Pennsylvania Townhalls

Town halls, etc.
This is a transcription of the 3/8/2017 Telephone Town Hall hosted by Glenn Thompson. You can listen to the full recording of the tele-town hall here.

0:00 Introduction
03:10 Thompson Briefing (H.J.Res.38 Stream Protection Act)
06:10 Thompson Briefing (ACA repeal and replacement)
09:35 Valerie from Centre County (Voter-Representative Engagement, Single-Payer Healthcare)
15:45 Teresa from Centre County (Voter-Representative Engagement, Medicaid Expansion)
21:50 Amber from Centre County (Education, Nutrition)
27:44 Poll on Immigration
29:31 Charles from Jefferson County (Social Security COLA, Pharmaceutical Costs)
34:30 Results on Immigration Poll
35:01 Brad from Centre County (Trump's Travel Ban)
41:08 Jim (Gainful Employment Regulations)
46:36 Poll on Infrastructure Investment
47:08 Kathleen from Centre County (Climate Change)
54:03 Results of Infrastructure Investment Poll

THOMPSON: Hi, good evening everyone. This is Congressman GT Thompson. I want to thank you for joining my monthly tele-town meeting. These calls are normally conducted the first Tuesday of every month at 7:30pm. I apologize for the delay we were a little longer on the House floor this evening, and that's why the delay of getting started this evening. So I do apologize, but those constitutional responsibilities need to be done.

I want to thank everyone for joining the call tonight. Again, this is Congressman GT Thompson, for joining my TeamGT tele-town meeting. Thank you to everyone for your support of my re-election, earning more than 286,000 votes this past November, with a more than 100,000 vote margin. And that was spread over the 16 counties with 24% of the landmass of Pennsylvania, almost 11,000 square miles. Working for you and your families is a tremendous honor, and together we have made a difference, not just for the Pennsylvania 5th Congressional District but also for families throughout this great nation.

This call is being provided by the Friends of Glenn Thompson. That is my campaign. No taxpayer dollars are being used for this call. I've been proud to provide this convenient constituent update directly to your home each month for many years now, and based on your feedback I know how important this is to you, to get a report directly about or from Washington. And tonight we're in Washington. I'm pleased to be actually sitting in here with a first for me, I've got a guest who's not going to be on the phone but my son Logan, my own personal hero Staff Sgt. Logan Thompson, United States Army. He happens to be on assignment here in the Washington area just the next couple of days, and spending some time with dad tonight. We just linked up before the call.

As you should know, this call is one of a number of methods every month where we can communicate. In 2016, I hosted more than a thousand face-to-face meetings throughout the 16 counties of the Pennsylvania Fifth District, and I'm continuing to do this in 2017 while, quite frankly, balancing the constitutionally-mandated Congressional session days when we are voting in Washington. The Capitol Hill schedule has been intense, with five day weeks and very few weeks back in the district. The old saying is that you've got to make hay while the sun is shining, and that's exactly what your Republican-led House is doing with President Trump.

The next 60 minutes is a great opportunity to share first-hand with you a Washington update and also hear what's on your mind. So if you'd like to ask a question, please press *3 on your telephone pad. And again, this is Congressman G.T. Thompson, I'd like to thank you for joining my telephone TeamGT town hall meeting tonight. Tonight we're reaching out to somewhere over 30,000 households throughout the Congressional district allowing you to be able to get this update, and for some, to be able to ask questions from the convenience of your living room. And as a reminder, if you'd like to ask a question, please press *3 on your telephone keypad.

03:10 Thompson Briefing (H.J.Res.38 Stream Protection Act)
You know, since January 3rd, the swearing-in on the 115th Congress, the House has passed more than 15 regulatory repeal bills under the Congressional Review Act, where they only require 51 votes in the Senate. President Trump has already signed a number of these into law. One of these laws has been the subject of much misinformation, H.J.Res.38, disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of the Interior known as the Stream Protection Rule. And that was a fraud itself in terms of what the last administration did as they were packing the White House to move out.

First of all, to do this regulation, secondly to name it, because it really had nothing to do with stream protection. This law H.J.Res. passed the House, supported by both Democrats and Republicans to repeal that regulation - that last-minute regulation, or what we call the midnight regulation by the Obama administration - by a vote of 228-194. It disapproves of the Department of Interior's Office of Surface Mining Stream Protection Rule, that was finalized on September 19, and really if allowed to stay in place, would result in the loss of over 10,000 jobs in Appalachia, including a good part of Pennsylvania.

This correction, what we're able to do is remove the vague permit requirements, the monitoring, the stream classification, and restore flexibility, allowing wildlife organizations to continue working with the coal industry to provide grassland habitats for a wide range of species, allow re-mining to continue, to be able to address the acid mine runoff that has turned and continues to turn many of our streams orange, that we're aggressively working at cleaning up. It doesn't threaten streams or the environment. It actually facilitates the way for continued cleanup. The protections under the Clean Water Act absolutely remain in place and prevent any discharge into our streams. And as the past chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee responsible for conservation forestry, and watersheds, I'm confident in a law that stands to protect our streams.

