At a time when voters are increasingly contacting their representatives in Washington, New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney recently held a telephone town hall. Constituents in his 18th District asked about topics ranging from immigration to climate change to health care.
Maloney, a Democrat, has held telephone town halls throughout his time in office, along with an in-person town hall series called “Speak with Sean.” His latest telephone gathering found district residents asking about headline news. Dawn from Carmel in Putnam County says she cannot afford monthly health insurance at more than $1,200 for her family, and she and her husband own a small business.
“It doesn’t make sense. You guys are playing politics at our expense,” said Dawn.
“What do you mean we’re playing politics. I’m not I’ll just tell you right off the bat. I mean, I know you might feel that say but I’ m not playing politics with it,” Maloney said. “I wasn’t here when they voted for the Affordable Care Act, and I’ve said from day one I’m not carrying water from anybody on that.”
Maloney said the Affordable Care Act could use improvements, but was against Republicans’ recently abandoned repeal and replace version.
“You’re playing politics at everybody’s.. “ said Dawn.
“I’m not, no I’m not Dawn,” said Maloney.
“I can’t afford health care because it’s…” said Dawn.
“Dawn, I’m not playing politics. Honestly, like I’m not going to let you get away with that. No, I’m not. No, I’m not,” said Maloney. “I am dead serious about fixing and reforming health care.”
“I’m not saying you directly. I’m saying…” Dawn said.
“Well then stop saying ‘you guys’ say somebody else, Dawn, because it’s not me. So, like, I understand you’re frustrated, but let me just be clear with you. I’m not going to be silent when they are going to give big tax cuts to the rich and screw people on Medicare, Medicaid and who rely on Planned Parenthood. So if that’s playing politics…” said Maloney.
“Well I’m glad that you’re letting us know what was in it because we don’t know anything,” Dawn said.
Maloney told her of his Mom and Pop SHOP Act, which would make such businesses eligible for small business health options on an exchange. Dawn said that would help, and she wanted to see the bill.
Their conversation grew congenial. Meanwhile, White House officials have offered changes to the health care bill, in an effort to revive the measure and appeal to conservative House Republicans. Switching topics, Jeff from Campbell Hall in Orange County had a question.
“What is your position on President Trump’s plan to vet immigrants from the designated Muslim countries?” Jeff asked.
“I support vetting refugees. We do that,” Maloney said. “I don’t like the approach the Trump Administration has taken which started out as an explicit Muslim ban, became a sort of partial Muslim ban, has now kind of been watered down into a sort of, kinda Muslim ban.”
President Trump issued an executive order in March revising a previous executive order on travel and immigration. Maloney continued with his answer.
“I’m not going to participate in whipping people up and scaring you about threats that I don’t think are real,” said Maloney. “I think the real threat is in the visa waiver program where we’ve got millions of people coming in on visas, overstaying them. That’s a much easier way to get into the country and to cause mischief or worse. And that’s where I’d put my focus.”
And Paul from Somers in Westchester County offered a suggestion.
“My first thing is please repeal the taxes on social security or redo the form that you have to fill out for your taxes because it’s ridiculous to do,” said Paul.
“Got it, yeah, I heard about that,” said Maloney.
“I mean it’s deducting here, deducting there. The other thing is I’m a former Marine. I was stationed at Camp Lejeune,” said Paul.
The triple cancer survivor had filed a health claim with the Veterans Administration that has not advanced and Maloney said his staff would help, as they have with a number of constituent issues concerning the VA. Callers raised other topics, such as student loan debt, funding for a new local firehouse and nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.