Congressman John Faso of New York’s 19th House district held a televised town hall Thursday night. And though protesters lined up outside the studio in Troy, the town hall itself was polite and low key. Some 80 invited constituents asked questions for more than an hour, on topics ranging from health care to Syria.
The town hall hosted by WMHT opened with a reverend yielding her time for a question to a woman with whom Faso is familiar.
“My name is Andrea Mitchell and I live in Catskill, New York. Do you remember me?
“Sure,” said Faso.
“We’ve met numerous times in my life, most recently, in your front yard,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell has previously shared with Faso, a Kinderhook, Columbia County resident, that her illness is covered because of the Affordable Care Act.
“Moving forward, how can we trust your promises?” asked Mitchell. “And will you vote with your constituents and protect us as you promised to save our health care with access and affordability, or continue to vote the party line?
“My approach is, with the ACA, keep what works, fix what doesn’t work,” said Faso. “There are a lot of things in the ACA that work — ban on pre-existing conditions and not allowing an insurer to throw someone off because of a pre-existing conditions or not cover them, keeping kids on their plan till they’re 26.”
Faso voted for the Republican American Health Care Act, a failed attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. He says, like Mitchell, he wants to see access and affordability.
“The proposal that I support would provide the advance refundable tax credit to individuals and families if they don’t have employer-provided health insurance,” Faso said. “And, so I want to see the same things that you want. We may have a different way of getting there.”
Pittstown resident and Schaghticoke small business owner Todd Tesman, who has eight employees, complimented Faso.
“I want to thank you for supporting the reform and repeal law that did not make it through Congress. Thank you,” Tessman said. “We have to do something. It’s killing my business, other businesses, my neighboring businesses.”
Here’s Emily from Hudson and Faso’s response.
“Will you commit today to voting against any health care plan that allows for coverage discrimination against or, and I emphasize this, price increases for people with pre-existing conditions?” Emily asked.
“Yes, yes, yes,” Faso replied.
“By that, you mean…” Emily said.
“I mean yes,” Faso said.
“… high risk pools? People won’t have to pay more?” asked Emily.
“I agree with you,” said Faso.
PFOA Project asked whether there is a role for the federal government to play in the Hoosick Falls water contamination issue, given the local desire for medical monitoring.
“Well, it’s primarily a state issue but I’m certainly anxious to explore the question about monitoring of medical conditions of people who were affected by environmental contaminations. It couldn’t be done just for one setting, as you can imagine. It would have to be done on a broader basis,” Faso said. “But in terms of Hoosick Falls specifically, I’ve sent a letter to the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] administrator asking that this site be designated as a Superfund site.”
“If something is contaminated, we should make every effort to clean it up,” Faso said. “And that’s the public’s responsibility to, the government’s responsibility to act.”
One woman wanted to know Faso’s stance on access to safe and legal abortions.
“I personally am more pro-life on this topic but I also believe that I respect people’s point of view if you don’t have my point of view on it, but I also, most importantly, respect the law,” said Faso. “And the law is there’s a right to privacy which encompasses a right to a legal abortion.”
And he does not expect the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Another question asked why Faso does not hold live town halls in places like Kingston, elsewhere in Ulster County, or in Dutchess and Sullivan Counties.
“The practical fact is I think this is a much more effective means of communicating,” said Faso.
And one, he says, that is a platform for civil discourse. Faso says town halls with hundreds of people and sign waving are not as productive. Faso also said he responds to mail, email and phone calls.
“I have had literally dozens and dozens and dozens of meetings, either one-on-one or in small groups, with folks around my district, through the 11 counties,” Faso said.
He did not rule out ever holding a live town hall. Other topics discussed included North Korea, immigration, climate change and Social Security. Faso says he does not support sending ground troops into Syria, and says a prolonged engagement in any country warrants congressional authorization. And Faso quickly shot back “no” when asked whether he would support legislation in the proposed budget to cut funding to legal aid services.