My service is not about my job, it's about your jobs and the future jobs for your children and grandchildren. My vision is one of partnership, and my commitment is to take your home-grown solutions to Washington. Again, the next 60 minutes is a great opportunity to share firsthand with you a Washington update and also to hear what's on your mind. So again, if you'd like to ask a question, please press *3 on your telephone keypad. Be sure to check out my website, You can sign up there for text alerts, certainly for the Washington Weekly Roundup, and emails, all great ways to communicate in addition to the opportunity to be able to come to the table and to be able to work on your concerns and to hear about your issues, your problems, your concerns, and most importantly your solutions.

06:10 Thompson Briefing (ACA repeal and replacement)
The breaking news this week is that the House committees with jurisdiction over healthcare are marking up a repeal and replacement bill, and the goal is to send this bill to the House for consideration and forward to the Senate by the end of the month, and all the way to the President's desk by Easter. This is a bill that does not pull the rug out from underneath anyone. It provides for a tremendous transition period. It certainly does a better job of providing individuals with pre-existing conditions an opportunity to access affordable insurance, and allows individuals age 26 and older to be able to stay on their parents' healthcare bill. It's a bit of a misnomer in Pennsylvania because the Pennsylvania law is already age 29.

It does one thing I was very, very pleased with, it essentially almost doubled the amount of money that we put into federally-qualified health centers. That is truly one of the solutions that should have built upon seven years ago, when the Affordable Care Act was passed, but it was ignored. These are great facilities who provide access to care based on a sliding scale, so it's according to what people can afford. And today, many of these federally-qualified health centers are also providing dental services. So it's timely. Unlike medical assistance which there's a waiting list and a tremendous delay, if you're able to find a physician at all that will see you because of how Medicaid only pays 40 to 60 cents for every dollar of cost, this is more timely, good primary care which quite frankly is better for health.

A nation's health policy should not be about access to health insurance. It should be about access to health and wellness for all Americans. Something that serves all Americans and hurts none. And that's not what we have today. And so I'm interested in watching this process proceed. It is a refinement process. There will be lots of amendments I'm sure in these two committees, and when it comes to the House, it'll come I'm sure under an open rule and lots of opportunities for refinement. Same way on the Senate side as well with you.

Well, again, this is Congressman GT Thompson. At this point, we're going to move on to your questions. And don't forget if you want to ask me a question, press *3 on your telephone keypad. Again, this is Congressman GT Thompson. I want to thank you for joining my telephone TeamGT town hall meeting. Again, a reminder, there's no taxpayer dollars used for this call, and this call is not meant to replace any other types of communications. It's meant to supplement it, and I know with a district that is larger than 9 states it's a great opportunity for people to get this update on a monthly basis. And I want to thank those of you, and there are many thousands, who routinely join me each month. Take some time to check out the website, and you'll be able to find links there to Facebook, and Twitter, and all that good stuff. Now let's see what's on your mind. We're going to go to the calls.

09:35 Valerie from Centre County (Voter-Representative Engagement, Single-Payer Healthcare)
THOMPSON: We got lots of great questions tonight. Let’s go to Valerie who I think is from maybe Centre County, maybe Huntington County, not sure. Valerie, are you on the line?

VALERIE: Hello Representative Thompson, thanks for taking my call.

THOMPSON: Well thanks for being on the call tonight, go ahead Ma'am.

VALERIE: I have a rather lengthy question. I wanted to ask when would you be holding a town hall meeting in State College so that I can hear, along with others, your views on why as representative of the wealthiest nation on the planet, and in the history of humans, you don’t support bills and laws that provide single payer health care, equality and public education….

THOMPSON: Hold on a second, let’s break your questions down, 'cause I'd like to respond to them now. Your initial question, the town hall. I do town halls just like I do individual meetings. All forms of communications are great and I use all those. We will do something in the Centre County area in the future, I’m confident of that because I have done that in the past, but at the same time I represent 16 counties, 24 percent of the land mass of the state. I’m hoping in April but with the schedule right now, it’s been difficult because of being in DC five days a week.. it’s just been challenging to be able to find at the beginning... To tell you the truth it was my same experience in 2009 with the new administration coming in, it's just more intense, there is an expectation because of the budget, the new administrations, no matter who the party is, we have constitutional responsibilities in DC. You have my promise that I will be doing that as I have had in the past. I do spread those around because of the size of the district, it’s just a big district, quarter of the state.

Now you asked about single payer, let me respond to that. I’m not a supporter of single payer. Some of the forms of single payer that we have today are like the VA system, which has been under tremendous scrutiny. For older adults, I support certainly Medicare, Medical Assistance. Both of those programs, just as an example, have been hard for government to sustain. And I would argue that what happened to the commercial insurance market was largely a result of how government underfunded Medicare. Medicare pays 80-90 cents for every dollar of care, Medical Assistance pays 40-60 cents for every dollar of care. And so I’m not very trusting of a totally government-run system. I do believe in competition.

VALERIE: If I could just interject regarding a single payer system. Having been a public school educator, a substitute teacher, I did not actually have health insurance for extended periods of time. To me, having health coverage is better than not being able to afford what is out there.

