There’s one thing for sure—love him or hate, him, President Donald J. Trump has gotten more American citizens involved in politics than any other single individual in decades.
Amid daily reports of Republican politicians being verbally assaulted by angry constituents at town hall meetings across the country, Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi became the only elected representative on Long Island to hold a town hall meeting of his own—one where he and his audience were, for the most part, decisively more on the same page in regards to social and political issues.
Held at the Mid-Island Y JCC on Manetto Hill Road in Plainview last week, the town hall meeting packed hundreds of residents of Suozzi’s Third Congressional District—and even some from outside his district—into an auditorium that was soon standing room only, with the crowd overflowing out into the hall.
“This to me is so inspiring because this is what our country is about,” said Suozzi. “Out of everything that’s going on in this country right now that we’re all so concerned about, the blessing is that so many people are actively engaged and this country needs this kind of engagement.”
Passions ran high among the attendees, but if there were any Trump supporters at the forum, they remained silent despite Suozzi’s invitation to allow their voices to be respectfully heard.
Suozzi noted that there are five major issues that have been coming to him the most; ranging from health care to immigration to the transparency of the president’s business dealings abroad and that those were the areas that he wanted to concentrate on with attendees during a Q-and-A session.
“The first subject people bring up to me over and over is saving the Affordable Care Act. I recently held a rally with Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, and we had about 1,500 people attend,” he said. “I had people telling very personal stories about how the repeal of the Affordable Care Act would affect them personally. It really is a matter of life and death for a lot of families in America…there are 20 million people who currently receive health insurance that didn’t receive it before and there’s another group of people who had a pre-existing conditions who wouldn’t be able to get health insurance under the old law.”
Suozzi noted that he doesn’t think the Affordable Care Act is problem-free by any stretch; however, he advocated a “mend it, don’t end it” approach, as opposed to doing away with it all together.
The Democratic congressman also spoke on what he called the “unusual relationship” between the president of the USA and Russian president Vladimir Putin, a matter that seems to cause a great deal of worry for many.
“It seems to be some very unusual events going on, from the Russian hacking of the presidential election, which we know for a fact happened, to the president refusing to divest himself of his interests and place his assets into a blind trust,” he said. “There are some very possible violations of the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution, which restricts members of the government from receiving gifts or money from foreign powers.”
Suozzi also covered Trump’s controversial travel ban, which he said was discriminatory, and he questioned the Trump administration’s commitment to preserving and protecting the environment.
The primary focus of questions directed at Suozzi were on the Affordable Care Act; Gary Kay from Oceanside shared a passionate tale about his wife, who is currently fighting colon cancer and has been running into issues with the Affordable Care Act at seemingly every turn.
“We keep dealing with insurance companies that are folding up or leaving New York,” he said. “There’s a lot wrong with this system, but I’m also concerned that a replacement bill won’t take my wife’s pre-existing condition into account.”
Plainview’s Patrick Schulman said that his father has advanced Parkinson’s disease and was recently laid off from his job, which caused him to lose his health insurance coverage.
“People like my father with pre-existing health conditions are being discriminated against when they apply for health insurance,” he said. “If something is not done about this, my family will have to choose between our financial well being and my father’s physical well being.”
At the close of the town hall, Suozzi urged attendees to stay involved in the country’s decision-process any way they can.
“This is not just political blather and talking points, this is people’s lives,” he said. “The best thing you can do is to stay active, especially with your local media. Write your local newspapers, use Facebook, attend town hall meetings, talk to friends and family, get information out there and make your voice heard. That’s what America is all about, each and every one of us having a voice to make change.”