Rep. John Faso speaks about the outreach efforts following Hurricane Harvey and answers a question on President Donald Trump’s mental fitness to serve. Video by Jack Howland/Poughkeepsie Journal
ESOPUS – On the issue of his transparency, Rep. John Faso, R-Kinderhook, defended his outreach with the public while also saying it’s been a difficult task to meet the demands of District 19 residents, with “over 75,000 communications” to respond to since taking office.
The answer came during a question about his availability to address concerns of the public, a theme that underscored the congressman’s often contentious third town hall meeting Thursday night. Hurley resident Justin Tracy, who rose to ask the question, pointed to the congressman’s response to the events of Charlottesville, which came 48 hours after the protests unfolded Aug. 21.
Faso defended himself by saying “he didn’t wait 48 hours,” explaining he had heard the news on a Saturday night in Israel, gotten into New York at 4 a.m. the next morning and put out a statement condemning neo-Nazis by noon.
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He also admitted that, since the election of President Donald Trump in January, it’s become harder to address the many different questions and concerns of the public.
“We have a limited staff, we have a limited capacity to respond in a manner that I would like, frankly,” he said to the 200 who bought tickets and packed into the town hall. “A couple of our staffers worked for Chris Gibson, and they were able to plot on a graph all of the interactions that Chris had over six years with constituents. As soon as January happened, the interactions went up by a level of four times.”
The question of transparency was one of several issues that popped up throughout the roughly 90-minute town hall organized by Move Forward New York, a left-leaning civil action group. There were 200 tickets available to the event, and attendees wrote down questions in advance.
With an audience that cheered, booed and reacted with audible comments, Faso fielded a host of questions on topics like his position on Trump’s border wall, his support of defunding Planned Parenthood and his vote cast in favor of the proposed American Health Care Act, or Trumpcare.
One questioner, Tim Hunter of Gardiner, spoke about how his late wife, who died of breast cancer last year, got help under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, but wouldn’t have been covered under Republican plans.
Rep. John Faso answers a question from Hurley resident Justin Tracy about his communication with constituents. Video by Jack Howland/Poughkeepsie Journal
“I believe that every single American has the right to basic health care,” he said. “Do you?”
Faso, who expressed sympathy for Hunter’s loss, defended his vote by saying he believed it would “improve the health care system.
“And we have a different point of view in this,” he said in response to boos. “We should be trying to find areas where we can find common ground and we can agree to fix some of the flaws in the system.”
He was also asked whether he would address the “rise in hate speech” since the election, and he said the justice department needs to make sure it’s enforcing laws in regard to hate crimes.
“What is it about a neo-Nazi that we don’t get, having lived just past the 20th centry when we saw what they did?” he said. “The bottom line is that I utterly reject that kind of philosophy.”
Like with many answers, some expressed satisfaction and many booed, and then another person rose to ask a question.
Afterward, he said he wasn’t phased by the “lively crowd” and frequent comments.
“I don’t mind it. It was harmless,” he said. “The only time I was a little leery was when I spilled my water.”
Jack Howland: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4870, Twitter: @jhowl04
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