About 350 people attended Friday’s town hall meeting in Wenatchee. The event was hosted by several political action groups who have concerns about the Trump administration and was similar to another town hall held in Cashmere two weeks ago. 8th District Congressman Dave Reichert declined offers to attend both events. He underwent arm surgery Friday morning but the Congressman did meet privately with the groups’ representatives Friday afternoon at his downtown Wenatchee office. . .
Michael Nash with NCW United commented on the meeting with the Congressman. The following are his impressions of the meeting . . .
GANG OF 8 MEETS WITH REICHERT
The meeting this afternoon went as well as can be expected. And my fellow gang members were AWESOME. Alma, Venessa and Joe from Mission Indivisible, Jillian from Planned Parenthood, our very own Jason Ringel and Mia Bretz, and Dr. Nayak, a local cardiologist – they all just rocked it. They were respectful, kind, well-spoken, honest and straightforward.
DISCLAIMER: The comments here represent my own opinions of how the meeting went, and are not necessarily the opinions of all 8 gang members. We didn’t get a chance to debrief afterwards, so others may see the events of this afternoon differently.
About Dave Reichert. First, the guy’s a Republican. Our expectations were not that he was going to embrace universal health care or other such liberal hopes. He tried to represent himself as a sort of moderate, middle-of-the-roader, but that was pretty thin. He’s conservative. Second, the guy seriously JUST had surgery early this morning after getting in late last night, and had speaking engagements before our meeting. The dude was on pain killers, and promised to do his best to stay focused and engaged, and actually did a really good job of staying present with us through the entire 90+ minutes. He even extended our time to allow us to cover everything we wanted to cover. Third, Mr. Reichert likes to talk. He talks a lot. I’m pretty sure the eight of us barely used up 1/3 of the air time. Fourth, did I mention he’s conservative? And even given that he made it clear to us that he doesn’t like Trump. At one point he said about Trump, “When you insult people, when you bully people like that, those comments he made about women – I absolutely could not vote for him. That disrespect…he basically admitted to sexual assault. This is the kind of guy I would have arrested if I was still in law enforcement.”
Generally, it was a fair to good meeting, given that we disagree with him on much. It was cordial and respectful, with even some laughter. And a fair amount of evasion.
We covered three topics: Immigration, health care, and accountability in government.
Alma and others did a fantastic job on immigration, and Rep. Reichert seemed truly connected with us on this topic. He reminded us that he has always supported a pathway to citizenship, and that he co-sponsored the BRIDGE act in support of DACA. At one point he said, “I’m tired of just talking about immigration reform. We need to do this, and we should have done it a long time ago. We need to work with the leadership and get an immigration bill on the floor this session.” He agreed to stand up on the floor of the house and give a speech on the subject, which was a win for us. He said he is trying to get other members of his caucus on board with this. He had his assistant keep notes on this for him as we talked, and seemed genuinely willing to speak out more clearly in favor of a common sense and compassionate approach. He seemed truly concerned about the pain and fear immigrants are experiencing right now. He said that Trump is “getting bad advice” and that the executive orders are poorly written and so vague that they can be interpreted in many different ways. He agreed to continue to look into this and speak up for several of the specific issues my colleagues requested of him. Of course, actions speak louder than words, so let’s hold his feet to the fire on this. He also blamed his colleagues for being so far to the right that they would never budge on this stuff. I suspect he gets a fair amount of “cover” by blaming his colleagues for being too far right…he did that a couple times today.
Jason, Jillian and Dr. Nayak covered the ACA beautifully. (Jason or Mia, feel free to sound in here). I thought Reichert tried to have his cake and eat it too. He agreed with everything we said philosophically – access to health care is vital, people should have affordable care, and more. But basically he just reiterated several times with many words that the Republican plan was somehow going to magically (my word) repeal the mandate, cut taxes, give everyone tax credits/breaks for health care, keep health care affordable for all, keep the best of Obamacare (keeping your kids on your policy until age 26, etc.), allow you to keep your insurance if you lose your job, and more. His basic message was that everyone was going to be taken care of, so we shouldn’t worry our pretty little heads. But also that people wouldn’t be able to “cheat” the system. (He told an anecdote about a young guy with a girlfriend and two kids who won’t marry her because they would lose their medicare.) I remain highly skeptical. He spoke like a true politician.
The most disappointing part of this segment of the discussion was his stance on Planned Parenthood. Jillian presented well-documented facts about their funding, the amazing number of women they serve in this area and in our State, the services they provide, the number of people who would truly be WITHOUT HEALTH CARE if Planned Parenthood is defunded (there’s no way the other health care facilities could absorb the thousands of women who would need a provider), the fact that abortion is at an all-time low BECAUSE of the services that PP provides, and more. Reichert reminded us, however, that this is about abortion and “THOSE HORRIBLE VIDEOS.” He asked Jillian for additional numbers and data, but still seemed immovable on the subject. His conservative ideology, in my view, clearly trumped his concern about women, health care, suffering and more.
The last topic, covered in just 5 minutes, was our concern about Trump and Russia, Trump and conflicts of interest, and all other things Trump – and the Republican’s seeming reluctance to confront, speak out, provide accountability, oppose, show concern/outrage, etc. He focused on politics at this point and made it clear that many of his colleagues won’t speak out because they are afraid of losing their seats in their deeply red districts. He also reminded us that there are many, many investigations going on right now and that he’s sure that if there is something to find it will turn up. When I mentioned my lack of faith in the GOP-led committees and in the current FBI director, he went into a long-winded explanation of the process for appointing an independent prosecutor (see our “7 Days of Action” this week). I couldn’t get him to agree to speak out publicly against Trump or for an independent investigation – he said that those who DO speak out are “media hounds.” Sigh.
Mia ended the meeting with a gracious thank you and an open invitation from NCW United to stay connected, and she gave him our videos from our town hall meeting.
Again, all in all, a maybe mildly productive meeting. We will see.