Utah Fourth District Congresswoman Mia Love discusses policy and philosophy with constituents during “open office hours,” Rep. Love’s answer to the standard town-hall meeting, on Thursday, Aug. 3, at Mt. Pleasant City Hall.

 

Voters discuss health care, immigration, Trump with Rep. Love

 

John Hales

Staff writer

8-10-2017

 

MT. PLEASANT—Health care, immigration, congressional dysfunction and President Donald Trump were all dominant themes during a visit Utah 4th District Rep. Mia Love held with Sanpete constituents last week in Mt. Pleasant.

Several of Sanpete’s usual political issues—water, public lands, PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) and constitutional integrity—consumed much of the discussion during small-group sessions between Love and constituents on Thursday, Aug. 3.
Before those meetings, Rep. Love answered questions from the Messenger about the Narrows project and President Trump.

“I’m not even focused on the White House,” Love said when the Messenger inquired whether she thought the President was hindering work in Washington.

If the President is creating more problems than are being solved, she said, it’s because the power of the Executive Branch generally has grown too great. She made sure she singled out President Barack Obama by name while also implying Trump had a role.

“The best thing we can do is create and restore a balance of power,” she said. “We want to restore power back to the people.”

What that means, she said, is reigning in executive power, limiting it strictly to Article 2 of the Constitution while restoring to Congress the full vitality it should have under Article 1—especially the House of Representatives with its power of the purse and as the legislative body closest to “the people.”

That theme was the topic that several 15 to 20-minute group meetings. with no more than a handful of people at a time, had in common.

The format was a departure from the town hall-style meetings members of Congress often hold with constituents; Love called the small-group discussions “open office hours.”

Smaller discussion groups are less prone to eruptions of the sort lawmakers have encountered during traditional town-hall meetings, such as one several months ago called by former 3rd District Rep. Jason Chaffetz. A cadre of police officers was required to maintain order at the gathering.

Love got several questions and comments about health care, which was to be expected since the so-called “Skinny Bill” had been defeated the Senate the week before.

But it wasn’t Sen. John McCain, who cast the deciding vote against the bill, who got thumbs down from Sanpete constituents—or from Love.

The reason the Senate had to go to the Skinny Bill was that a previous bill couldn’t muster enough votes and, while some senators thought it went too far, others thought it didn’t go far enough. Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee was one of the latter, and his refusal to vote to allow debate on the bill led to the Skinny-Bill replacement, which was defeated.

“The fact that they wouldn’t even take the comprehensive bill and debate it on the Senate floor was disheartening to me,” Love said in answer to concerns from Sanpete County Commissioner Scott Bartholomew.

“We’ve given Senator Lee’s people a hard time about that,” Bartholomew replied.

Love pointed out that she didn’t “mention any names,” but her displeasure with Lee was apparent, along with discouragement with the Senate in general.

On a couple of occasions, Love fielded questions about the lack of results in Washington.

“You guys are controlling now, the Republicans, and nothing’s getting done,” Commissioner Bartholomew decried.

“I’m not going to make any excuses,” Love said, and then blamed the Senate for failing to act on 230 pieces of legislation that the House had passed but were sitting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk.

Only one constituent seemed to be at odds with the congresswoman. Again, the topic was health care.

The constituent was not a Republican, he said. He was studying to work in the medical profession—and was despondent about the state of the health-care debate

“As a medical student,” he said, “I’m putting all my chips into health care, and I’m almost regretting it every day.”

The man wanted to know what could be done to salvage the ACA.

The previous week, the health-insurance carrier Molina pulled out of Utah, as Humana did last year, leaving 70,000 customers having to find new insurance options.

Love noted the loss, and said of the ACA, “It’s going south, it’s going south.”

She said she isn’t an automatic ‘yes’ for replacing the ACA. “Replacement—what does that look like? If it’s government dictating everything … no. But if replacement means we’re going to be adding more free-market opportunities … I’m for that absolutely.”

On immigration, Love was asked about and responded to questions that implicated south-of-the-border immigrants as well as refugees from Muslim countries.

Concerns over border security should be less about “border” and more about “security,” she said. “Immigration is something that has been really politicized; the ‘wall’ has been…more about racism instead of actual security.”

One constituent was concerned about what he saw as a rise in the possibility of Sharia law in the United States,

“The behavior of some Muslims demonstrates that the values of some Muslims are not compatible with the Constitution,” he said.

The man also inquired about a government agency that he felt was enabling, rather than preventing, terrorism by working with and providing services to the Muslim-refugee community, and perhaps even funneling money to Islamic extremists.

Love took her constituent’s point.

As a member of the House Financial Services Committee, Love sits on the newly created Terrorism and Illicit Finance Subcommittee.

If the government was indeed contributing to or enabling—wittingly or no—Islamic extremism, “This is a great place to find it,” she said. “In Terrorism and Illicit Financing, it would be really interesting to see if the government agencies are doing things that are the exact opposite of what they’re supposed to do.”

Even though Love had said at the outset she wasn’t focused on the White House, several constituents gave Trump-related questions or comments.

Several of them asked questions such as, “I want to know why representatives are sitting there fighting amongst themselves and not backing the President,” or were concerned about the number of staff shake-ups in the administration and wondered if such things were distracting to Love and other Congress members.

“He can hire and fire who he wants to,” Love said. “Although, I wish there was more stability there.”

Again, she suggested the solution was to restore the Constitutionally-intended separation and balance of powers. “It’s hard to do my job because I feel that the Constitution isn’t being practiced the way it was meant to be practiced.”

While willing to give the president a chance, she indicated, she is neither a rubber-stamp nor a cheerleader for him.

“My job is to praise the president when he does something great, and call him out when he doesn’t,” she said, adding later, “The office of the president should be done where there’s some decorum and respect, and a way of understanding that the person who holds the office is representing everyone… It is frustrating because I think it’s distracting from a lot of what should be going on. There’s so much more that has to be done.”