THOMPSON: Yeah, and having some kind of a safety net, that’s why for folks like you - and by the way, thank you for being an educator, and thank you for being willing to take on that substitute teacher role which is not easy. I’m a senior member on Education and Workforce, I have routinely been supported by all parts of, from the national PTA, to the PSEA and NEA, to the principals.

I helped to write the repeal of No Child Left Behind and the reform bill for career and technical education to bring it into the 21st century and take some of the stigma off of that. That’s my bill and it passed 405-5 out of the House last year. Unfortunately, the Senate didn't move it but I will be introducing it soon.

But folks like yourself have dedicated yourself to teaching, but it was substitute teaching so you didn’t get health insurance like most people do through your employer. Those are the types of things we need to look at. And that's why I like the idea of the refundable tax credits that you would be able to use to help you purchase on the market. I like the idea of greater competition and choices for you to pick from. In PA and across the nation, a third of our counties only have one choice today.

VALERIE: Excuse me for interrupting.

THOMPSON: Well, go ahead.

VALERIE: When you talk about tax credits, a person has to have a certain level of income in order for a tax credit to be effective, and whenever you're struggling...

THOMPSON: Not the refundable tax credits that we have today, that they’re talking about. This will be for folks who need it, who don’t have a lot, the people who are called to serve. And I would throw in the federally qualified health centers.

Valerie, I'm going to get to some other calls, I want to get to as many questions as I can. I know probably had probably had a longer list and I apologize. But I did want to touch on the town hall question, the education question, and the health care question, and I really do appreciate your being on the call tonight.

VALERIE: Well I certainly appreciate your taking the call and it sounds like we'll look forward to having a town hall scheduled with you sometime this April.

THOMPSON: Yeah, I'm hoping we'll be able to do that in the Centre region in April. I just hope that folks aren’t frustrated that we don’t get to everybody’s questions that night as well. Valery, thank you very much.

15:45 Teresa from Centre County (Voter-Representative Engagement, Single-Payer Healthcare)
THOMPSON: We're going to go back to the calls and we're going to check in... let's check in with, I think, is it Teresa from Centre County?


THOMPSON: Teresa, how are you, good evening.

TERESA: Good evening, thank you for taking my call. I have two questions, both of which are similar to Valerie. I also would like to know when you'll be able to schedule a town hall in this Centre region. You might be aware that...

THOMPSON: I already addressed that, let's not... because of the nature of our time tonight, even if we were on ...

TERESA: Sure, I don't want to waste your time. I just want to reiterate there were close to 400 people at that event. It would behoove you to be able to really have people be able to hear you.

THOMPSON: I want to thank the people who had tremendous concerns who took the opportunity to schedule meetings to sit down with me yesterday. I had a series of meetings all day long. I do that everyday when I’m back in the district. I gotta tell you, I don't always do it in Centre County though, I represent 16 counties. I've got a great reputation for communication, for being accessible, but go ahead.

TERESA: My point is that on a day like that you could have really met a whole lot of other people, if you do a town hall. But anyway, my question was also related to ACA. I want to know your stand on maintaining Medicaid Expansion. My understanding is that we could lose close to 50,000 people, could lose insurance just in your district.

THOMPSON: Let me address that, let me answer the question. First of all let me say that some folks have belittled these tele-town hall meetings, I've got thousands of people that would disagree with those who would do that. Quite frankly, there are over 30,000 households that heard your question tonight. I'm hard pressed to replicate that anywhere in any other forum. So please don’t underestimate the value of these monthly, reliable tele-towns.

In terms of Medicaid Expansion I actually met with the Governor last week and sat down with him at breakfast. I have concerns with Medicaid as the mechanism. You have to understand my background - I was a healthcare professional for 28 years before I ran for Congress.

TERESA: I'm a psychologist, so I'm a healthcare professional too.

THOMPSON: You know what, I have psychologists working for me as a rehab services manager, as a licensed nursing home administrator, and I dealt with reimbursement issues. And I dealt with people who had Medical Assistance back then before we increased the size of the enrollment. And because of the differential of all Medical Assistance pays, there can be significant waiting lists, there are delays in care.

There's a study that was put out - and I apologize, it's a very credible study and I did write an article about it, I think it's on my campaign web site that cited this research - that showed that if you’re on Medical Assistance and you have one of five diagnoses, you were more likely to die sooner. Because of being on Medical Assistance, because of the delays. If physicians treated just Medical Assistance without any other income, they lose 40-60 cents for every dollar of cost...

TERESA: Can I interrupt for just a second? I apologize.

THOMPSON: ...Most health care professionals including myself who treated patients with medical assistance, are dedicated to seeing that care provided. I just don’t think the expansion of Medicaid is the best way.

Let me say what the proposal (is) that was put out there today, and it’s going to go through a refinement process. There’s a lengthy transition and a full funding for the Medicaid Expansion but it doesn’t go on forever. By 2020, I think, there's going to be an expectation that the states are going to have the ability to make some decisions to restore the maintenance of effort, or they figure out ways on how they help folks. I think that works because most people are on Medicaid for a short period of time where they're experiencing some type of financial hardship. Now there are some people that are long term, there's no doubt about it, there's a lot of folks in nursing homes.

