By Rylee Seavers | Staff Writer
U.S. Rep. Bill Flores spoke about current events in Washington D.C. and took calls from constituents to answer their questions and address their concerns during a town hall via telephone on Wednesday evening. The town hall was one of three held this week that covered different counties within the 17th Congressional District.
The telephone town hall began at 6:30 p.m. Flores said his office called 45,000 people and a few hundred dialed in to the call. Flores began by addressing events happening in Washington, D.C.
Flores said Congress had “a few stumbles” when addressing health care because not everyone in the House was on the same page. He and other member of the House want to establish patient-centered health care, Flores said, that puts patients and providers in communication with each other.
In response to a question on health care, Flores said he is hopeful that Congress will repeal Obamacare. He said he thought that to repeal and then replace would be a “slam dunk,” but putting repeal and replace together caused issues with some in Congress. Currently, there is a 50-50 chance that repeal and replace can be accomplished, Flores said.
Flores was also asked if he believes Trump should release his tax returns and if he would accept the verdict that Russia has interfered in the election, even if it resulted in Trump’s impeachment. Flores said that he does not support the efforts to compel the president to release his tax returns because there is no law mandating that a candidate do so, even though it is a common practice with presidential candidates. Flores also said he will support whatever recommendation comes out of the investigations of Russian interference in the election.
In response to a question regarding poverty in Waco, Flores said there are many programs that are not effective. Often the number of dollars put into fighting poverty is measured, but never the number of people who are brought out of poverty, Flores said. He said the way to do this is to support programs that provide people with good jobs and education.
During the call, Flores took polls from listeners and relayed the results at the end of the town hall. The polls revealed that constituents in the 17th Congressional District believe that North Korea is the biggest threat to national security, that abortion should not be funded by taxpayer dollars and that national security is the most important issue facing the United States. Seventy-two percent also responded that they agree with Trump’s actions after the chemical weapons attack in Syria. Sixty-five percent of participants prefer telephone town halls to physical town halls, according to the poll results.
A protest was organized on Wednesday by Waco Friends of Peace/Climate prior to the town hall outside Flores’s Waco office at 400 Austin Ave. The protesters gathered to express their disapproval of Flores’s positions on climate change and his decision to hold telephone and radio town halls, rather than face his constituents face to face, according to a press release by Waco Friends of Peace/Climate.
“The way I see it, if he is going to support [President Donald] Trump and that kind of reactionary and backward vision, then he should be willing to say so with his constituents, rather than hiding somewhere,” said Alan Northcutt, director of Waco Friends of Peace/Climate.
The protest began at 4:30 p.m. and went until 7 p.m. Northcutt said the group may try to call in to the town hall and ask a question, but said he did not believe that their question would be selected due to the screening process that happened prior to asking Flores a question. Protesters held a large sign that read “Flores/Trump: Climate Inaction Kills.”
The call lasted an hour and a half. Flores said there were 2,781 participants in the call, and constituents were also able to watch a livestream of the town hall on Facebook. Those who were not able to ask their questions were encouraged to leave a voicemail on the line.
“Our country has a bunch of challenges,” Flores said. “We still have a great country. Our system of governance is one that people all over the world aspire to have. So I think it’s important for us, as Americans, to continue to pray for this country during these hard, difficult times, pray for our military men and women that protect it overseas, pray for our first responders that protect it here at home.”