Pennsylvania Townhalls

Town halls, etc.
This is a transcription of the 3/12/2017 Town Hall with Senator Bob Casey. The event can be viewed here.

5:00 Casey Introduction
7:10 ABORTION: De-funding Planned Parenthood
7:52 ELECTIONS: Re-districting reform in PA
9:42 TRUMP: David Friedman nomination for Ambassador
11:48 HEALTHCARE: Medicare and ACA repeal
14:32 ELECTIONS: Debating your challengers
16:27 ELECTIONS: Investigations into Russian interference
22:50 EDUCATION: School vouchers
26:54 HEALTHCARE: Veterans Administration and privatization
28:15 ENVIRONMENT: Moving PA towards clean energy
32:06 ENGAGEMENT: Holding Representatives accountable
33:32 HEALTHCARE: Disability Integration Act and ACA repeal
36:56 ELECTIONS: Voter suppression laws
39:27 TRUMP: Steve Bannon misconduct
43:03 ECONOMY: Economic plan for Trump voters
45:15 LGBTQ: Community's relations with Trump
51:50 TRUMP: Tax return disclosure
55:50 HATE: Protecting Jewish people and facilities
59:23 TRUMP: Neil Gorsuch nomination for Supreme Court
1:05:42 HEALTHCARE: Protecting mental health coverge
1:11:30 HEALTHCARE: Fighting against ACA repeal
1:16:02 EDUCATION: Student debt help
1:18:48 DEMOCRATS: 2016 election autopsy and changing course
1:23:30 MEDIA: Supporting a free and open Press
1:27:45 DEMOCRATS: Reaching across the aisle
1:32:35 Closing

I now welcome Pennsylvania's senior Senator, our United States Senator Bob Casey.

CASEY: Let me say just a few things first. Number one, thank you for being here, give yourselves a round of applause for spending time on Sunday, I'm grateful. Nina, thank you, we'll clap for you later or now, whenever, we're grateful for that. Nina of course is doing public service as you know as well, not just today but every day. I also want to thank the University of Pennsylvania for making this venue possible. Their whole team here, we're grateful for them, let's give them a hand.

Now, in order to get the program moving, so we get to as many questions as possible, I'm not going to do any opening remarks. I'll just make one statement and then we'll go right to questions. I know we'll get to this issue later, but one of the big issues were facing in the next couple of days literally, of course is the effort by Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act. (Boos) I agree on that. Those signs are great. To also, as part of that, and even in addition to that depending on how you draw the line, to in my judgement decimate Medicaid. So, we're going to fight like hell against both of those actions.

So with that I wanted to make sure we have as much time as possible, I think I can take this mic out of here. So I'll start over here, and Nina will just call on somebody and I'll start right over here.


Good afternoon, my name is Fay, I live in Northwest Philadelphia. My question for you is, will you commit to vote against any bill that crosses your desk that defunds Planned Parenthood?

CASEY: Number one, yes, and number two, I already have. I'll say this, get ready for this, we are going to have a lot of those votes I think. The other side will keep pushing it, but the answer is yes.

Senator, thank you for having a town hall, unlike your counterpart, in Philadelphia. I want to ask you about We need you to reform congressional and state legislative redistricting to prevent gerrymandering and gridlock. Instead of politicians choosing their voters, we want our legislators to compete for the votes of all Pennsylvanians on the merit of their ideas, and not solely on party allegiance. So Senator Casey, as a politician representing all Pennsylvanians, do you support redistricting reform in PA, specifically to put redistricting in the hands of an apolitical commission of citizens?

CASEY: I haven't seen the proposal and I would certainly want to look at it. But I will say this, and this is not difficult to say, it's harder to enact, to do, to bring to fruition. We've got to do something substantial to make sure that we don't have a redistricting process which is not only unfair, as it's been in states across the country, not only driven purely often by politics. But the result is that we get a Congress, especially a House of Representatives, that has been as far to the right as this House of Representatives has been for years. We've got to change that. I just haven't seen the proposal, I'll certainly take a look at it. Thank you.

Thanks for being here Senator, my name is Nathan. In addition to being a Philadelphia resident, I'm also a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. David Friedman is the nominee for ambassador to Israel and he has called liberal American Jews such as myself "worse than Nazi collaborators." I hope you'll vote no on his nomination. I'm interested in knowing how you'll vote and why you'll vote that way.

CASEY: Number one is that I don't have a final answer, but I have - and we are going to be voting, Caitlin when do you think the vote will be? A week or two? Week or two, yeah - I have real concerns, for the reasons you just outlined. There are reasons to be concerned and more, by virtue of what he has said, more broadly but especially about individuals and groups of people who happen to be Jewish Americans or Jews around the world.

There's also a reason to be very, very concerned based upon what he has said about specific policies like the two state solution. And now that President Trump has been, well I don't know where he's been, on the two state solution he has been all over the lot in casting doubt on it, which I think is the only viable path forward. So both substantively and what he has said rhetorically, this nominee has a huge burden of proof as we evaluate his nomination. What I haven't done yet is go through in more detail the questions he was asked in my former committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, I still want to get back on there and talk to someone.

But I do want to take a more thorough review of the questions and answers that he gave in the hearing and that he gave pursuant to requests for written answers. But I haven't gotten that far in the review yet. But to say that I have major, major concerns is, I think, a pretty good hint.

My name is Mike and I live here in Philadelphia. My question is regarding Medicare. You know, I've been reading and hearing things that it may possibly be in trouble and the reason I'm bringing this up is I'm going to be eligible for Medicare next year when I turn 65. Is there any truth that there may be some problems with it that the Republicans are trying to change?

CASEY: I would like to be able to say no but I don't think I can say that safely. I think there is an even larger target on Medicaid - and if you'll allow me I'll keep going on Medicaid but I won't do that now - because that's, I think in some ways, the more urgent challenge because they've got a big target on with regards to ACA repeal which would destroy the Medicaid expansion, or badly undermine it at best. And then secondly they want to change how Medicaid is delivered in a sense, how the federal government works with the states. So on both ends of Medicaid, or both issues I should say on Medicaid, there's substantial reason to be concerned.

On Medicare, philosophically and by way of their, both the House and Senate Republicans have said for years, what Secretary Price has said for years, is that they'd like to change Medicare into a premium support program, right? That's another way… (Boos) Disagree, can I get a sign here to say disagree? Aggressively, totally disagree, right?