TERESA: So, when you talked with Governor Wolf, this whole thing about people being likely to die and all that. What I’m talking about 50,000 people being kicked off of Medicaid and Medicaid Expansion. When you do block grants, is that what you are advocating, is a block grant?

THOMPSON: No, no Ma'am, no Ma'am...

TERESA: Did Governor Wolf agree with...

THOMPSON: ...I encourage you to check out the plan. This expansion is going to be fully funded but not forever. The expansion will be discontinued at some point but pretty much the majority of people who are on it right now are going to be served. The proposal does not pull the rug out from underneath anyone.

My philosophy for a nation's healthcare, which was not honored and respected when the Affordable Care Act was written, is that we should be talking about access to healthcare, not access to health insurance, and it should be health care that serves for the health and well being of all Americans and hurts none. And that’s not what we have today.

I do appreciate your call, we're going to get on to some other callers because I want to try to get as many in this evening as possible but thank you, thank you so much for taking the time. It was a great question and thank you for your work as a licensed psychologist.

TERESA: Thank you.

THOMPSON: Alright, take care.

21:50 Amber from Centre County (Education, Nutrition)
THOMPSON: Alright, we’re going to go back to the phones and, I apologize I’m kind of concentrating heavily in Centre County to start with, I promise we’ll get around to some other counties. But I want to check in with Amber from Centre as well. Amber, are you on the line?

AMBER: Yes, this is Amber.

THOMPSON: Good evening.

AMBER: Good evening, it’s nice to talk to you again. I was at that alternative tele town hall a couple weeks ago for you when you weren’t able to do one. But I am looking forward to seeing you again in person and having, you know, being able to ask more questions.

THOMPSON: Yes, I would just wish whoever the organizers were need to be very careful. You can’t misrepresent, use a congressional identity to support an event, I mean that’s… My blind eye, I’ll turn a blind eye, not a big deal. But the fact is, I was doing my constitutional responsibilities at the time, as opposed to, you know, of working, of waiting until I’m able to set something up that works with the schedule that I have.

And so, with that said, that’s behind us, go ahead, you had a question.

AMBER: Yeah, this is the question I asked there. One of your colleagues in congress, Steve White from Iowa made a proposal that’s called H.R. 610, and it would repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, and the amendments to it since then. It also addresses the No Hungry Kids Act, which probably would reduce some of the requirements nutritionally, but I’m just concerned because I know that the…

THOMPSON: Let me just say, I would be concerned too if that got any legs. Now I don’t think it’s White, I think you are probably talking about Steve King? From Iowa?

AMBER: Yes, you’re right, Steve King from Iowa.

THOMPSON: Yeah, I would be very concerned if any of those. There are over, Amber, five, six thousand bills that get introduced every year, and some of them never see the light of day. And this is one that’s not going to see the light of day.

You know, I’ve described to you the support that I have earned from everyone, from parents to members of the teachers union to just across the board in terms of my leadership on education. I hope to author the bill that renews, that re-authorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education, I was at the White House when the President signed that a year ago December.

And I’m very proud of what we did in terms of putting kids first again, of eliminating the mandate for common core, for empowering states in school districts and parents, what we did to take the pressure off the Federal requirement for standardized testing so we can allow our teachers to teach. As opposed to teaching to the test, to be able to have these schools score well which had nothing to do with the ultimate educational success of our kids. And so, no, I do not support that.

And in terms of the nutrition, I don’t know if you are aware, Amber, in addition to being the full vice chair for the Agriculture Committee, and agriculture is our number one industry in Pennsylvania, I am the sub-committee chair for the Nutrition Committee. And so my responsibilities, and we’ve been doing a great job of it, is making sure that ... which is support for our food banks and supplemental nutritional system, which is temporary assistance for those folks who find themselves where they need, after they’ve exhausted personal resources and family support and community programs that, you know SNAP is there to serve their need.

And then I’m also obviously - and that’s all in the Agriculture Committee, I’m on the Education and Workforce Committee and I have served on the Nutrition Subcommittee there is actually looking at the Federal School Lunch Program. And we’ve got some problems right now with some of the stringent standards that are there. I’ve always said that it doesn’t matter what we serve, if kids won’t eat it, it’s not nutritional. And we have a tremendous amount of waste right now that I’ve seen, and kids that are choosing not to purchase school meals.

And it’s important. I actually have one school in the district that is so rural and the level of living - it’s over up in northern McKean county near the New York border - that school district actually feeds their children dinner before they send them home. And so just know, that’s where I’m at on those issues. And those are great questions, and I appreciate the fact that you were on the call and asked those tonight.

AMBER: Well thank you for talking to me, I appreciate knowing. You know, sometimes you see the roll call of the votes and it doesn’t tell the whole story. There’s always a lot of nuance in everything and it’s hard to keep track of, when you are just a citizen.

