BY JON CRONIN
U.S. Rep Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) held a town hall on Tuesday that drew questions regarding the fate of our country’s healthcare system, President Donald Trump’s ability to govern and the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC).
Crowley began the meeting by telling the crowd at IS 145 in Jackson Heights that when the opportunity to shake the newly inaugurated president’s hand in January presented itself, he declined to enter the room. That comment was met with thunderous applause in the school’s packed auditorium.
He distinguished between the policies of President George W. Bush, with whom he disagreed politically, and Trump.
“They were regrettable, but President Trump’s are unforgivable,” he said, comparing the two presidents.
He added that the current political climate is the first time that he believes a president is “personally attacking” his constituency.
The evening’s first question by resident Edwina Franfurt regarded Hillary Clinton’s loss in the presidential race and how Crowley could help to unseat U.S. Rep. John Faso (R-Kinderhook). Crowley responded that while Clinton’s “message was good,” she underperformed in several states. Regarding his colleague in the House, he said that Faso had made a mistake by supporting the American Health Care Act, which would create a bigger burden on the state legislature.
Another attendee expressed concern that her voice and that of those who share it are no longer heard at the federal level.
“Don’t underestimate your voice,” Crowley told her, pointing out that Republican congressmen are no longer holding town halls and referencing the Immigrants March and the Women’s March on Washington.
Another attendee asked why the United States continues to support Israel when that country is aggressive towards its bordering neighbors. Crowley said that he believes in Israel’s right to exist as a nation as well as a two-state solution. However, he does not believe that Trump has the “intellectual ability or the temperament” to broker peace between Palestine and Israel.
An Astoria resident named Kirk asked how likely it is that the United States would have single-payer healthcare in the foreseeable future. Crowley said that while Congress was working on the Affordable Care Act, he felt that it wasn’t “feasible” to also work on an expansion of Medicare that would cover everyone. Recently, with the approval of the American Health Care Act in the House, he felt that it was time to start working towards that goal and signed on to legislation supporting a single-payer system. He said he wasn’t sure that it would happen during his time in Congress, but believes it will happen within his lifetime.
John Wood, a teacher at IS 145, asked what Crowley could do to halt Trump’s rolling back of President Barack Obama’s legislation on net neutrality, which keeps companies from obtaining personal data and selling it to third parties. Crowley said that he supported free internet and believes that it should be part of the nation’s infrastructure, along with roads and bridges.
A Sunnyside resident asked why only 1 percent of Crowley’s money comes from small donors and 78 percent comes from large donors. He asked Crowley if he would join the Justice Democrats Organization, which renounces donations from large companies.
Crowley said that under the current system, candidates cannot operate without resources, although he wants to see an end to Citizens United and notes that there would be no IDC without “dark money.” The resident noted that if Republicans get 60 percent of the donations and Democrats are getting 40 percent, it wouldn’t make much of a difference, but his constituents would notice if he renounced all of it.
Reach Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin