It lacked the vitriol of town halls held by his Republican counterparts, but there were still plenty of frustrated citizens at U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi’s town hall Tuesday night in Port Washington.
In the two-hour session at the Landmark on Main Street, the 3rd District congressman, a Democrat from Glen Cove, answered over a dozen questions before 125 Port Washington residents. There were questions on topics ranging from military spending to overregulation, but the primary concern was health care.
“We have a crisis in our face, right this minute, that people are going to lose coverage under the Affordable Care Act,” Suozzi said, referring to the Graham-Cassidy bill making its way through the Senate to repeal the law.
Suozzi had been working on his own plan, and each attendee was handed an article about the bipartisan healthcare plan upon entering the town hall. Written by Suozzi and Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, the article calls for the House to adopt a plan that would stabilize funding, dedicate a fund for state use, adjust the employer mandate and repeal the 2.3 percent medical device tax.
Despite the ongoing efforts in the Senate, Suozzi said that he, Fitzpatrick and their bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus would keep pushing their plan.
“We still have to keep on trying,” he said. “If they go forward with the repeal, the markets are going to go crazy, a lot of people are going to lose insurance… and so the Problem Solvers Caucus is going to have to try again to get people to work together. If we don’t work together, nothing is going to hold.”
For the most part, though, the town hall audience was not interested in Suozzi’s health care plan. Several of those who took the microphone asked the congressman to support universal health care.
“Every other country in the world has universal health care. It is not extremist to ask for,” said one citizen.
Instead of bipartisanship, another said, “coverage for every American should be your main priority.” In particular, several asked why Suozzi had not co-sponsored HR 676, the Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act, when 119 of his Democratic colleagues had.
Suozzi said he would not support HR 676. He noted that health care for all is a “noble goal” and “something to aspire to” but that citizens had to come to grips with the political reality.
“We’re in the minority, folks,” he said of the Democrats’ position in Washington. “The president is a Republican, the Senate is Republican and the House is Republican. And we’re not going to save the Affordable Care Act unless there is bipartisan compromise… I can’t just turn a switch and make [universal health care] happen.”
Aside from health care, the focus often turned on President Donald Trump. When asked about Trump’s handling of the North Korea crisis, Suozzi condemned the speech the president gave earlier in the day at the United Nations, in which he threatened to destroy North Korea if necessary.
“Loose talk is a very dangerous thing,” Suozzi said.
Toward the end of the meeting, Suozzi was asked if he would move to impeach, or at least censure the president.
“People who are wishing and hoping for an impeachment – it’s not going to happen unless a case is built,” he said.
After the session ended, Suozzi stayed for a few minutes to shake hands and talk one on one with a few attendees. When the theater finally cleared and the congressman made his way to the exit, he said the town hall had exhausted him but was a success.
“The people have been very civil,” he said. “People care about certain issues, and I try to address the things that they care about.”