson after his election. Swalwell talked about the events that led to his run, some of the problems in Congress and plans for the future.

Swalwell, who attended Neil Armstrong Elementary, said his life would likely have taken a different path had it not been for an injury that prevented him from competing in sports while attending college. Instead, he turned his attention to politics as an unpaid intern, working morning and evening jobs to pay the bills.

He said he never dreamed he’d be a politician.

“The first congressman my parents ever met was me,” he joked.

Swalwell said he’s worked on a few items that will help San Ramon, among them support for high-tech industries. He described the approach as a three-legged stool: establishing a brain trust — which would include a higher emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math — improved access to capital for businesses and a “risk-taking culture.”

As a component of immigration reform, Swalwell said he’d like to see people from outside the US have a gateway to citizenship. For people who get degrees in certain fields, he said, “you should get a green card stapled to that diploma.”

Swalwell said he started reaching across the aisle before he began serving. While at a training for incoming electees, he and other freshmen congressmen began a bipartisan group called United Solutions of Congress that’s been active in fighting the gridlock in Washington.

While taking questions, Swalwell faced questions that ranged from the Keystone Pipeline to lobbying to Obamacare and immigration reform.

He disagreed with one audience member who said the pipeline project would create thousand of new jobs. Swalwell acknowledged there would be tens of thousands of construction jobs, but said they would be temporary and the project would only create about 35 fulltime jobs, and questioned the benefits of the pipeline.

Swalwell responded to a question about lobbying by pointing out that in the 2012 election, $6 billion in “outside money” was spent. He’d like to see companies be required to inform stockholders about money spent to support candidates, and wants a ruling on corporate personhood to be overturned.

“Corporations are not people,” he told the crowd.

Swalwell said he supports the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, and said one big problem is that consumers faced with a hike in health care costs aren’t being directed to the health benefit exchange, which could provide lower-cost options.

He said two big benefits are that those who have preexisting conditions now have to be covered, and that young people are now allowed to remain on their parents’ health insurance for a longer time.

Swalwell admitted the roll out of the government website was “disastrous,” and called it “inexcusable” that the country that created Google and other Internet advances would fail in creating a workable website.

He also said he opposed the “piecemeal approach” to immigration reform, noting that recent legislation added 24,000 new workers to patrol the border. He said the proposed pathway to citizenship would take 13 years.

“That’s a long time,” Swalwell said.

Instead, he’d like that streamlined, while taking more aggressive action in deporting convicted immigrant felons instead of releasing them back into the community.