So I can't assume that they're not going to go in that direction now that they have a House, a Senate, and someone with a pen who can sign the bill. My sense is they're going to be much more aggressive against Medicaid, but we have to be vigilant about Medicare at the same time. We've got to pay very close attention to the next couple of months where we'll have budget fights where we debate the broad outlines of the budget, and then when you get to appropriations which will be down the road later this year. So we're going to stop them at all costs from voucherizing Medicare and were also going to be continuing our fight against their efforts to decimate Medicaid.

Hi, my name is Dale Kerns, I'm from Swarthmore. I'm neither a Republican nor a Democrat, I'm a Libertarian. There are a lot of issues, the war on drugs, $20 trillion in debt, the war on terror. When are we going to debate about this issue? I've announced my candidacy, I'm a Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate, and I'd like to know when you'll accept my challenge for a debate?

CASEY: I'm sorry Dale, to debate what?

DALE: To debate all the issues, as your challenger, the Libertarian Senate candidate.

CASEY: Dale, welcome. This is going to be a long campaign. Now I'm not allowed to talk about my campaign per se in a forum like this, this is a government meeting so I won't talk to you about the election, the campaign. But Dale, there's going to be a lot of time to debate a whole range of issues, the ones you mentioned and others. But I hope that even if you disagree with me on one of the issues you've mentioned, I would hope you'd join us today and make a public statement that, no matter other disagreements you're going to join us to stop what far right Republicans are trying to do to the Medicaid program.

I'll just give you one number and then I won't dwell on it, because there's a lot more I'll say about Medicaid throughout the course of the day. You can tell I'm a little obsessive about this. By one count that I just saw last week, 722,000 Pennsylvanians with a disability who rely on Medicaid. If there is ever a reason to stop what Republicans are doing, it would be to protect people with disabilities, to protect kids.

Hi, my name is Peter, I am from Marion Station, Pennsylvania. My question - I think the democracy that we hold near and dear to our hearts is under attack from Russia and an authoritarian regime under Donald Trump. My question to you, Senator Casey, is what will you do with the Democrats in the Senate to demand for an independent counsel so that we can get… (Applause)

CASEY: You've got a lot of Agree signs here. Number one is, I think we've had a good start on these issues but we're not doing enough already. When you raise this issue I think everyone in, most people I should say in both parties, would say yes. We know for certain that the Russians interfered with our election. There is no question about that. The media has told us that, the intelligence community has told us that, they interfered for sure.

I wish President Trump would stand up and say 'it doesn't matter who benefited, what's important here is that they interfered with our election and they were successful'. That doesn't mean that it led to a certain number of votes for one candidate or the other. Just by virtue of the fact that they did that, should cause us to be determined to get to the bottom of it, and insist that they never do that again, that we take every step necessary to get that done. That's number one.

So how do we do that? And by the way I have concerns about their impact on our election, I also have concerns about potential ties between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Whatever part of the whole - the layers and layers of concerns we have about Russia and how this administration is dealing with Russia - we have to make sure we have a series of efforts to come to a conclusion.

You said an independent counsel, correct? Here's what we could do. Years ago we had a statute that said an independent counsel - and that term is very important - could be appointed by a court to investigate an administration or administration official. That law expired, okay? We never really had a specific or exact replacement for that. What we are left with now is the following. I sent Attorney General Sessions a letter, and I voted against him but I hope he reads my letter. But I sent him a letter two weeks ago now to ask him to do two things.

Number one, to recuse himself from these investigations, especially… (Applause) It's amazing how persuasive my letter was because later he recused himself. I'm kidding about the cause and effect, I can't take credit for that. He had some other issues that popped up when my letter was in transit. Number one, to recuse himself.

That recusal more broadly will force him - when it comes to a separate question which I raised in the letter - to appoint a special counsel. Which is a term of art, not an independent counsel. There is a regulation in the Justice Department that allows the Attorney General to appoint a special counsel to investigate issues like this. The Attorney General now has recused himself, so by definition he cannot make the decision to appoint a special counsel. So someone else in that department is going to have to make that decision. That would be helpful as well to have a special counsel. So that's one thing, in addition to recusal.

The second thing that must continue are the investigations by the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee. To say that I have more confidence in the Democratic leaders of those committees is an understatement, right? Here's what I believe right now, and I hope I am not wrong about this but I believe it certainly based on what I know. There are very serious Republicans - I won't even address the House, I just don't know the personnel as well, but in the Senate - very serious Republicans on the Intel committee that want to get to the bottom of these issues. It may be the only issue that they disagree with Donald Trump on, it may be the only issue that they work with us on. But we've got to make sure that we give the two committees time to investigate and come to a decision.

Let's say that doesn't go very well. I think we may get some results. We still have a special counsel review that should move forward. But then there's a whole other third lane, if you want to call it that, which should be what I've already supported - but we have to pass legislation to do it - an independent commission, not an independent counsel, an independent commission which is a non-political commission like the 9/11 commission that would be appointed. The problem with that is, if the Trump administration stops that or tries to stop it, and Republicans in Congress go along with him and his administration, then we won't have an independent commission.

I would prefer to have four lanes, so to speak, special counsel, independent commission, intelligence committee reports and then - this may be happening already, I don't know if it is - but it may be that the FBI and other agencies are doing their own review of these issues. Because we can't allow them to ever undermine our elections again and I would hope the president would be as tough on Vladimir Putin as he is on some Americans with his rhetoric, with his policies... (Applause)

Hi, my name is Hope and I live in Philadelphia. I work in special education and it scares me about voucher programs and more than scary about how the students I work with are going to continue to receive aid there in public education. I want to know what you and other Democrats can do to protect that if Betsy DeVos moves forward in... Our public schools which already have great problems especially in Philadelphia in the special education field, what you can do to protect the most vulnerable children.

CASEY: I appreciate your question, thanks for doing that work. Number one, as a state official and as a federal official I've been against vouchers in public education. It's wrong to do it, especially now that we've got a lot of states, that are red states that have Republican governors, Republican legislatures, that are trying to bring vouchers into education.

Betsy DeVos, where do we start? A lot to talk about with regard to her approach to education. Here's maybe be one of the best ways to evaluate her approach as it relates to Pennsylvania. We have, in this state, just about 92% of the kids in our state get their education through traditional public schools. We have another maybe 5 or 6% roughly that are enrolled in charter schools. But by statute by law - and a lot of people don't know this - in Pennsylvania there is no such thing as a for-profit charter school. Those 5 or 6% of all the children who are in school in this state, that adds up to about 175 to 180 separate charter schools. They are all public, nonprofit charter schools.