THOMPSON: I know, and if you’ve got a question call my office. And I will do a group meeting, but I can tell you if get a hundred people in a town hall - I do those, different places - depending on who’s asking the question, how long the question goes, I’m lucky to get through at the most maybe 10, 15 questions and so, I like using all strategies. The most effective though, Amber, anytime you want to just sit down and talk, I’d love to be able to do that, to learn from your perspective. Hey, take care, thanks for being on the call tonight.

AMBER: Thank you, good bye.

27:44 Poll on Immigration
THOMPSON: Again this is Congressman GT Thompson and I want to thank you for joining my tele-townhall call tonight. I know the president in his joint address of Congress made a statement about supporting merit based immigration policy. Let me define that for you. It’s important for a nation to have an immigration policy, let me say that up front. A merit based immigration policy would be based on two principles: a nation’s national security and a nation’s national economy, essentially workforce. If we’ve done the job that we should do with our own citizens in providing them access to training and education - that why I co-chair the leader in the nation for career and technical education training - if we have done that and exhausted everything we can to have able bodied adults enter into the workforce in this country, we still have economic needs, workforce needs.

And so my question is whether you support a merit-based immigration policy that is based on the nation’s national security and national economy? It’s a poll question: push one for yes, two for no and three for uncertain. So you do that and I'll report back. We’ll go back to the phones.

29:31 Charles from Jefferson County (Social Security COLA, Pharmaceutical Costs)
We're going out to Jefferson County, we're going to mix it up here a little bit, and check in with Charles, I think. Charles, are you on the line?


THOMPSON: Evening, sir, how's the weather in Jefferson County?

CHARLES: Well, it's rainy today.

THOMPSON: Yeah, seems to be raining everywhere.

CHARLES: Might be like that all over.

THOMPSON: It was raining when I left Howard this morning, I can tell you that, and it's raining in Washington so it's pretty well spread out.

CHARLES: I didn't pay attention to the rain gauge, I didn't have it out, it froze last time. But there was a lot of water in the crick, it was running down the ditches.

My concern here since I'm a senior anymore and retired, this health benefitting stuff, with the Medicare. My wife has diabetes and she, well, matter of fact she's been all day on the phone trying to get some help with her insulin.

I worked for the phone company 37 years. People said how much money I have, I said I worked for the phone company, I didn't own it. And our retirement's not the greatest, and our healthcare, every quarter I pay 500 dollars and... (line dropout) ...for the New Era is the supplement, and there's a prescription plan, another 130 dollars and it just... Social security didn't do anything this year, but my rates out of the New Era went up 50, well yeah about 50 dollars each year it goes.

THOMPSON: So your costs are going up, but you didn't get a raise, Social Security was... There might have been, I guess that was last year, there was a minimal cost of living raise, but that's been the first. Last year was the first and it didn't happen again this year, and many years. Yeah, and Charles, you really, you got a couple things there that I want to unpack and talk about.

First of all, I think the formula that the Federal Government uses for determining increases for Social Security is flawed. It's supposed to reflect the cost of living, but as you very, in an articulate way you laid out, all the types of things, your medications and different things, maybe your property tax too, who knows, different things that aren't taken into consideration that have gone up in costs.

CHARLES: Food and everything.

THOMPSON: Food and everything, yeah when gas costs go up, transportation costs of food drive that up. I would support, we need to take a hard look at the formula that's used for determining that COLA or that cost of living adjustment for folks on social security. Social security doesn't pay really that well to start with, and the fact that you fall further behind is just absolutely wrong.

Now you also, I want to address another thing. I was pleased to hear the President say, 'cause we haven't had a president of either party that's had the courage to kind of tackle the issue of the cost of drugs, medications, pharmaceutical costs. You know what, I don't know what he has in mind, quite honestly, I don't have that information.

But he's got my support, yeah. I mean, I want to work with him on that because, especially I spend a lot of time visiting our community pharmacists, and they're just taken advantage of. Government controls how much they can charge, but the suppliers where they buy those drugs from, there's no rhyme or reason, but in a given week some generic may increase 300%, their cost. We need to look at that, and thoroughly review that, to try to get some of the pharmaceutical costs in line.

Now I understand and I appreciate the fact that it costs money to do research and development, and in fact I am a co-sponsor of a plan, I have been for some time, on orphan diseases, rare diseases. Where so few people have these diseases if a pharmaceutical company did develop the cures or medications, there isn't enough people buying that medication to pay them back, and so they're reluctant to even pursue that.

And so there is some things that we can do, and I have been supportive of, you know helping them to fast track some other things where they may make a profit if they're willing to help with those medications for rare and orphan diseases. So those are some of the creative things actually I've been leading with.

We're going to go back to the phones here, but Charles thank you so much for the call, be well.

CHARLES: I'll try my best, thank you.

34:30 Results on Immigration Poll
THOMPSON: Alright, thank you. Again this is Congressman GT Thompson. We have a report in here, do you support a merit-based immigration policy that is based on the nation’s security and economics, in other words our workforce needs?

