(Bardwell KY - April 19, 2017) - First District Representative James Comer promised to hold a town hall meeting in every one of the 35 counties that make up his district. He visited his thirteenth this sunny Wednesday.
It wasn't a raucous crowd that greeted the Congressman in this small rural county for a morning session. Older, whiter, rural constituents listened quietly as Comer spoke at length on the three issues he is hearing most about: foreign affairs, tax reform and health care.
Comer said he agreed with President Trump's recent military actions - bombing in Syria and dropping a huge bomb on suspected Islamic State cave complex in Afghanistan. Comer said that the purpose in Syria was to destroy chemical weapons. In Afghanistan, the purpose was to destroy bad guys. Primarily, the purpose was to send a message that America has "new leadership."
If troops are sent to North Korea or to Syria, Comer asserts that an act of Congress is required. He did not say how he would vote if a request is made for troops.
During the question and answer session, a constituent asked the purpose of a recent trip the Congressman took to Cuba. Comer seemed to welcome a chance to explain his reasoning and his hopes for trade with the island nation ninety miles from Miami Florida.
Comer said that Cuba currently imports 90% of its rice and wheat from China. That doesn't make sense, he said. He looks forward to opening up agricultural trade with a country of 11.5 million people.
Comer said he wants to reduce personal taxes because less tax paid means more money to spend. He wants to see a reduction in the corporate tax rate to encourage investment. However, if taxes are cut, then a spending cut or revenue raised in some other area will be necessary. He is concerned about unintended consequences of tax reform.
Comer has concerns about President Trump's proposed border adjustment tax. Comer agrees that American manufacturing jobs have gone to Mexico. But he said that Mexico buys a lot of farm products. Canadian and Mexican markets are a boon to farm families. If there is a border adjustment tax, he would like to see a cut out for agricultural products. A constituent asked if Comer will support a tax plan that keeps loopholes for corporations and top taxpayers. Comer said he would not.
Rep. Comer has heard a great deal about health care policy and law since he took office. Constituents from all walks of life have sought him out to tell their health care stories.
The most recent attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, never made it out of gate.
The Congressman blames both parties for the gridlock surrounding health care reform. On the GOP side, the right wing of his Party advocates getting government completely out of health care. Comer doesn't believe that is possible. Although he believes that 99.9% of the time government needs to get out of corporate business, pre-existing conditions are the .1% exception. Comer believes some consumer protections are necessary to protect patients.
Comer blames Democrats who declare that Obamacare is perfect. He said that since Obamacare, thirty one of his 35 counties only have one health insurance company offering coverage.
Comer said that House Majority Leader Paul Ryan erred in not allowing debate and amendments to the bill he introduced. He would be happier if whatever is proposed can have hearings and debate.
At right, Leslie McColgin, a breast cancer survivor, questioned what Comer could do about the issue of "job lock." She has a job with insurance that she cannot leave because she will lose the insurance her job provides. McColgin, in her early sixties, would like to see Medicare offered to older Americans too young for Medicare - even if their premiums are higher than present Medicare recipients. Comer didn't offer a solution and he didn't say he supported her idea.
Rep. Comer supports the idea that cheaper policies be offered with fewer mandates, higher deductibles and health care savings accounts.
One constituent asked Rep. Comer why it is taking so long for a veterans' long care facility to be approved for Clinton Place. Her husband, a veteran, is in a Paducah nursing home. It is a hardship for her to drive to Paducah to visit him. The Arlington resident would have a ten mile drive to Clinton. Comer said he would look into the problem.
Comer wants states to be allowed to manage their Medicaid programs. He would like to see faster approval of drugs by the FDA - or by states. He agrees with Sen. Rand Paul that block grants to states are a good idea. (See Rand Paul story
After the town hall, Henry Brazzell of Clinton asked Rep. Comer if he would have voted for Ryan's bill. Comer said he would have.
Brazzell cited the Representative's record of voting with Republican leadership and with the White House. Brazzell wanted assurances that Comer would vote for what was good for his district - not necessarily what is good for the Republican Party. Comer had no answer.
The First District Congressman will have twenty two more chances to address the question as he holds town hall meetings in other counties.
Editor's Note: 4/20/17 Huffington Post is reporting that House leaders have a new health care bill which will eliminate the pre-existing protection so popular with the American public. Follow link below for the story.