So here's how extreme her view of education was when she was an advocate and a political player - because she was spending a lot of money on campaigns as well to advance her causes. So Pennsylvania when it comes to public - and this is separate from vouchers, but I think it's an important point to make about her approach - Pennsylvania has zero for-profit charter schools. The nation, if you looked up the entire nation, all the charter schools, it's about 13% for-profit charter schools. What do you think it is in Michigan? If you look at Michigan, the charter schools, 80% were for-profit charter schools and they didn't have a good record.

So we should remind her, as we did a pretty good job I think in the confirmation process, reminding Secretary DeVos, reminding President Trump, reminding Republicans generally that we don't want for-profit charter schools to grow beyond where they are now across the country, and we don't want vouchers. We want her, as I said to her in the meeting, we had a meeting where she talked about what she would do if she were Secretary, going around the country as an advocate. She talked about going into states and advocating for one policy or another. And I said to her I hope, and I want to hold her to this, I hope that as Secretary of Education you would go into states that aren't investing in public education and be an advocate for investing in public education, being an advocate for governors and legislatures doing that. She didn't say yes, but we should hold her to that instead of going down this ideological path on for-profit charter schools and vouchers.

The next question is from an online constituent, John from Harrisville is asking as a disabled retired veteran, will the Democrats be able to preserve the VA from privatization?

CASEY: Yes. I will say this, number one, John thank you for your service number one. Number two, is I hope you deliver that message - and I'll encourage you to use maybe even stronger words - to the Republican majority House members who represent Pennsylvania, a Republican senator who represents Pennsylvania, the VA officials, the Trump administration, that we're not going to privatize VA care. And anyone who tries that should be defeated… (Applause)

And I would say finally, join us in stopping what they would do to other Americans with a disability. Lot of vets have a disability and we want to make sure that they get the care they need. At the same time, there are a lot of non-vets out there who have a disability and that rely upon Medicaid, SSI and other programs.

Hi Senator Casey, my name is Kathy, I live in Southhampton which is in Bucks County. I have a terrible sense of urgency about climate change. I've been an environmentalist for 40 something years and always felt inclined to convince people to do the right thing. I don't have that sense anymore. I'm a mother, I'm actually a social worker in special ed, I have a family. I'm an activist with the environment, educator in my area where I live. People that come to my house recycle everything.

But I really, I'm scared and I don't know who our allies are. I've met with Brian Fitzpatrick who is a Republican and a great ally. I know locally in Doylestown McIlwain is as well, he's a Republican. I guess I want to know, Governor Wolf is pushing for infrastructure in Pennsylvania and in Philadelphia to promote natural gas and fracking, and that scares the living daylights out of me. I want to know how Pennsylvania can be more of a proponent towards clean energy.

CASEY: Number one is I think we can do both, I think we've got to do that, in my judgement. We've got to do both. But let me also say at the same time, a lot of these issues that play out with regard to the protection of the environment, we need both a strong federal partner as well as a strong state partner. Governor Wolf and his DEP I think are aggressive, unlike sometimes when you have a Republican governor and a Republican DEP. So that's number one.

Number two is when it comes to the environment of our state and the related challenge on climate change, our state has a very, not just a very compelling, but a very specific directive to all of us in a sense but especially public officials. Our state constitution, article 1 section 27, the people shall have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment. It goes on to say that we are trustees of our natural resources. So it imposes a higher duty I think on our public officials than almost any other state.

Number three is at the federal level when it comes to climate change, there's good news and bad news. Good news that President Obama aided on a daily basis almost, or at least seemed like almost every month, supported the Clean Power Plan to deal with the issue of climate change over time. The bad news is we have a Republican president and appointee at EPA who just last week, once again, flew in the face of all the science by not, namely he should have said it with regard to who causes climate change.

So we have to be determined to hold the administration accountable to make sure we get the Clean Power Plan, that it continues and it gets fully implemented. But these are going to be tough battles. I do think though - this is the last thing I'll say - I do think there has been a substantial shift in public opinion. Most Americans believe climate change is real, mankind is causing it, and we've got to do something about it and that's a helpful shift.

Hi, my name is Melanie, I live in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. What is, honestly, the most effective way of expressing our concerns to all of our congressmen, and what actions can we do to hold them accountable?

CASEY: Now I've been getting this question a lot from people who are already doing a great deal, and the best answer I have - it's a really, really complicated answer - is keep doing what you have been doing. I'm not kidding you, it wasn't as if a group of politicians on January 1 said okay America just do the following. People went out and did it. The same people that are marching are often the same people that are going to meetings and are online. I've never seen the kind of, not just engagement and serious commitment to doing something about issues, serious commitment to holding elected officials accountable, but also they're sustaining it. It's not slowing down, if anything it's growing… (Applause)

I have no advice, but I'm sure people in here might have different ways of approaching some of these issues. So, just keep going. Being here today is part of that, obviously.

Hello Sir, my name is (?) from West Philadelphia. I'm a person with a disability. I'm an advocate and an activist for people with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Applause) ...called the Disability Integration Act towards the healthcare and how we can have the ownership of what we want to do with ourselves. Second part, this repealment of the ACA, what are you going to do about that? And the third part of it, why can't we ask Trump to resign?

CASEY: Those signs are getting a workout. The first thing you said, you're talking about, did you say Senator Schumer's bill?

(?): He introduced an act called the Disability Integration Act last year.

CASEY: And I'm a supporter of that as well, that wasn't difficult. Number two is what can we do. It's fight like hell, but what that means is voting against repeal. We're going to have that chance maybe rather soon because the House Republicans came up with a repeal bill.

(?): Number three answer my question, ask him Trump resign. I'm an advocate, I'm an activist, I'm on the street, I've been going to marches and all that, and right now we need him to resign. I don't have to go all the way up to his hundred days.

CASEY: I don't think that's going to happen, but here's what I do know. This kind of activism and engagement, it's having an impact already on both parties. I think for Democrats it's encouraging folks to do more and inspiring them to do things they probably didn't think they would be doing in this environment, number one.

Number two is with regards to Republicans, you can tell how they're wrestling with healthcare, and they haven't done that for a long time. Now I think, have they come up with a plan to do that, no. They've come up with a bill which I would call a scheme. It's deliberately intended to convey the impression that they're serious about fixing what isn't working in our healthcare system, instead of really a scheme, which is what it is, to just kind of get through and have some votes and say that they've repealed and somehow replaced it. I don't think it's repeal and replace, I think it's repeal and decimate, that's my view. But we've got a long way to go.

(?): Number three!

CASEY: He's not going to resign, but we've got to hold him accountable. We can let him do very little, I think.

Hi, I'm Janet from Philadelphia and my question concerns voter suppression. I'm very concerned with this threat on our democracy. States set the rules but I'd like to know what the federal government can do to be sure that everyone eligible to vote gets to vote.