Of those who were on the call tonight, and we had a lot, over 30,000 households this evening that we’ve reached out to. 61 percent said yes, 13 percent said no, and 26 percent were uncertain. I appreciate that, that gives me at least some idea, at this moment in time on that question, how you feel.

35:01 Brad from Centre County (Trump's Travel Ban)
THOMPSON: We are going to go back to Centre County and pick up a call from Brad. Brad, are you on the line?

BRAD: Yes, I'm here.

THOMPSON: Good evening.

BRAD: Hi, thank you for taking my call. So, what I'm interested in hearing a little bit more about is your opinion on Trump's travel ban. And this is an issue that impacts a lot of us in the higher education field because in many cases we recruit top notch students from some of those countries who are on the travel ban, such as Iran.

And those countries, despite the fact that they are on the ban, there is no actual evidence that people from those countries have an increased rate of committing acts of terror. And in fact a recent Department of Homeland Security report suggested that country of origin is really a terrible predictor of whether someone is going to do something when they get into this country, along those lines. So I was wondering what your opinion is about that, about that action.

THOMPSON: Yeah, great question, very timely question given the re-issuing, of the President re-issuing. First of all, I think it is the most poorly named Executive Order that you could ever have. I would call it pumping the brakes, to tell you the truth. Now I know it's an issue and it's a problem for higher education. I had a great discussion with the chancellor of Penn State Behrend who was just relating to me, you know I spend a lot of time at Penn State, obviously. I apologize to all the Pitt fans on the call but I do bleed blue and white as a Penn State grad and growing up in the shadow of the Nittany lion in Centre County.

And I know this is an issue, but I will tell you that in the United States we have not had a problem yet with our refugee program, as of yet. But what we have seen and what we are trying to avoid is what the European Union has encountered. And the European Union has significantly experienced, and one of my leadership positions is, I'm co-chair of the German-American caucus, so I spend time with members of the administration, with members of the German Bundestag, and it's fascinating. They've had no immigration policy there, but they are fastly moving in a direction of being even more restrictive.

What the President had proposed - poorly named, poorly articulated - really is about pumping the brakes. It's looking at the six nations for a period of time to be able to figure out how do we vet folks to prevent what is happening in the European Union, where there have been individuals, documented cases, where members of Isis have utilized - and they brag about this - they utilize the refugee program.

They know that, you know, the refugee program of choice right now appears to be Syria, and so they claim that they're Syrians. And in Syria because of the war and the chaos and the terrible things that have happened, there's no real government infrastructure to be able - like we have a Department of State that we can go to, and we have birth certificates, and we have passports, and by and large those are all pretty legitimate.

The six countries we're talking about, and this is certainly not, and never has been, a Muslim ban. There are more than 50 countries in the world that have a Muslim majority. These happen to be the six countries that just, the state of their infrastructure is such that we know that they've been, those programs have been manipulated in Europe and different places. And we're trying to prevent that, we want to be able to improve the vetting process.

I think we have an obligation, not just to the families that are living in this country today, I think we have an obligation to families of the people who will come here next as refugees, or come here through illegal immigration process, or who will come here on a legal education visa, or a legal work visa. We have an obligation to make sure that we're not doing things that would allow us to import terrorism. Especially people coming from those countries are coming to escape that violence, that war, that chaos, that poverty that results.

And so I do support temporarily pumping the brakes, to make sure that we get this right. And I was pleased that there was a clarification too, that anyone who currently has a visa, anyone who's, that was a disaster when that was rolled out the first time, that was done as poorly as what I've seen anything done. But when this was re-issued all those bases were covered, so that it wouldn't impede those folks. And they did take, actually on close scrutiny they did take Iraq off of that list, so it's just 6 not 7 countries.

BRAD: Well, that's true and I appreciate your clarifying your position on this. But I disagree quite strongly with some of your assertions that these countries are necessarily the particular source of what we might be concerned about. Those countries, there's frankly almost no evidence that those countries in particular are the cause of stuff that you mention you are worried about.

THOMPSON: Well, you mentioned students and we have some very bright students from Iran that are registered at Penn State and obviously at different universities, but I think it is pretty common knowledge that Iran is the largest exporter of terrorism among countries. I'm sitting here with an American hero and I'm looking at him and a buddy of his that's with him, and my intel told me that when my son was wounded in 2007, that the IED that did that was manufactured in Iran. And in fact when this tele-town meeting, this meeting was hosted in my name, at the time right around there I was spending time with the parents of Logan’s staff sergeant that time who lost his life as a result of that improvised explosive device that was manufactured in Iran.

But again, it's pumping the brakes, it's temporary. You know what, I just want to get it right, that's all. Hey, I want to thank you for your call tonight. I'm going to try to pick up a few more calls this evening but Brad, thank you so much for being on the call and asking a tough question.

BRAD: Well, thank you for giving us your time.

THOMPSON: Alright, take care.

41:08 Jim (Gainful Employment Regulation)
THOMPSON: Speaking of education, we're going to reach out and check in with someone who does a lot for education in the 5th District from a technical perspective. And I think, I don't know if this is Rudy, Rudy are you on the line?

JIM: It's Daddy Jim.

