There wasn’t much love for President Donald Trump from the hundreds of people who came to Republican Congressman Leonard Lance’s town hall meeting at Raritan Valley Community College. A little ironic considering Trump’s Bedminster golf course sits only a few miles away.
“We actually have gone to his office his office to demand a town hall meeting, and it was kind of nice because a couple of days later there’s a town hall meeting. I like to feel that we had something to do with it but I don’t think so,” said Michelle de Mico, a constituent of Lance’s.
Lance wasted no time getting to questions.
“I am not going to give opening remarks,” Lance told the audience. “I want to go directly to questions. We have a ticket system, fair questions, no one has been given preference regarding questions. I have no idea who will be asking questions.”
It didn’t take very long for the conversation to turn to President Trump.
“If President Trump, if it turns out that we investigate and he has ties to Russia, do you support impeachement,” asked Bruce Tunkel of Branchburg.
“I am a lawyer by trade,” answered Lance. “I certainly do not want to prejudice how I might have to vote on any matter of that regard.”
One resident from Winfield Park asked the Republican Congressman about Trump’s proposed ‘dopey’ wall on the Mexican border.
“We should beef up security and that may mean a better wall or a better fence in certain portions of the border. But I do not believe we need a wall throughout the whole southern border,” Lance said. “Regarding the payment, I think $20 billion is far too much and I don’t think that Congress would appropriate $20 billion. I would like to see a concrete proposal as to precisely where the Administration believes the border needs to be secured better, and also a concrete proposal on its funding.”
When asked about Trump’s tax returns, Lance believes the president should make them public. Regarding a bill that state democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell proposed that would force Trump to turn them over? It turned into one of the most raucous parts of the evening.
“I don’t think the Ways and Means Committee should be investigating the returns of private individuals,” Lance said.
“He’s the President,” exclaimed the man who asked the question to loud applause. “He’s not a private individual. He’s a public individual. He’s the leader of the free world.”
Congressman Lance was greeted with resistance from several hundred supporters of the Affordable Care Act.
“What I have said is that I favor not repeal alone, and I have consistently said that I do not favor repeal alone. What I have said is repeal and replace and more recently I have defined that as repairing the ACA moving forward,” Lance said.
Statements like those are confusing to James Hopkins of South Orange. He believes Lance is sending mixed messages.
“His rhetoric is very much in line with the republican rhetoric which is like we’re going to repeal it, make it better, and put something better in place, but they don’t have a plan in place and everything we’ve heard is that it’s going to take away either tax credits. It’ going to get rid of obligations that health insurance companies actually have to cover people,” Hopkins said.
For Beth Little of Summit, and hour and a half meeting that addresses questions from a dozen or so residents doesn’t ease the discomfort of possibly losing her healthcare.
“Without health care my daughter’s life would literally be at risk and our family would be financially bankrupt, everyone loses,” Little said. “I don’t understand why there’s even talk of repealing health care and I don’t understand why Leonard Lance would be against this. There are tens of thousands of people in his district alone who’ve gotten health care through the ACA.”
Lance says there’s provisions he’d keep from the ACA like no denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions and a child staying on their parent’s health plan until they’re 26.
“I want to assure the public that the majority in each house of the federal Congress, I believe will make sure that these provisions continue,” Lance said.
Leonard Lance is the only Republican Congressman in New Jersey who’s held a town hall style meeting since President Trump’s election. He says he plans to host more to keep his constituents informed.