CASEY: Before I voted against Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, he came into my office to sit down and make his case. We had maybe half an hour or so, not an unlimited time. In that half an hour, I'd say, most of that half an hour, the larger portion of it, in terms of walking through issues was on voting rights. Because I represent a state that went through a terrible chapter way back in 2012. Republicans in the state General Assembly, you might remember, pushed through a voter ID law which was ill-conceived, based upon a lie, and ultimately it was struck down. But we wasted a lot of time trying to defeat that, ultimately the court struck it down.

But because we had that experience here and because of - and this was a case I talked to him about - the Shelby County case, which as soon as the Supreme Court ruled the wrong way in Shelby County, you had communities across the South that changed their voting, changed polling places, a lot of them. So there is still a major problem in this country with regard to voter suppression, the issue you raised. So we're going to continue, number one, to hold the administration accountable and the Attorney General if they move in that direction, number one.

Number two, as you rightly said, we've got to be vigilant at the state level to not allow the General Assembly, or any other legislative body, try to enact a voter suppression law again like they did in 2012. It helps to have a governor, like we have in Pennsylvania Governor Wolf, who would veto that kind of effort.

I'm Wynette, I'm from Ardmore. It's become obvious that everything they accuse anybody else of doing, they are guilty of. Yesterday there was an article that talked about voter fraud and suppression that the Washington Post put out that basically, Steve Bannon, Mr. Nice, he's been claiming Florida residency to vote there because basically there is no income tax. Yet he has all this utility, they found a house in Miami to be dilapidated and padlocks on the door. Nobody lives there, he has all his bills shipped out to California. And that was the red flag and there is apparently a Miami investigation going on now. And I just wondered, is that anything that is going to be considered? Everybody was, you know, voter fraud and everybody's voting twice and they're dead. And there he is right there.

And there is also in 2015 he moved into the DC home of Andrew Breitbart and was living there. They've been interviewing neighbors and they have an investigation going on. Is that something that you guys - wink wink - have discussed? Or if you didn't know, you're welcome.

CASEY: The problem with tackling that is that there are so many issues beyond that that we're concerned about with regard to Steve Bannon. I don't make it a practice - I was in the Senate two years when George Bush was president 2007-8 - I didn't make it a practice to send out a statement about an appointee of the president. It was rare if ever and when this president appointed his Chief of Staff, Mr. Preibus, I didn't send out a statement, but when he appointed Steve Bannon I sent out a very strong statement just based upon… (Applause) I don't know him personally, I don't know what's in his heart, but I do know this. He was in charge of a news organization, Breitbart, which has views that I don't even want to get into they're so horrific and upsetting and unacceptable.

So just based upon that, I didn't think he should be accorded the privilege, the rare, rare privilege, to work in a White House that closely with the president. So that's problem number one. Problem number two is this president decided to put him on the National Security Council. He shouldn't be there. We need security professionals, not a person who is coming in with a political agenda. So I think there's probably more work that has to be done on those issues, but I have to be honest with you, I can't say that I've done any work on those voting issues but they warrant examination.

Thank you for coming today, we appreciate it, you look cool. You see these guys up there, don't they know, history is going to just really judge them badly? Don't they want their stones back? (Applause) ...for sale. Thank you very much.

So the next question is my question, I'm Kristen from Wayne, what is your economic plan for Trump voters in the middle of the country?

CASEY: Jobs. It's really complicated. I think one thing that unites, no matter where people stood on the 2016 election, that's a major issue for people in both camps. And one of the best ways for us to not just talk about but demonstrate directly that we're working on that issue - and I say this as a Democrat, I'm allowed to preach to myself and to elected officials of my own party, I get that privilege - we have to do much more to focus on jobs and the economy, focus on people's real challenges that are economic.

One of the best ways to do that, get ready to do a major, not just $1 trillion infrastructure bill, but an infrastructure bill that creates 15 million jobs, that's what we have almost ready. We're going to be introducing this bill within the next month and you're going to hear about it, but we're going to need a lot of people to go throughout the state, throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania state and say to every Republican and Democrat, get behind this big bill to rebuild roads and bridges, to rebuild our energy grid, to rebuild schools.

We've got a lot of schools in not only a big city like Philadelphia, but schools in a lot of small towns, that need repair. We've got a lot of young kids in rural areas who can't do their homework as well as they could because they don't have high-speed Internet, especially rural areas. Not as big a problem in urban areas, but we've got a lot of challenges. So we've got to have a major infrastructure bill.

The other thing we should do is work together on a long-term strategy - which I believe starts with early learning - to raise wages. If kids learn more now, they're going to earn more later.

Senator Casey thank you for being here today. My name is Mike, I just recently moved back to Center City Philadelphia, although I did grow up here so this is my hometown.

CASEY: Mike, where were you?

MIKE: In Fort Lauderdale.

CASEY: We got you back.

MIKE: Yes. I apologize I have a little bit of a build up, I want to make a couple of statements before I ask a question, but they're relative.

CASEY: They close the building at five.

MIKE: We can do it in less than that. I've been a homeless advocate for over 30 years. I've been an AIDS advocate for 20 years. I've also built several successful businesses that employed or subcontracted over 10,000 people. We did not file bankruptcy, by the way. As a member of the LGBTQ community, I'm openly gay, I'm also gender fluid and I'm HIV-positive.

The president in a rally held our flag upside down, dragging the floor with Sharpie scribbles on it. The vice president and the whole cabinet has a record of anti-LGBTQ+ policies, records and votes. DeVos allowed the reversal of protection for trans youth in public schools. Not once did the president mention the word AIDS or HIV in his campaign. Gorsuch, nominated or appointed to the Supreme Court, has a horrendous record for the LGBTQ+ community.

Here's my question. How can the LGBTQ+ community, and more specifically those of us living with HIV, ever believe that the elected officials and the administration right now represent our interests? Thank you.

CASEY: Number one, thanks for your statement and thanks for the work you've done. I don't think I can say, I certainly can't be confident in saying, that they are going to represent your interests and the interests of a lot of Americans in the way that you would hope. So maybe the question comes back to me and to Democrats, what are we going to do to hold them accountable?

I think there are a number of things we can do. Look, I realize that some days we won't have the votes, but we've got to fight very hard before that conclusion is reached. But here's a couple of things we can do. We can sustain - and look this is difficult because we don't have Republicans helping us - but we can sustain and perpetuate or even grow the momentum behind the Equality Act. Which basically says, for LGBTQ Americans all across the country, we are going to work to pass a law that's your Civil Rights Act, that's the Civil Rights Act of the modern era for those Americans. That's one thing we can do.

