Within 12 hours of landing at Portland International Airport from Washington D.C., Rep. Kurt Schrader was standing in Tillamook High School’s Don Whitney Auditorium.
“This week in particular was a jam-packed week in D.C.,” Rep. Schrader said during his first of two coastal town halls Saturday.
Following House Republicans failure to garner enough votes to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) Friday, Rep. Schrader headed home to meet with his constituents.
“I understand the ACA is not perfect,” Rep. Schrader said, “Premiums are sky-high and deductibles are out of sight…But it has been a lifeline for many people.”
He added he hopes to work across party lines to retool the ACA to benefit more people and keep costs down for individuals and small businesses. And now the ACA battle is behind him, Rep. Schrader said he hopes to move in a more positive direction in government.
“The main thing is we hope to get back to governing and work together,” he added.
While the Trump Administration and recent ACA battle consumed much of Rep. Schrader’s opening statements of his town hall, the conversation moved from controversial bills affecting the timber industry, the future of agriculture in Oregon, President Trump’s tax returns and his potential Russian involvement, proposed federal budget cuts to the arts and immigration.
Nearly a quarter of the people in attendance were employees of Hampton Lumber and their families. The very first question asked of the constituents came from a representative with the company, a local forester and logger who remained unnamed.
The Hampton employee asked all people in attendance affiliated with Hampton to stand during his turn to speak – announcing the company’s displeasure at the awarding of a $2 million TIGER grant to the Port of Newport to create a log export facility. The Hampton employee said he was concerned how the exporting of raw logs would impact local sawmills.
“As the biggest employer in this area, it is a point that is not lost on me,” Rep. Schrader said. “I’m very concerned it may affect a ton of jobs in Tillamook County.”
He continued, adding he is a proponent of active forest management.
“Forest management is critical to the health of forests and critical to the health of our communities.” Rep. Schrader said. “I’m committed to bringing back the timber management industry at large.”
It soon became clear the Hampton employees and their families had all requested an opportunity to speak and proceeded to give all their lottery tickets to the same person – creating a drought of questions as silence followed the numbers being called by moderator Rep. David Gomberg, who eventually began calling on attendees with their hands up, schoolhouse style.
A question came concerning how the current presidential administration stands with local agriculture.
Rep. Schrader said the trend looks to be toward deregulation in agriculture.
“The regulations were a bit of an overreach,” he said, “It became difficult to develop whether you were a dairy farmer or a dirt farmer.”
Delores Rose from Oceanside asked about proposed cuts to the arts in the recently revealed federal budget.
“I don’t agree with the budget,” Rep. Schrader reassured the audience, “It’s actually treated as a non-document in Washington D.C. by Democrats and Republicans.”
He added his displeasure for proposed dramatic cuts to coastal entities such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and Coast Guard.
“It’s important for us to realize Donald Trump is president, but Congress – good, bad or indifferent – are the ones in charge,” Rep. Schrader said, “At the end of the day, it’s up to us.”
A question not asked by an audience member was brought up during the Headlight-Herald’s interview with the Congressman.
“The FEMA Biological Opinion is a huge issue for this county,” Rep. Schrader said, citing it as his biggest concern for Tillamook County. “It’s not going in the direction I want it to.”
To contact Rep. Kurt Schrader, call his Salem office at 503-588-9100, his Oregon City office at 503-557-1324 or his Washington D.C. office at 202-225-5711.