NY-22 Minute: Various Concerns Raised in Cortland's Coffee with Claudia By Luke Perry
Claudia Tenney’s “Coffee with Claudia” in Cortland on Friday differed from the previous two. Turnout appeared to be lower and the format shifted from small group meetings to a collective gathering of approximately twenty constituents because of space and temperature considerations.
I randomly sampled (individually) and observed (in group discussion) thirteen constituents who expressed their views. Healthcare remained the most prominent issue, but was less of a focus than previous sessions in New Hartford and Binghamton. The recent failure to repeal The Affordable Care Act was likely a factor.
23 percent of constituents cited the issue as their primary concern. Ms. Tenney thought that now “maybe we'll get rid of the labels ‘repeal’ and ‘replace.’” Tenney examined single payer healthcare and believes it would “literally bankrupt New State.” She cited Vermont as a state that put forth a similar plan then withdrew it due to financial concerns. The merits of this comparison have been debated.
15 percent of constituents advocated for people with disabilities. This included asking Ms. Tenney not to cut Medicaid and support the TIME Act, which seeks to prohibit employers from paying people with disabilities less than minimum wage as currently permitted.
Tenney stated that her family businesses always employed people with special needs and referenced her father’s disabilities. “People with special needs get a fraction of support than a healthy 27 year old,” Tenney stated. Tenney believes that proposed Medicaid cuts bring equality to eligibility standards and that a “large amount of Medicaid is consumed by fraud, abuse, and waste.”
Other constituents raised various issues, including flooding, climate change, education, social programs, regulations, veterans, and racism.
Ms. Tenney discussed her flood response work, which is focused on getting assistance, changing laws, and preventing future damage. She believed frequent flooding and climate change were separate issues.
America was “disproportionately burdened” by the Paris Climate Accord, because of upfront payments, while China and India are not “paying their fair share.” According Tenney's contacts in the State Department, the Trump administration is currently renegotiating the Paris Accord with more favorable terms. European leaders have publicly stated this will not happen.
Ms. Tenney defended her approach to education saying “you’re not going to find a bigger advocate for education in the Republican Party” than her. Tenney opposes charter schools and wants Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to visit the district to better understand that all schools are not alike. Tenney similarly criticized the Education Secretary at Coffee with Claudia in New Hartford.
In one of the more personal moments of the morning, a woman shared how she and her son, a student at Cornell University, have experienced increased racism since the presidential election last fall. The two have been mistaken for being Arab and/or illegal immigrants. She worries about her safety and the well being of her family.
Tenney apologized and wants to welcome immigrants to the district. She cited Bosnian refugees as being great for Utica by promoting economic development and population growth. Tenney did not think racism only comes from the Republican Party.
In regards to Donald Trump, Tenney stated that her opponents claim she votes 100 percent of the time with the president. Tenney stated she "will support and oppose him based on what she thinks is best."
Independent analysis from Five-Thirty Eight recently lowered her legislative support of President Trump to 97.6 percent after she voted in favor of sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The President criticized the bill, but ultimately signed it.
When the issue of town halls was raised, Tenney did not believe that groups of 500 to 1,000 people would be effective. Small groups afford more interaction. At the same time, Tenney said she would “love to do one” and “will do one.”
Tom Reed (NY-23) does town halls and gets shouted down, Tenney explained, but “makes a lot of money” from the videos of them. Tenney’s reluctance to do a town hall has prompted criticism from major media outlets in the district, including the Observer Dispatch and the Press and Sun Bulletin.
The House of Representatives is adjourned through the remainder of the month. The date and location of the next Coffee with Claudia has yet to be determined.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College.
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