But we've got - and I'm glad over here, was it Kathy from Bucks County - you said you were talking to a Republican U.S. House member and a Republican Statehouse member, thank you for doing that because we need to engage Republicans. Because there are certain issues, and some of these issues might be in that category, for some legislators who happen to be Republicans, they may be the ones that we can work with on issues like the Equality Act. We haven't gotten a good track record yet, but we've got to keep working on that, number one.

Number two is we have to stand up and be clear on statements with regard to what the administration did in connection with transgender youth in going against the policy. What I mean is that a significant policy of the Obama administration, and then the Trump administration comes in and disturbs that, so that you deny those young people the kind of equal protection under the law that you should get. So speaking out against that and doing everything we can legislatively.

A third thing we should do is to try - and I had one Republican co-sponsor on this but he lost his re-election in Illinois so I'm down to zero again - which is the Safe Schools Improvement Act. All this is, is a shorthand for it is anti-bullying, but here's what we say. We say in every school district of the country where you see - well I should say in a lot of school districts in the country - where you see the main targets of bullying be LGBTQ kids or students with disabilities, they tend to be the two biggest targets accumulatively, where you have bullying you have to have a response. So if you're a school district, you've got to have a code of conduct, the prohibitions have to speak to bullying and harassment, and be specific as it relates to LGBTQ kids. And you have to keep records, you have to enforce that code of conduct. We should pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act so that we can protect those kids, reduce the incidence of bullying in the United States.

Finally I do think that - and this is all the good news, the legislative issues are challenging, here's the good news - every day that we go, more and more Americans have not just opened their hearts and their consciousness, but their willingness to support public policies that support LGBTQ Americans. We've made a lot of progress, you can see what happened during the Obama administration on marriage equality, it moved faster in the right direction than we ever thought was possible. But I don't want to rest on that and think that every issue is going to move that quickly. We have a lot of work to do but I think there are people in both parties that are much more open to protecting people, to affirming their dignity, affirming their lives together and making sure that we're doing everything we can to support them. So, thanks for your advocacy.

Hi Senator Casey, my name is Kristen, I'm from Norristown, Pennsylvania. My question is why should I pay taxes when the President of the United States… (Applause)

CASEY: Are you talking about that, what was it, about a $900,000 write off? Not disclosing his tax returns, yeah. Number one and here's the problem, I support a bill that would mandate that for every president. That's the easy part, the hard part is getting it passed.

But here's a couple of things, number one is, and I don't want to be to Pollyanna-ish or hopeful about this but I think there's some potential here. Number one is the Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee, part of our jurisdiction is the tax code, right? So we sent a letter to the Chairman, Republican chairman Orrin Hatch, saying you should ask, for pursuant to a statute or I should say a rule, that allows the finance committee to get the tax returns of the president or executive branch officials. You should exercise that so at least the Finance Committee could review his taxes and then make determinations about the implications of what we've seen. I don't know what's going to happen there.

But let's say that we don't pass the bill that would require a president to disclose taxes - by the way in Pennsylvania we don't have a requirement but I've been running for office a lot of years and I've been in some really big race and some small races. I've disclosed my taxes over and over and over again. No one likes doing it but it's part of what we are as Pennsylvanians right? We wish the president did it on his own, but he refused.

But let's say the law doesn't pass, let's say the finance committee doesn't get to review them, let's say that there is no disclosure based upon those two scenarios. The third scenario, and there some potential with this, as these investigations with regard to Russia generally, but specifically the election, the campaign connection by one campaign, and then maybe some other implications about the emoluments clause and business dealings and all that… (Applause)

It's maybe that as a result of those investigations, a series of investigations investigating sometimes different topics and sometimes the same topic, that's a lot of work as you can tell. It maybe as a result of that you get to a point in the investigation, and the investigator - either a special counsel, members of an independent commission, an FBI agent or agents, other people reviewing these issues and investigating - it may be they come to a point where the only way they can get to a conclusion or a resolution of an issue is to demand the tax returns. And then you'd be in court petitioning a judge, saying in order for us to finish our investigation we need them out. Do I know that's going to happen? Of course no. But that's another way that these returns may be finally made public. The President of the United States has a duty, it may not be a statutory duty, he has a duty to give to the American people his tax returns.

Hi, I'm Dana, I'm from South Philadelphia and I was wondering after all the recent bomb threats to JCCs across the country, what is going to be done in the future to protect Jewish people from threats to come?

CASEY: Number one is I think, I believe public officials have a duty - this of course applies to public officials at all levels, but especially when something happens in your state, like what we saw in the cemetery and other incidents where you have hate crimes and acts of discrimination, acts of violence or vandalism directed to one group of Americans, in this case Jewish Americans - you have an obligation to stand up and condemn that. I've done that but that's the easy part, right, to condemn it?

The second thing I think you have a duty to push forward our policies that will help reduce the likelihood that that happens, and when it does happen or potentially could happen, to make sure that we're putting… To kind of push forward policy that would help on this issue.

Just to give you an example, I just sent a letter last week, there was two letters but one just last week with a group of Senators. Like 10, 12, somewhere in that range, and this group of Senators said to the Department of Homeland Security, you have a nonprofit security program already. It's funded at about $25 million, and that homeland security program which they call the nonprofit security program is meant to deal with issues like this where you have a Jewish community center, or you have a center like that that is a nonprofit entity, that's under attack, or has been under threat of attack, or has some other action taken against it. This is a homeland security program, you should double the funding at least from 25 to 50 million. So that's one thing we can do substantively, and I'm sure there are other issues with regard to programs and appropriations as well as policy.

Now the last thing I'll say is I have legislation which we introduced last Congress but we're working on an updated version of it, an amended version of it, it's a piece of legislation that's very specific about anti-Semitism, to definitively say that we are going to be able to take action and in a more direct way, to prevent anti-Semitism especially in the context of what happens on college campuses with the so-called BDS movement, boycott divestment sanction. So that's a whole other area of effort that we are going to undertake to reduce the likelihood, in some cases, to stop the anti-Semitism that we see in our society.

Hi, my name is Jack and I live right down the road. My question is, to reiterate the Gorsuch question. So we are seeing unprecedented attacks on... from the White House, will you commit to deny him your vote on closure...

CASEY: Sorry I just didn't hear that.

JACK: Will you deny him your vote on closure, or else publicly commit to standing up for civil liberties, standing up against the White House?

