U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman held a town hall session on Sunday night in Beaver Dam and heard concerns from local residents ranging from the fate of the “Dreamers” to the current shape of the Republican Party.
Grothman, a Republican from Glenbeulah who served in the state Legislature before being elected to the House in 2014 to serve Wisconsin’s Sixth District, had more than 30 people at the town hall that was held in the Watermark Community Center and started out with a Washington update.
“This is my second term,” Grothman said. “We will be going back next week.”
Grothman briefly went over issues facing the three committees he works on — education/workforce, budget and government oversight.
“The budget is the most important thing we do every year and really the press hasn’t covered it,” Grothman said. “I’m not really sure why the press hasn’t covered it. Maybe it has to do with North Korea, maybe the press likes to focus on the tweets Donald Trump has or focus on Obamacare.”
Currently, the federal government borrows 14 percent of the budget, contributing to a national debt that is nearing $20 trillion.
“I feel like Congress is not approaching that concern serious enough,” Grothman said.
He said he has fought against increase in spending in the budget for the military.
“We have a substantial increase in spending over last year,” Grothman said. “Something I am not thrilled about and what you wouldn’t expect the Republicans to do. We already took a separate vote on the military part of budget. I introduced an amendment.”
There was a mild cut in military spending, and Grothman said he voted for it.
The best thing the education/workforce committee did was to encourage states to spend more money on technical education, Grothman said.
“Wisconsin is the second-highest in workforce in the country, but so many of the factories can’t find workers they need,” Grothman said.
The government oversight committee was very active earlier in the year.
Sheena Black asked the congressman about the increase in the cost of pharmaceuticals.
“Especially the cost of the EpiPen and most recently a cancer drug,” Black said. “There is such an anti-regulatory atmosphere right now.”
Grothman said that they brought in the CEO of the company who increased the cost of the EpiPen, an epinephrine auto-injector intended to prevent anaphylactic shock as a result of sudden allergic reactions.
“We were able to embarrass her to back down at a degree,” Grothman said, adding that he does not accept campaign donations from the pharmaceutical industry.
“So your position is the only thing Congress can do is embarrass these CEOs,” Black said.
Grothman said he believed they would try to work on something when they get back in session.
Margaret Heider asked about the possibility of deporting millions of young immigrants who were brought illegally to the United States when they were children, but have grown up in this country.
“I don’t know if he wants to deport millions,” Grothman said, referring to the president, who announced earlier this month that he was ending the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program enacted by President Barack Obama. “He wants Congress to work on something. What exactly Donald Trump wants, I don’t know. In regard of immigration laws in this country, there is some inappropriate thinking. Our goal should be that every immigrant to our country should be an asset to our country.”
Angie Kirst asked about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill when Grothman was on that topic. The bill recently introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., and others is Republicans’ latest effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.
“If the details include not including pre-existing conditions and ending Medicaid expansions and eliminating subsidies of private insurance and eliminating the mandates that will help pay, do you agree with all of those positions?,” Kirst said.
Grothman said he does not like the idea of a mandate.
“As I understand it, that bill would give a lot more flexibility to the states,” Grothman said. “And the idea of giving flexibility to the states is a good thing.”
“I wonder if the Republican Party is a party anymore,” Gordon Port said. “You see division amongst Republican assemblymen. You see division among the Republican senators. You see they are almost as disrespectful and disruptive as the president and the Democrats are.”
Grothman was unsure of what Port was getting at.
“We are a diverse party of different opinions,” Grothman said. “I think we are a very strong party right now.”
Anne Ambrosius asked about what Grothman felt about a state proposal to allow people with a four-year degree to take an online course to obtain a teaching certification, in lieu of a specified classroom program.
“In general, I favor more flexibility,” Grothman said. “I think it is something that should be based on a case-to-case basis.”
Wendy Meier expressed concern about the health of the environment in Wisconsin.
“If we don’t have any federal respect for the environment and any kind of rules and regulation, I think it is important for people to realize rules and regulations are healthy,” Meier said.
Grothman said he believed that local controls are better for the DNR.
“If you don’t have clean water and habitat and food to eat, none of this matters,” Meier said.
Grothman said that things are dramatically better than they were 30 years ago environmentally.