Last week was eventful.
My town hall Wednesday night in Meridian drew about 800 people. We planned on 90 minutes, but went over three hours. I left the stage after the last of 61 people who lined up at the mics had their say.
Congressional town halls are receiving lots of attention from the media these days, drawing coverage from many outlets that ignored the public meetings I held in all 19 counties in Idaho’s First Congressional District last summer.
I’ve always taken seriously my obligation to listen to the people I serve. Town hall hoopla aside, I continue my everyday efforts to stay in touch with Idaho. My week also included meetings with AARP, the Idaho Nonprofit Center, Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, representatives of credit unions and real estate professionals, advocates of immigration reform, and a tour of a plant that builds fire trucks.
On Tuesday, I attended a breakfast where I took questions from business leaders. Among them was John Bleymaier, owner of Like Nu Car Wash and the Big Bun Drive In.
Bleymaier seeks regulatory reform and tax reform to spur our economy and create jobs. He called on congressional leadership to listen to Middle America and seize the opportunity we have with unified government. “We voted in an outsider,” Bleymaier said, speaking of President Trump. “When is Congress going to wake up and hear the American people? We’re still waiting.”
I’m waiting myself. I’m not, however, among those sounding alarms as we approach the President’s 100th Day. Changing course after eight years takes patience and perseverance. I’m optimistic that we’ll succeed in keeping our promises to rein in the federal government, improve health care and establish a fairer tax system.
I found reason for hope in a visit to the classroom of Jeff Clifford, who teaches American Government at Eagle High School. Mr. Clifford emphasizes the principle of federalism, which respects the authority of states to tackle their own problems without dictates from Washington.
He’s got sharp students. One 17-year-old explained why former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen calls our $20 trillion debt the No. 1 threat to national security. “Without money, you can’t build a better military to protect our country,” said the young man.
Now back to last Wednesday’s town hall, which was dominated by opponents of President Trump. We frequently disagreed because I consistently apply my philosophy of limited government.
That means I oppose a federal takeover of health care and taxpayer support of clinics providing abortions. That means I favor shuttering the U.S. Department of Education and sending the money to the states. That means I stand up for religious freedom and for empowering businesses to make their own decisions about employee compensation.
Despite our differences, I enjoyed meeting with so many citizens with passionate beliefs. The crowd was boisterous, but largely respectful. Many questioners thanked me for what one woman called “stepping into the lion’s den.”
Idahoans know our republic depends on a robust exchange of ideas. Listening to you, staying true to the principles I campaigned on and showing up day in and day out are part of my job description. I am grateful for your trust.
I’ll hold a second town hall at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Mission Aviation Fellowship, 112 N. Pilatus Lane in Nampa. I’ll soon announce town halls in North and North Central Idaho.