CASEY: Number one is I have real concerns about this nomination. Let me say it again, I have substantial, real, significant... For a couple of reasons, number one is and I think it is my duty when I vote on confirmation - and remember we've got to remind ourselves this isn't just a Supreme Court nominee, this is a Supreme Court nominee who will break a lot of 4 to 4 ties. And it happens to be the most powerful court in the world, so this is a major decision and I'm going to be very thorough and methodical about it. And I won't announce a decision until the hearing is over, and that starts March 20.

But let me tell you what I'm thinking about right now. What I already know and what I still have to review. What I already know is, there are a number of cases that he decided that I've already looked at that are significant and they're especially relevant because he is an appellate court judge now and he wants to be promoted - or the administration wants to promote him - to the ultimate appellate court of the world, the Supreme Court. So it's a relevant comparison.

He has a series of decisions that involve for example what happens to a worker versus the corporation, what happens to a child with a disability for whom a decision is made by the Department of Education that's been appealed to the District Court, and that decision can be appealed to the appellate court. So sometimes Judge Gorsuch was reviewing a disability case that started with the U.S. Department of Education. There's a long line of cases and a whole area of the law that talks about a judge's deference to an executive branch agency. Agencies that have a lot of experience deal with these issues all the time, know more about these issues than any court does, and how do you deal with that deference? He has shown nowhere near the deference that I would hope when it comes to dealing with federal agencies. I have a different philosophy.

Here's another concern I have. One of my colleagues told us that if you look at the Roberts court and look at the major corporation cases, or at least, or all of the corporation cases where there's a decision about what a business did, major corporations especially, and how often they ruled for the company versus the workers, the company versus some other interest. It's something on the order of 69% according to my colleague.

Let's say that's off, let's say he counted wrong. Even if it is 60, it's a big number, right? I have to ask myself, in addition to Judge Gorsuch's character, his fitness for serving on any court, especially the Supreme Court, his other attributes or parts of his record or his experience that don't add up. Let's say all that review goes well. When it comes to these cases I have to decide will he move the court in a more corporate direction, or will it be less so. My gut tells me, I think the record already indicates without a review of everything, that he would move the court in a much more corporate direction.

The final thing I'll say is this, I know it's a long answer but this is complicated matters. Like the President said, healthcare is complicated, so is this, right? Glad he told us, I didn't know until he told us. The last thing I'll say is this, and this I believe is unprecedented, I'm not certain of this but I'd be willing to guess it's unprecedented. When someone runs for president they've got people coming in the door every day saying if you're president I want you to appoint this person, or when you're president I want you to support this law, or do this or do that, right?

And sometimes people are too demanding, they say unless you agree to appoint this person, or this group of people, or support this policy then I'm not going to support you. There is a moment, and maybe several moments in the campaign, where candidate Donald Trump was presented with a list or lists plural of individuals that served with far right organizations - I think that's being fair to them they are far right, Heritage foundation, a few others, Federalist Society - coming in, saying unless you appoint from this list or series of lists, which I think added up to 20 people roughly, may be a few more, we won't support you.

And it wasn't like a suggestion list, like a maybe you'd want to consider list, these are good folks list, it was an edict in my judgement. Support this list or not. Now, Judge Gorsuch apparently was on that list, so that out of all of the judges in America, out of all the capable judges or lawyers, or even somebody who wasn't a judge - because you can appoint to the Supreme Court even politicians, that would be crazy wouldn't it - but of all those people you can only choose from this list of 20 or so. I don't think that's right for a president to come in handcuffed or constrained through what I would argue is a political deal for just 20 or so names. So as I said, major, substantial, significant concerns about this nomination.

Online, Sarah from upper St. Claire, what is being done to protect mental healthcare with the repeal of the ACA?

CASEY: By the way, upper St. Clair is in Allegheny County, so we're getting the whole state. But Sarah, a good question. I almost don't know where to begin because there are so many parts to this, but the short answer is by stopping the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - that's the whole name of the Act - by stopping that, you can stop Republicans from not just repealing ACA, but you can stop them from taking away the Medicaid Expansion. Which covers, by one estimate, just saw a document over there I'll refer to if need be, that there are roughly 11 million Americans who now have their healthcare because of the Medicaid expansion.

So if you look at the universe of people that got coverage under the ACA since 2010, it's above 20 million people now, and 11 of those 20 million got it through the Medicaid expansion. So by voting against ACA repeal and voting against taking away the potential or the opportunity to get healthcare through Medicaid expansion, we can do a good thing for people that have a mental illness, have a disability.

But we have to do more than that because one of the things that's apparent as well is that if, for example, they were to be successful in implementing some of their wild ideas, their schemes on healthcare, you could have an adverse impact not only on individuals with mental disabilities, mental illnesses that need to be treated just like you treat someone's physical injury - and we're finally at the point where we recognize that there is parity there, that took a generation to come to that conclusion.

The other part of this, a lot of people don't know, the entire country now is focused on the opioid problem. Just think about this, just on opioid overdose deaths in 2015 in Pennsylvania, more than 3,200 people died in this state just for that reason alone. That doesn't include the other overdoses, for other reasons, and that doesn't include a larger category that would include substance abuse of various kinds or another. So when you enlarge it just beyond opioids of course you talking about a much larger group of Americans and Pennsylvanians. If they get their way on repeal of the Affordable Care Act, one of the many adverse consequences is a lot of those people that are getting help now with regard to the opioid problem will not get the help that they need.

In fact, let me read something that will make this point. Two PhD's told us in an op-ed, they said, they're talking about with regard to substance abuse and mental health as well: 'To put this in dollar terms, repealing the mental and substance abuse disorder coverage in the Affordable Care Act would take away $5.5 billion annually from the treatment of low income people for those reasons.' That gives you a sense, 5 1/2 billion dollars could be impacted by that.

So here's how bad it is. We had progress made last year on the opioid problem, in a bipartisan fashion people, lined up behind the CARA bill, the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act. Congress is never done this before, focus specifically on that particular addiction problem, right? So we passed a law, Democrats wanted to add funding to it, Republican stopped it, but we still have the law going forward, right?

Then at the end of the year there is a 21st Century Cures bill passed. There is $1 billion in the Cures bill, among many things it did on the FDA and the National Institute of Health, a big comprehensive bill, but part of it was $1 billion over two years that would help on the opioid problem. So a different bill, but some funding.

Let's say that that billion dollars will be available, we think it will for two years. On top of that, we could lose the five and half billion that would be impacted by ACA repeal. So we have to fight hard against ACA repeal for a lot of reasons. Mental disability and the opioid problem are two more reasons why we have to do that.

Hello Senator Casey. I'm Robin, I live in the Northampton Township in Bucks County. I'm here today mostly to talk about my son, however I also want to let you know that my primary area of interest is always been environmentalism.

