Town Hall Questions & Responses
Over the course of my three town hall meetings last weekend, a number of questions came up that needed further detail and response. Over the week, our team has been in contact with many of the people who attended town hall meetings and wanted specific questions answered.
There were a number of questions that came up in recurring fashion and accordingly I have posted those below:
Why do seniors not get an increase in their Social Security check with inflation?
Annual cost of living adjustments to Social Security benefits are linked to increases in the Consumer Price Index, which is the most commonly used measure of inflation. Quite fairly, many people would see this index as not reflective of overall inflation, but that’s a different debate. Current law simply says that if the Consumer Price Index does not increase in a given year, as was the case in 2015, then the cost of living adjustment for the next year would be zero. For this reason, some people ask this question wondering why the price of their milk had gone up but their social security had not. In 2016, the Consumer Price Index increased by 0.3%, and in turn the January 2017 cost of living adjustment for Social Security benefits was 0.3%.
What have you done to get President Trump’s taxes released?
I have written to White House Chief of Staff Priebus and asked that the President release his tax returns. I am the only Republican co-sponsor of Rep. Anna Eshoo’s bill, H.R.305 - Presidential Tax Transparency Act. I am also a co-signer of Rep. Bill Pascrell’s letter to the president asking for a release.
We have a long standing precedent in the United States in which our presidential candidates release their tax returns to the public. I believe that President Trump should stand by his campaign promise to release his returns because refusing to do so will have implications that are well beyond the contents of his own returns. This is true for governorships just as it is true for future Republican and Democratic presidential nominees.
Can you provide a brief summary about H.R. 140 - the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2017?
Last Congress, I was a co-sponsor of H.R. 140, Representative Steve King’s Birthright Citizenship Act. Under that bill, a person born in the U.S. would be a citizen if one of their parents is a U.S. citizen or national, a lawful permanent resident alien, or an alien performing active service in the military. The significance of this bill is that it would no longer reward those who unlawfully enter the country with the intention of gaining citizenship for their children. I find it hard to believe that the Founding Fathers would have envisioned what we have in many cases today, which is the full rights and privileges of American citizenship coming to those who chose to enter this country unlawfully.
Why did you vote to repeal the Social Security Administration’s rule to deny Second Amendment rights for the “mentally unstable”?
Whenever the government considers taking away somebody’s ability to exercise a constitutional right, whatever it may be, there needs to be due process protections. If we want to change the Constitution, the Founding Fathers set up a process by which we might do so. What they never envisioned was the unilateral taking of a constitutional right. In the case of the Social Security Administration’s rule, people would have their Second Amendment rights taken from them by simply assigning to a son or daughter their social security paperwork. The third party management of social security benefits should not be the determinant of constitutional rights. I think it’s telling that the American Civil Liberties Union, along with a number of mental health advocacy groups including the American Association of People with Disabilities, came out in support of repealing this rule.
Have Blue Cross/Blue Shield’s profits gone up since the Affordable Care Act was put in place?
They allege no, while others argue that their profits have been maintained. My observation would be that insurance companies with monopolistic power always seem to make a profit, and that’s why I think it’s so important that we repeal the Mclaren Ferguson anti-trust exemption for insurance companies. This is something that the bill I introduced on replacing the Affordable Care Act does. I don’t believe any other bill before the Congress does the same.
What I do think is relevant in this question has been the way in which insurance companies have been shrinking their presence in our state and other states. If they were making money I suspect they would be staying for the business. It was reported that our near neighbors to the north at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina lost over $400 million in business for 2014 and 2015.
The president has indicated he wants to rollback Obama administration protections on the environment. What are you going to do to stop this?
I have publicly stated that I will oppose legislation that calls for the complete elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency. Ecosystems, rivers and floodplains in many cases stretch across state lines, as a consequence there is an interstate component to environmental protections. Certainly more could be done at the state level, but I think we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater on this issue given the air quality of Ohio doesn’t stay contained within that state any more than the fluid discharge into the Pee Dee River stays in North Carolina as the river works its way down to our state. In short, I believe that conservatism should apply to more than just financial resources. Teddy Roosevelt believed otherwise...and I do too. In this regard, I’ve taken many actions on this front over the years and one that I am most proud of would be that during my governorship more land was preserved than during any other governorship in South Carolina history.
What do you think of Steve Bannon on the National Security Council?
I respectfully disagree with the president on this decision. Having been a chief executive myself, I fully understand the desire to put in place one’s own team. It’s important, but I believe that you want to make sure that those who inform you are appropriately versed on the subject at hand. In this light, I don’t understand how Steve Bannon could know more about defense issues than the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. To many, this decision raised the specter of politics becoming a driver in national security issues. I believe this would be a mistake because our nation’s security is neither a Republican nor Democratic issue, but one that we all face together as Americans.
Do you support an independent investigation into Donald Trump’s ties to Russia?
I have said consistently that we need to first let the committee process work. It was just today that Democrats and Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee signed an agreement on the scope of their intelligence probe. Given that much of the information in question could be classified, an open hearing process would prove most difficult, and accordingly, I think that beginning an investigation with the committee charged with such delicate issues is the appropriate place to start. The Senate Intelligence Committee has people like Dianne Feinstein, who in political terms has no desire to do Donald Trump any favors, and she has signed off on the Intelligence Committee as the appropriate place to start the investigation of these matters. Should they uncover details that need to be further brought to light, Congress can take further steps as we all see fit.