U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton held her seventh town hall meeting of the year at Harmony Middle School near Hamilton on Saturday afternoon.
While many of her constituents’ questions centered on the controversies surrounding the House’s presidential impeachment inquiry and attacks by—or on—President Donald J. Trump, Wexton said the most pressing issue facing congressional leaders this week is to pass an appropriations bill that will keep the federal government in operation.
“Right now, the government is funded under a continuing resolution, but it only goes through Nov. 22. For those of us especially in this region, we cannot have another government shutdown. The impacts were devastating for our region,” Wexton said. “That’s going to be our top priority.”
Among the three bills she shepherded to approval with bipartisan support this year was one aimed at insulating contractors and their employees from some of the impacts of government shutdowns. The bill would require federal regulators to issue regulatory guidance for financial institutions within 24 hours of a government shutdown to encourage lenders to help protect consumers and small businesses from some of the financial hardships that accompany missed paychecks.
“Lurching from continuing resolution to continuing resolution is no way to run a railroad and certainly no way to run a country,” she said, adding that agencies from NASA to the Department of Defense struggle with long-term planning under those conditions. “It is inefficient. It is ineffective. … It would be fantastic if we would pass an appropriations bill and do the work that Congress did for decades before all this partisan bickering took hold and made is so that it is acceptable to shut down the government to make a political point.”
Questioned about the impeachment inquiry and the potential for it to distract Congress from its other duties, Wexton said she has her priorities in order.
“This is my constitutional duty, I feel. This is something where I am one of 435 people in the country who can do something about it. I don’t think it is OK for the president to sacrifice vital national security funding for his own personal political gain,” Wexton said. “If we don’t even engage in an inquiry and determine whether that sort of conduct is acceptable, and we’re on the record with whether we think it is or isn’t, then I don’t think we’re doing our jobs at all and I think our republic would be a lot worse for it.”
While those statements drew loud applause from the audience, some questioners received less welcoming reactions.
One man who identified himself only as “one of your constituents” stated that countries like Mexico, India or Japan would not allow an immigration policy that would result in their races becoming minorities within their borders and asked why Congress does not support policies that would protect a white majority in America.
“Immigration, I believe very strongly is a net positive for this country. We need comprehensive immigration reform, and to me this is not a white or nonwhite issue. This is about making our country as strong as we can,” Wexton responded.
Responding to a question about enacting more enforceable laws against hate crimes, Wexton said, “One of the things that has been most disappointing to me is how, over the past several years, everything has become about isolating and marginalizing certain communities, and dividing communities against one another and forgetting that we’re all part of this beautiful diverse country and we should all just work together.”