THOMPSON: Oh, this is Dad Jim. Jim, how are you?

JIM: Hi GT, how are you?

THOMPSON: I'm good. Jim, just for those callers that are on and are listeners listening in, Jim has a great company and it's in different parts in Pennsylvania. But I am really proud of the work they do all over the place but especially up in Clearfield County, in terms of being a provider of technical education, Triangle Tech. Jim, thanks for being on the call and go ahead, what's your question?

JIM: I'm just curious to see if you have any idea what the prospects are revising some of those daunting regs against, in the gainful employment, that the department has.

THOMPSON: Well, the Department of Education issued yesterday, basically, a memo so it's a timely question. Obviously compliant state with gainful employment, which means looking at are people actually employed in, for those other listeners on the call, are you gainfully employed as a result of your education. And if you're not, there was a push by the administration to punish the educational institutions. And knowing there was a whole lot of variables out there to that.

And so, originally compliance was this Friday, that's been pushed to July 1st. This will be addressed, I think in the Higher Education Act which I'm helping to write. Whether, I mean it could so either way. Number one, there could be a, this will go away totally, or it will be imposed upon absolutely all public and private, for-profit, not for-profit, educational institutions. So it would be a level playing field. I don't know at which point this goes at this point, but I was very pleased the administration at least delayed implementation until July 1st.

JIM: Yeah, that's earnings, the median earnings, so that's good, July the first. Although my deadline was probably the 28th, submitted on our Carpenters program and we did and that was successful. But the other schools got the benefit of the extension, so that's good.

I'm glad to hear you say that one of the options would be that, you know, I guess misery loves company. If it's just the proprietary sector in a school, the trade business schools, they'd have to jump through the hoops, then I think it should be the universe of higher education.

THOMPSON: Yeah, there's a lot of folks that I have met that have completed some four year degrees, or six year degrees, and were not successful entering the job market. Some of them, actually, went back to a career in tech ed, got a certificate, and that's where they're earning a really good living at this point. So you're right.

I don't know which way that's going to go. I do know I'm very much involved with the Higher Education Act. In fact about a month ago I did something I thought I would never do, I went to Ohio State, enemy territory as a Penn Stater. I was out there at the invitation of our student leaders, undergraduate leaders at Penn State, and I was out there and spoke to address the Big 10 undergraduate student government leaders. And I talked about the Higher Education Act, the different chapters and titles, and what we're looking at.

But just know that gainful employment, at this point we're intending to address that within that re-authorization this year.

JIM: Yeah, it's a killer, it's a killer, but if there's going to be regulations fine, but they threw the baby out with the bathwater when they started on the public companies, you know the ITTs and the University of Phoenix and all that. It just trickled down to the mom and pop schools across the country, not just Pennsylvania. But anyway, I'm glad to see you're on top of it, you're apprised of it, and any relief we can get would be greatly appreciated, GT.

THOMPSON: Alright Jim, you take care, have a good evening and thanks for being on the call. Again this is Congressman GT Thompson. Let me ask you another poll question, if I could, and then we'll go back to the phones. I started late so we're going to finish late, I apologize for that to both the wonderful folks at Front Porch, and all the call screeners tonight who are helping me out, Mike and Cheryl and Kelly, thank you so much for your volunteer time, appreciated.

46:36 Poll on Infrastructure Investment
THOMPSON: A question that I have tonight, do you support President Trump’s infrastructure investment plan, that would be the first major construction initiative since the Eisenhower interstate program? Press one for yes, two for no, and three for uncertain. Again, do you support the President’s infrastructure investment plan, which would be the first major construction investment initiative since the Eisenhower interstate program? Press one for yes, two for no, and three for uncertain.

47:08 Kathleen from Centre County (Climate Change)
THOMPSON: Let's go back to the calls and see if we can get a couple more calls in here, and we're going to check in with Kathleen from Centre County. Kathleen are you on the line? Good evening, Kathleen. Hello?


THOMPSON: Hi, how are you. Thanks for being on the call tonight.

KATHLEEN: Yeah, thanks for taking my call. I'm just a little concerned about the environment we have... (line dropout) pro-science that a head of our EPA, Scott Pruitt, doesn't really believe in the EPA nor climate change. Pennsylvania's climate, I mean there's evidence that the climate in Pennsylvania has changed dramatically. How are you going to support the reduction of greenhouse gases and ... (line dropout) ...and climate change. I'm curious to hear your opinion on that.

THOMPSON: Yeah, sure. Let me address that. First of all, my credentials on supporting science are pretty firm. I'm real proud of, you may know, the Penn State vice-president for research, Dr. Neil Sharkey. And Dr. Sharkey wrote a wonderful op-ed offering his support for me. Now this was about a year, a year and a half ago. I may actually have that on my website someplace, I was pretty proud of that, about how I stood up for the funding of science. Not just applied science but basic science. It's extremely important, that's where innovations come from. And so my credentials, for those who are truly taking the time to find out the facts, are very strong.

I've also been serving for six years as the leader for, really one of the leaders for clean air and clean water.

KATHLEEN: You have that history, but what are you going to do in the future? There's a problem with the new administration not believing in climate change, so what are you going to do about this?

