BERKELEY – Congressman Andy Kim said he will use his seat in the House of Representatives to help make health care affordable, support the military, and change government so that it represents people, not corporations.
He said this at a Town Hall meeting which was held for about two hours at the Holiday City West Clubhouse. Kim said it would be part of an ongoing policy to schedule a Town Hall once a month in his district. This month was Ocean County. Last month, it was in Burlington.
He discussed his brief tenure as a congressman, coming in when the government was shut down, and not taking a salary during that time.
“There’s so much rhetoric on both sides of the aisle, and I think our district can do better,” he said.
The election he won had been so close that it took Rep. Tom MacArthur a week to concede. Their vote totals were within 4,000. Kim did far better in Burlington County, and MacArthur did far better in Ocean County.
Now, in his first Town Hall in a primarily red county, the congressman spoke about forging unity on topics that everyone should agree on, such as taking care of seniors and veterans.
Some statements he had got resounding applause, such as his vow to protect and strengthen Social Security. Or when he said he would support the military by working to keep Joint Base Dix-McGuire-Lakehurst open, making sure soldiers have the tools they need, and not sending them into harm’s way unnecessarily.
Not everything he said was as popular. His responses to a question about abortion and another question about anti-Semitic comments from another member of Congress did not get as much of a unanimously positive reaction.
There were issues like immigration that had a palpable tension when it was brought up. One resident wanted his support on a particular bill that he had not read yet (H.R.1044 – To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants, to increase the per-country numerical limitation for family-sponsored immigrants, and for other purposes.)
“People come here, we train them, then they leave to go to competing countries,” he said. He noted how his parents were immigrants, and won applause when he said that they “followed the rules.”
“Everyone knows it’s a dysfunctional system,” he said of the federal government. There are a lot of people making decisions in Washington, D.C., and the average person on the street is not one of them. He said that he wants to see changes so that voters get more power than corporations or political parties.
“Businesses provide the jobs, but they pay top dollar to get the ear of decision makers,” he said.
He said he is one of the new members of Congress who vowed not to take any campaign contributions from Political Action Committees.
Citing a study by the Federal Reserve Board, 40 percent of Americans can’t handle a $400 medical emergency. He said he wants to have Medicare be able to negotiate drug prices in order to bring down the cost of prescriptions.
The Veterans Administration clinic in Brick is overwhelmed, and can’t handle the number of patients. He had recently toured the facility and said that hopefully, within a year, there will be a plan for a new building. Both Brick and Toms River officials have proposed spots for the new facility.
Geoff Ginter, who very emotionally spoke at previous Town Halls held by Kim’s predecessor, Tom MacArthur, about the importance of universal health care, said that the smaller bills being tossed around by lawmakers didn’t do enough to help people who are struggling.
Kim said that the country is a long way from Medicare For All, and that discussion could take years. It’s important to solve easier problems now while larger discussions on the future of healthcare continue.
“There’s no plan yet that will be affordable and useful,” Kim said. “There are people struggling with prescription drug care right now.”
When Ginter stated that 70 percent of Americans want Medicare For All, someone else shouted “No we don’t!”
Kim used this as an example of the division that exists in the country, and how we have to find common ground and build off of that.