WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood heard from more than 30 constituents during his first town hall meeting Wednesday night, but he did most of the talking.
Below are some of the comments made by the Peoria Republican — and commitments he made on specific issues — during the two-hour meeting, which have been edited for length and clarity.
On the budget:
"I give the president credit for trying to drive down costs in our budget. We're $20 trillion in debt. ... The budget that has been proposed, there are a number of things in there that I disagree with — the cuts that have been implemented to the Department of (Agriculture) I think have a serious effect on my district, some of the cuts to (the Environmental Protection Agency) affect my district, the cuts to (the Public Broadcasting System) I have some issues with. So I look forward to having that budget brought to us and trying to reinstate from my point of view funding that I think is necessary and should be in there and really that protects the most vulnerable in our society."
On health care:
"What I will pledge to you, anything that undermines pre-existing conditions, in any health care we vote on, is something I'm not going to support. When I look at the ACA or Obamacare, there's a couple things in there that work. Pre-existing conditions is an area that we need to protect and I'm supportive of that. I also think that being able to keep your kids on their parents' insurance is a good thing 'til 25 or 26, so I commit to you that keeping those two provisions, in whatever we vote for, has to be part of this bill."
On House and Senate investigations into Russian interference:
"I'm supportive of both of those investigations. Let's see where those investigations go. Let's see what the conclusion is and the summary in a bipartisan way and then we'll make a decision on what the next steps are. You raise a number of questions. Specifically on the Ukraine issue and changing the platform (after Paul Manafort became Donald Trump's campaign chairman), that needs to be vetted. That needs to be investigated. There needs to be interviews with witnesses."
On tax returns:
"I don't think our president should be treated any differently than any other president before us on taxes. I think he should release his taxes. I've said that publicly. He promised that in the election, to release his taxes. He promised that in the election so I think he had an obligation to do that. ... I will speak out and I will tell the administration he needs to release his taxes. If that bill (requiring the president to release his tax returns) comes to the House floor through regular order I would have to consider supporting that. Absolutely."
"I am supportive of legislation that requires every presidential candidate running to release their taxes."
On tax reform:
"We have to fix our tax code. We gotta close the loopholes that too many corporations and businesses have, but more importantly what we have to do is figure out how we make America competitive. ... We have to make that revenue neutral. I mentioned earlier, we're $20 trillion in debt. ... I'm not going to support tax cuts unless it's revenue neutral.
"Medicaid has been a program that has worked very, very well for what it was intended to do for women, people with disabilities and children. Medicaid, when it's spent the way it's supposed to be, is exactly what you said, it's to help the most vulnerable in our society. I am fully, fully supportive of helping the most vulnerable in our society. ... Today, able-bodied working men can qualify for Medicaid. I don't think that's an appropriate use of Medicaid."
On single payer:
"You bring me a bill on single payer, I'm happy to review it and look at it. I'll look at any piece of legislation but what I want to see is how is that going to affect my constituency, how is that going to affect the people in my district and most importantly, how is that going to help bring health care to people who need it. And if that bill will do that and it's a fiscally sound bill, I'm happy to consider it."
On campaign donations:
"We will agree, it costs too much money to run for office, whether you're a challenger or whether you're in office. ... That's a problem, and I'm open to having a discussion about how we solve that problem without jeopardizing free speech. I've had four elections in 16 months. When I've run in those elections, the majority of money that I've raised for those four elections came from inside my district. I get money from people that want to give me money. PACS or other organizations that want to contribute to me, and want to contribute to the campaign, if they believe in the issues I stand for, the way that I vote, the way that I conduct myself, that's part of what our democratic process is. But taking that money from whatever organization it is doesn't tie my vote to anything that they want me to do or I don't want to do and I can give you example after example of that. But if you can give me another system where we're not jeopardizing free speech under the constitution — read the Citizens United case under the Supreme Court — whether you agree with it or not a 5-4 decision said what free speech is."
On climate change:
"The climate is changing and I believe humans play a role in that. There is no doubt about that. The question is, at whatever do they play a role? Is it 51 percent? Is it 35 percent? I am open minded to listen to people who can give me a different view on that. I am supportive of a clean energy policy. What does that mean? That means clean coal, it means solar, it means wind."
"We need to change our legal immigration process. It should not take four years to come to this country legally. Streamlining that process is what we need to do. Right now about a million or (1.1 million) people legally immigrate to the United States. I think that needs to expand ... I am 100 percent supportive of that and will be working to do that."
On executive orders and net neutrality:
"Process is important right? At the end of the Obama administration there was a provision change within the (Federal Communications Commission). Right now Facebook, Google, Amazon have the ability to look at what you search. Obama put in a provision through the FCC arbitrarily, through executive order, through the FCC. What we voted on two weeks ago reversed that. There is a net zero effect on your privacy or the data collection that is done. What was done at the end of the Obama administration wasn't the right approach because it was done through executive action."
"I believe more business should be conducted in the White House than in Florida."
Laura Nightengale can be reached at 686-3181 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @lauranight.