Batul Dalal, of Edwardsville, handed U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, information about the Borgen Project, a campaign that works to fight global poverty.
Dalal, 38, wanted to speak to Davis about decreases to international affairs spending by the federal government, which President Donald Trump has proposed to cut by 31 percent.
“With the proposed cut, it will affect the security and issues with other nations,” Batul said.
Davis said Trump’s budget won’t pass and it is subject to many changes.
“The fact he proposed a balanced budget is good,” Davis said. “How he balances it, I’ve got problems with it.”
Davis on Monday held open office hours sessions, which had a handful of meetings, most with four to five people speaking for about 15 to 20 minutes each about issues that are important to them. The congressman had discussions with some of the constituents who came into the office.
Among the issues brought up were the GOP efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, President Trump, Russian meddling in the presidential election, education funding, increasing the minimum wage and border security.
During the recent congressional recess, Davis had five open office hour events. He estimated that he met with about 200 people.
“This is a great venue to have a back-and-forth discussion on priorities,” Davis said. “We’re not always going to agree. ... But having the ability to have a back and forth is very good for all of us, me included, to understand what some of my constituents’ priorities are and also talk with them about why we’ve made our priorities in Washington what they are.”
Richard Hallowell, 74, of Collinsville, is a retired federal worker who spent his career at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. He said he was worried about cost of living increases in the Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employees Health Benefits program.
“In my eyes, this is one of the best things we get from the federal government,” Hallowell said. “(And) I’m not rich.”
Davis said he would like the FEHB to be able to have larger groups.
“I think it’s one of the best health care programs we have,” Davis said.
In response to raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, he said there should be tax relief. “I believe we need to have cost offsets,” Davis said.
Gary Groeteka, 63, of Collinsville, also questioned Davis about voting for the American Health Care Act without a score from the Congressional Budget Office, which estimates 23 million people would lose their health insurance under the GOP health care plan.
“You guys in the House passed this without knowing this,” Groeteka said.
“I don’t believe it will,” Davis responded. He cited the three-phase approach Republicans plan to take, as well as the possibility of the Congressional Budget Office being wrong.
“We believe the CBO score will be proven wrong again,” Davis said.
He also said 29 million people in the country still don’t have insurance and 31 million have insurance they can’t afford to use.
Davis said Medicaid expansion has an off-ramp.
“Anyone on Medicaid expansion can stay on it,” and the goal would be to get people on a job with employer-based insurance, Davis said.
Alison Lamothe, 55, of Edwardsville, wanted to speak to Davis about Russia, Trump and Trump’s budget proposal.
“The military is getting more at the expense of everything else,” Lamothe said. “I’m worried about everything else.”
At a glance
The following are U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis’ comments on current events.
▪ On President Trump pulling out of the Paris Accord on climate change: “It’s not a surprise. I think we saw it coming. America has led the world in continuing to create more renewables as part of our energy portfolio, and energy is striving forward where other countries don’t have to meet the same standards that America has set for itself. We don’t need a multi-lateral agreement like Paris to continue to push for lowering our environmental footprints in this country. But we can’t do it at the expense of our base load generators like nuclear and coal fire power plants.”
Davis said his district includes three coal power plants and a nuclear power plant that have some of the best paying jobs in his district.
“I believe we have to have coal and nuclear energy as part of our energy portfolio to continue to run the economy. We can’t run America’s manufacturing sector on wind and solar alone. We have to have an all-of-the-above approach,” Davis said. “Taking those power plants off line would cause the price of just turning on the light switches for seniors on fixed income to go up, and I’m not for that.”
▪ On the ongoing investigation into Russia and possible Trump connections: “I’m optimistic they’re moving ahead right now, and I’m really confident (in) director (Robert) Mueller and also the House and Senate intelligence committees — many of the folks I work and serve with are on those committees, both Republican and Democrats. I believe they want to get answers. I’m concerned when any foreign country, not just Russia, is accused of espionage-like activities on American soil. I think we need to get to the bottom of any possible espionage regardless of who that country is.”
▪ On calls for impeachment proceedings: “I’m never going to answer that question. That is an impossible question to answer. You’re throwing out a hypothetical. If a member of congress answered a question like that regardless of who the president was at this juncture in their term, that’s just playing politics. I would never answer that question if it was asked of me about President (Barack) Obama when I served with him the last four years, when there were many who walked into meetings with me saying we ought to impeach him for a wide variety of reasons. Impeachment is a serious, serious charge, and that should never, whomever the president is, should ever be taken lightly or thrown out there as a solution to a problem that may or may not exist. We in Congress and the American people ought to take very seriously any calls for impeachment of any president because we want our presidents — no matter who they are, no matter who we supported — to succeed because that means America succeeds.”