However my son is disabled. I did adopt him at age 8, he has major issues. He is currently in court ordered placement in a group home in the western part of the state. He has Medicaid as well as a waiver because he qualifies for services. And I am very concerned about the ACA problems on Medicaid issues.

I've been all around this country. My family is from Pennsylvania and I came back about seven years ago. But I know that there are a lot of ways for Senators and Representatives to basically appear moderate and not pass laws, and then when it comes to the crux like with Betsy DeVos they vote for her. That's not the main issue, the main issue is my son.

He, by the way, at first liked Trump because he's a, right? But then over time he said, he's a racist I can't support him. He said I'm going to vote against him. He's 20, so he's no longer in school.

So we have some issues with PPACA and the waivers within it, but it's basically a good law. So I want to know how you can work with your colleagues in the Senate, and as much as you can in the House, because this is going to require bipartisan support to block the ACA repeal and make sure there's no attack against Medicaid in this country, and that's my primary question.

CASEY: Thank you for making the point about your son. He apparently know something about how to vote, we're grateful for that. I think you're right in the sense that we have to do everything to stop it, but part of that as soon vote reaching out to Republican Senators, Republican House members. I hope you all will continue to do that because I know sometimes you might feel constrained to call only in the district you live in. But the more that we can get the message out about the destructive impact on ACA repeal and also the related issue of Medicaid itself.

I ask you to go to, there is a report, I have a copy here, it's only three pages but it's power packed with information about the impact of the Republican bill that's before the House, sounds like they're going to vote on it in the next couple of days. The bill on Medicaid, it would cut $370 billion. If you go to the website of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, sometimes known as CBPP, they just put out a report last week with that in the headline. Just go to that two page report, they're cutting $370 billion out of Medicaid. And that number they adjusted the number just a couple of weeks ago, they thought it would be higher but now that they have an actual bill they were honest about ratcheting it down, so it's no longer $500 billion but it's 370. That's a hell of a hit on Medicaid over the next 10 years.

I would hope you would take information like that and go to your elected representatives, and pretty much all of them are Republicans that are thinking about voting for this, and say 'how can you vote for this bill that has this adverse an impact on Medicaid?' And just bring that to their attention, asked them to answer that basic question based upon not my opinion, based upon a credible report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities as well as others. Thank you.

Hi, I'm Mikaela from Bucks county and I'm a political science student at Temple University, and I was just wondering how serious Congress is on both sides of the political parties about lowering student debt for our future workforce?

CASEY: Number one is, there was and will be again, there was a bill that Senator Warren put before the Senate a couple of years ago now, in 2014. She's tried since then to have to take one step in the right direction, a significant step but not the whole answer, and that's to lower the interest rate. It's one of those usual votes were all the Democrats voted for it, and all the Republicans voted against it. Check the record I'm pretty sure I'm right about that, but it wasn't every Democrat, I'm pretty sure it was everyone, or maybe one was missing.

So that was one step, lower the interest rate. Number two is, I think the President came up with a really good idea a couple of years ago when it comes to community college. We ought to make it a lot more commonplace is probably the best way to express it, to at least get a community college degree almost like an extension of high school. That was a good idea, and we need that.

But even if you do those two things you haven't answered the whole question. We've got to make sure that we continue to grow the Pell grant program. One of the things that President Obama did, year after year after year, that Pell grant kept growing, and that's one of the great achievements of his administration which guarantees that no one talks about it. But the Pell grant was a success and we have to keep growing that.

But I think were also going to have to come up with other approaches. I thought that in the presidential campaign it did get a lot of attention, but there were ideas during the presidential campaign that we should re-examine. But lowering that monthly payment is a place to go and to try to support something as soon as we can.

Now this is an area where I think Republicans have some concerns about, they're hearing about it in their states and in their districts, but we haven't been able to get them on board with something as fundamental as getting the interest rate down. We've got to try to do that.

We're going to share the mic. My name is Ryan, I'm from Bucks in Philadelphia as well. I live in Philly now. My question is, Trump is going to be Trump, and we're all aware of what's coming in the next few months and years. But what can the Democratic party do to do an actual autopsy? Like assess really why they lost, because they lost to a bigoted, orange orangutan that... (Applause)

It's so maddening that we have to be here, and take time out of my day to call the EPA, and write to the EPA, and call Scott Pruitt. And how can we adjust in 2018 and 2020 - adopt a progressive agenda. 42% who are voting Republican, prior to this election were registered Independents, and what is the Democrat Party going to do to incorporate them and bring them on board? And try to win again, because you're not going to with establishment strategies.

CASEY: You're right, we didn't as a party and I don't think it just played out in a particular election last year, I think it's played out over a long period of time where if...

(?): Philadelphia's 497th, that is an example right there. A district with 95% non-Republicans, 5% Republicans, and there is only the Republican on the ballot, the special election is March 21. Only a Philadelphia Republican in a 5% district, that is a problem...

CASEY: Let me just finish, there is no question that our party at the national level, and I include myself in this, has to do a much better job of focusing on issues that will allow us to grow our party, right? At least to grow it in terms of the votes we get.

Number one is, that's what I said before, we've got to focus on an economic message and have a program, or a substantive matter like an infrastructure bill. So that's one thing we've got to do. But there are also issues that, frankly we put - and I say we, I mean myself, a lot of my fellow Democratic Senators and others in the context of last year or the year before - is to go into communities and to talk about not just the broader economic issues, but also to talk about things in their life where they are not getting ahead for a lot of different reasons. One of them, for example, is broadband. If we live in a country where 40% of rural areas do not have high-speed Internet and its lower in Pennsylvania thankfully but it's still 20% of rural Pennsylvania doesn't have high-speed Internet. We should work on solving that problem.

We should work on solving the problem of declining or flattening wages. We've had a report for years now from the Public Policy Institute which said that wages went up in this country for 25 years between 1948 and 1973. In those 25 years after World War II wages went up 91%. So as production went up, wages went up with it. What happened since '73 according to this report - which they've updated over and over again - it wasn't 91% wage growth, it was 11% over 40 years. So if we live in a country that had over 40 years wages went up on average only 11%, we've got some work to do. And there's no question that had an impact on the last election.


So I get it that your concern is that we can't just approach things in a conventional way, but I think it does start with those economic issues and I think it does as well show we've got to engage with people. Have more engagement by Democratic officials in small towns and rural areas then we probably have today, and I include myself in this.

RYAN: It's more so than that actually, I think that's a very micro way to look at it and you've identified a few micro issues that are important obviously. But this is a bigger picture here, and how moving forward as a party does the Democratic party actually regain its integrity? Because to me they've lost it.