THOMPSON: Let me get to that. Hey, gimme an opportunity here, you questioned my credentials and whether I was anti...

KATHLEEN: I want to know your plan of action in the future.

THOMPSON: And you'll get that, hold on here.

KATHLEEN: OK, thank you.

THOMPSON: You kind of alluded that I was anti-science and so I don't want to let that pass. Give me the opportunity to share the facts.

You know, my work in terms of climate, I have been responsible for the largest carbon sinks in the world, for the past six years. And that was when I was chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry. Because the largest carbon sinks in the world to take carbon out of the air, if you are concerned with climate change, are good healthy forests.

In fact we can take carbon and we make it into topsoil, where we can grow food. And I will continue to work on that. I'm no longer the chairman of that subcommittee, as I said I now chair the Nutrition Subcommittee, you can only have one chairmanship. Which is a hot item and important right now, and I'm honored to be chairing, be trusted with the nutrition questions.

But I am a senior member on Conservation and Forestry and so I will continue. I'm actually one of the authors of what's called the... oh now I'm going to forget the acronym. But it's a piece of legislation that we've introduced that essentially, really, increases investment especially in Pennsylvania, because you said about Pennsylvania, in recovery of our streams from the damages of back when mining was done in a way where we didn't have the technology. And we still have streams even in Centre County that run orange.

KATHLEEN: (line dropoff) ...runoff EPA… (line dropoff)

THOMPSON: Well, first of all, the Waters of the US was a private property taking and what they misappropriately named as a stream buffer rule is just about killing coal miner jobs and keeping us from re-mining, which is how we clean up those streams.

Now in terms of the EPA director that you had mentioned, this is a guy who when he challenged the EPA when he was Attorney General, from what I know of, and I didn't get a vote in terms of confirmation, constitutionally that's the Senate, not the House. But Mr. Pruitt, now Secretary Pruitt of the EPA, I mean his beef he had with the EPA at the time was the fact that they were stepping on state rights. There were things, especially under the clean water act, that are clearly...

KATHLEEN: The EPA is in a hiring freeze right now.

THOMPSON: Well, every administration does that when they come in, and so there is a hiring freeze.

KATHLEEN: The EPA is not allowed to talk about science, there's a huge communication gap right now. You're not allowing...

THOMPSON: Well, I appreciate for the past eight years I've had an agency that would tell me what the science was, and that's what I've challenged agencies to do.

KATHLEEN: Well, they're not allowed to do that right now.

THOMPSON: I'm looking forward to serving as part of the checks and balances. I believe in the constitutional republic we live in. I was sent to Washington on behalf of the folks, working on behalf of the folks who sent me to Washington, to part of that checks and balances, to both the executive branch and the judicial branch, and so I take that responsibility pretty seriously.

So Kathleen, I've got to jump off here and grab one more call before the evening is done.

KATHLEEN: Well thank you for... (line drop)

THOMPSON: Thank you for being on the call and your questions, and your passion, very much appreciated.

KATHLEEN: OK, go science!

THOMPSON: Go science, you got it. Again, one of the things I've talked about, talking to the Big 10 student government, the other thing I was able to do at the invitation of the Dean of Geosciences. I was invited in, it was kind of cool actually, I came in on a weekend and we sat down and had a box lunch and I talked with the Deans from all of the Big 10 schools. I think there's 13 of them which is really strange since we're the Big 10.

But it was kind of cool because I was able to talk with them on how to advocate for science. How to not step into pitfalls and land mines when you're working with your public officials. And I appreciated the invitation to do that and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity, although I did feel like I needed to put on a helmet and shoulder pads as I was going down the room shaking hands with all of these different Universities that I'm used to seeing at Beaver Stadium on that one Saturday a year when I'm able to get a time to go to a football game.

54:03 Results of Infrastructure Investment Poll
Hey, I'm going to go back to that poll question, do you support the President's infrastructure investment plan, to be the first major construction investment initiative since the Eisenhower interstate program? 72% on the call said yes, 6% said no, and 22% were uncertain. So I want to thank you for that, and I'm looking at my notes here and I do apologize we are at the end of our actual 60 minutes that we have here this evening.

This is a transcription of the 3/8/2017 Telephone Town Hall hosted by Congressman Glenn Thompson, PA CD-05. The text has been lightly edited for clarity. The transcribers were Travis Mitchell, Vicki Fong and Marc Friedenburg. Please e-mail with any corrections.

Topic SearchWords: AnsweredThompson, 2017, StreamProtectionRule, CoalMining , HJRes38, ACARepeal, AffordableCareAct, CivicEngagement, RepresentativeEngagement, HealthCare, SinglePayer, MedicaidExpansion, SocialSecurityCOLA, PharmaceuticalCosts, TrumpTravelBan, GainfulEmploymentRegulations, ClimateChange
District Keywords: CD05, Pennsylvania Congressional District 5, GlennThompson

To Contact Congressman Glenn Thompson:
Office website:
Twitter: @CongressmanGT

Edits: added internal links (3/23/17)