8th District Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin held town hall meeting in Genoa Township, answering questions from concerned residents on, among other things, Trump, health care, and gun control.
The Holly Democrat held the meeting before roughly 300 residents who packed the Johnson Center at Cleary University, Wednesday night. Slotkin spent an hour answering questions submitted by her constituents on a wide variety of hot political topics. The first question out of the gate asked about her feelings towards a possible impeachment of President Donald Trump. Slotkin said that how his administration responds to Judiciary Committee subpoenas that have thus-far been ignored may play a big role in that. She said that she’s supported the process and Congress moving along very methodically- but that she also wants to be very honest in that she believes “impeachment is a very big step, I believe it is something that should not be taken lightly, and it has to be something that we bring people along in the process.”
She was asked about election security and pointed at how groups associated with Russians launched a social media campaign in 2016 to affect the election. She said Facebook has been taking measures to prevent this from happening on their website again. Slotkin, who worked in the CIA and as a national security expert says she has seen this playbook from the Russians before, particularly in Eastern Europe. Locally, she said Michigan’s election ballots are among the safest in the country, as they are all paper ballots.
The Congresswoman was asked about her feelings on gun control and the safety of students in schools. She admitted that it has been a “bad summer” for mass shootings, but also recognized the large number of responsible gun owners. Slotkin said she feels the tide is turning on the gun control debate, and that she sees a base level of bi-partisan support for very basic common sense solutions. She is in favor of universal background checks and closing all loopholes. Slotkin is against arming teachers, stating that the solution is not putting people not trained in gun handling in those situations around children.
When asked about health care, she said she believes there is bi-partisan support growing in recognizing that everyone should have access to health care they can afford; that if someone is born with a pre-existing condition they should not be gouged their whole life; and that if anyone becomes sick, it should not bankrupt them. She said she believes in a buy in to Medicare for anyone at any age with plans that would not affect people who are 65 and older. Slotkin told the crowd, “If it provides good care at a good cost, it will be the most popular plan in the country and create important competition” for private insurers who “will see people leave to go in the Medicare buy in.”
She also discussed prescription drugs as the “least transparent, most egregious” thing she’s worked. She talked about insulin, specifically, and how its price has increased “incredible percentages” over the last 10 years. When considering legislation allowing the re-importation of drugs from Canada, Slotkin said that it has the support of President Trump, and that if it comes through, she is willing to sign it.
Slotkin was asked about her feelings on immigration and thoughts about conditions at the border. She said she recently visited the southern and found the conditions to be miserable for all involved, whether it was the immigrants seeking entry or the border patrol agents who have become subject to attacks every day. She believes in bi-partisan legislation that uses the same standards from the Geneva Convention, and would treat immigrants how the United States treats P-O-Ws. When asked about the possibility of opening the borders, Slotkin said she was opposed. She said, “I want to be clear because of my background and because I represent you. We cannot be a country of open borders. We cannot. No country in the world can be a country of open borders. We have the right to know who’s coming in. We have the right to know if there are public health concerns. We have the right to know if people mean us harm. I have spent my entire life preserving this country – the safety of this country. And we have the right to do so while providing humanitarian standards.”
The Congresswoman was asked about what risks would be posed if changes to Title IX go through. Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex at schools that are federally funded. Slotkin said after reading the proposal on the table from Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, she became concerned. The new proposal would make it harder for students who were sexually abused to come forward if the incident happened off campus. Slotkin pointed to MSU and how many of the girls involved in the Larry Nassar scandal filed Title IX claims. She says she’s contacted Devos several times about meeting with the survivors but that Devos refuses to. Slotkin said that these changes go in the wrong direction.
The biggest response the Congresswoman received was during a discussion about the Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. She said that seeing an impact report on what a disaster would mean to the area really got to her. She said if there were an accident, the entire northern Lower Peninsula coastline would be covered in oil and that “we wouldn’t be able to recover for a generation. What that would do to our economy, our jobs, our fishing community, the tourism industry – I just feel it was too much of a risk. I do not feel Line 5 should remain open and I do not believe we need to replace it…”
Keeping within the environment, Slotkin shared an optimistic view for the fighting against PFAS contamination in the Huron River and Chain of Lakes. She said she believes “we’re on the upswing” and that she hopes that someday parents can take their kids out onto the river and eat their catch like she did when she was younger. She commended the local fire chiefs for working towards getting off the firefighting foam they use that contains the chemicals.
Slotkin was asked about climate change and said that the real test is getting the best minds together to find out how to get off of fossil fuels. She recognizes that might be tough with Michigan’s economy, but also looked at the state’s progress toward wind energy and how there aren’t enough workers to fill those jobs. With regards to the Green New Deal, Slotkin said she did not back it, saying she was a pragmatist.
As a member of the first class of congressmen taking office amidst a government shutdown, Slotkin was asked about the possibility of another. She said she didn’t believe there would be another federal government shutdown, and that the greater threat is a state shutdown, if a budget can’t be agreed upon. She called shutdowns, “painful, wasteful” and stated that the United States is the only government in the world that allows it to happen based on politics.
With regards to decaying infrastructure, Slotkin said both sides of the aisle are saying the same things about the state of roads and bridges. She called for a once-in-a-generation investment. Slotkin said Democrats and Republicans are working together on a package. President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Slotkin said, have agreed on a top number, but disagree on how it will be paid for. Slotkin said they need to find an equitable, reasonable way to pay for repairs, but she will not allow Michigan residents to pay twice for them.
Slotkin was asked about infants surviving failed abortions and legislation that wants to prosecute doctors who end the child’s life. She said if any baby is born alive it is a criminal offense to kill the baby, and “that is not a new thing, it’s an old thing.” Because of this, she did not sign the discharge petition because she says it is redundant. Slotkin reinforced that she is a pro-choice member of Congress, saying that the “government has no responsibility to tell anyone how to use their body.” She said those decisions are between the woman and her doctor.
Wednesday’s town hall meeting was the third of Slotkin’s quarterly meetings of such, and the first held in Livingston County. (MK)