Hi Senator, my name is Julianne. I'm from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and I'm a member of the lower Marion Indivisible group.

CASEY: We saw some of your members earlier today.

JULIANNE: Awesome, good to hear. So one of the things that I learned when I was in school was that a necessary part of a functioning democracy or democratic republic is an informed populace. What is the Democratic Party, and also the Senate, and everybody's who's working to help what's going on, how are they going to support the press, to have a free and open press?

CASEY: We had a bipartisan resolution for the last couple of years, I was the Democrat on this for several years now where we had a Senate resolution that spoke to freedom of the press around the world. I never thought that we'd have to focus on similar issues here at home with regard to the press, but apparently we do. As much as a politician may not like what the press does sometimes, or what they write or say, we need a free press, our founders taught us that.

I do think that most of the press are undaunted, meaning that they are going to continue to hold this administration accountable, just like they hold all of us accountable in the Congress. But I think they're going to be very aggressive in an appropriate way. So I'm not worried too much about their determination. But what we can do - and I say we, those who happen to be elected officials, especially in Washington - when the administration makes an assertion which is not true, which is not based upon facts, not based upon science, and when they when the president or his administration says something is fake news and it's fact, we just have to say it, OK? Say that they are wrong, that's important.

I don't think that there is a bill necessarily that you could propose to rectify this. It's really just the power over time of asserting the truth, the power over time of holding them accountable, and I know it's been a particularly difficult whatever number of days it's been since January 20. But I think a lot of Americans now are starting to focus, maybe just beginning, but starting to focus on assertions made by the administration versus fact. And also really getting a better sense of what those campaign lines really mean in public policy.

And especially, maybe, and I will end with this, on healthcare. I think there are a lot of folks that when candidate Donald Trump said 'I want to repeal Obamacare,' they didn't think he was talking about their healthcare, they might've thought it was something else. And I think more and more of them are beginning to realize.

For example, Medicaid, not that I've mentioned it yet but, we have a state that has 48 out of 67 counties that are considered rural. In those 48 counties at last count there are 278,000 people, let's round it off to 280, 280,000 people that receive Medicaid. They could be their children, it could be another member of the family, and right down the street in many cases or a couple miles away is a rural hospital which in most cases in rural counties is the top employer, or the number two employer.

So I think some of that information is starting to get out, but we have to just keep staying active and engaged, keep marching, keep using social media, keep coming to meetings across the state, and I think little by little we are going to get the truth out even when they say it's fake.

Hi, my name is (?), I'm from Philadelphia. This next question is slightly hypocritical because I agree with those who sit over there that the Democrats really need to rethink this whole thing. So with that said, I'm really worrying about the real harm to people, the real lives that will be lost, the real poverty that will be afflicted, and the suffering from a lot of the bills that are going to come across the Senate and the House floor.

And I wanted to know what you and the Democrats are doing to try to reach out to the few other Republicans representatives that haven't lost their souls... ...alluded to this before, right, we don't have the votes, so realistically what are you guys trying to do about that, is there something we can do to help like... (Applause) I'm really worried about what is going to happen.

CASEY: I have to say I'm not, the Democrats aren't, doing enough to reach out. Here's the problem I have, at least on the fundamental issue of healthcare, which for me is fundamental, it's as important as anything I can do as a legislator. A lot of members of the media say aren't you going to work with Republicans and try to figure out what you can fix?

If this were a different scenario, if we were in kind of a no-repeal vote scenario for six months or a year, where they say we're not going to have a vote, we're just going to sit down and work out what isn't working very well. We know all of the things that are working in the Affordable Care Act, 20 million people covered, 150+ million Americans who get employer coverage with much better protections, seniors who fell in that prescription drug cost gap with the doughnut hole getting all kinds of help that they never got before. So a whole broad cross-section of Americans are better off because of those healthcare protections and we're not going to go back from that.

But even with all those positive features, there are some issues that we've got to work on. There are some people that still need help that the Affordable Care Act didn't help enough. Republicans, though, come to us and say we want to have a repeal, we want to repeal this whole thing, scrap the whole thing. I'm not going to help them do that, I'm not going to work with them to do that. On that, I'm going to oppose them with all my might, I'm going to fight them like hell and work to stop them, right?

But here's what comes after that. Let's say they're successful in the vote to repeal but they have two years to put it into effect, but they still want to work on the problem. That's a potential time period where we can do a lot more outreach to Republicans to see if we can't fix what needs to be fixed, but preserve all of the positive features of the legislation. They have to be a willing partner in that, so far all they've said is repeal, repeal, repeal, and we say no, no, no to those three, right?

So there could be a different chapter here down the road. But let me just say this to you as well, and I don't say this just to make you feel better, to validate all the work that you're doing, the people in this audience, the tens of millions of people across the country. With a Republican House member, or a Republican Senator, you're going to be, and your voices will be much more persuasive than mine.

Can I go to lunch with a Republican member of Congress and talk to him about healthcare, sure. But when they see us lobbying them about voting against decimating Medicaid or the ACA, they see a Democrat, he wants me to do something that might help his party, they're not really persuaded by other public officials. They are persuaded by you, they are persuaded by people you know, they are persuaded by the community of people that they have to be answerable to.

And so I just want to encourage you to just stay with it, because they are going to be much more responsive to you rather than I. Now that doesn't absolve me of responsibility to work with them where we can. But while they're repealing I consider this their repeal not-serious-about-fixing-the-problem phase. If they get off repeal and move off repeal and then get to serious discussions about fixing what works and preserving what is helping people, then we can have a conversation. But we're going to fight them right now on this repeal really hard.

Just to conclude very quickly and very orderly, and I know there are more questions, let me just say this. Thank you for being here. You could have been doing a lot of other things today, and you chose to spend it with this community of Southeastern Pennsylvania and even beyond. You chose it to come here to talk about very serious issues, in some cases issues that aren't even effecting you and your family, but you know someone out there who's vulnerable and might be in a dark place, worried about their future. So we appreciate you being not just a voice, but a validator of their concerns.

So I'm grateful for that. All I can say is don't get discouraged, keep fighting, keep organizing, keep marching, keep demanding answers. We're going to win some of these fights with you and for you. God bless you.

This is a transcription of the 3/12/2017 Town Hall with Senator Bob Casey, hosted at Penn’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The text has been lightly edited for clarity. The transcriber was Travis Mitchell, please e-mail with any corrections. Several videos of the event are available on Facebook, the one with the best audio was posted by Alyssa Posoff and can be viewed here.

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District Keywords: Pennsylvania's Representative to U.S. Senate, Class 1

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