Editor’s note: This is the third in our series reporting on Rep. Leonard Lance’s Town Hall, which he held Wednesday evening at Raritan Valley Community College. The first installment reported on the protestors outside of the Town Hall, and Lance’s responses to questions about the Affordable Care Act and funding Planned Parenthood. The second installment covered the issues of Russia, possible impeachment and the environment.
BRANCHBURG, NJ – The crowd at Lance’s Town hall gathering at RVCC this week asked questions on a broad array of topics with implications internationally, nationally and locally. Questioners were selected by lottery and Lance stated that he had not seen any of the questions in advance of the program.
One questioner asked if Lance would sign a bill that would allocate funds for Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, regardless of who might reimburse the cost later.
“I have toured the southern border. I’ve been south of San Diego, south of Tucson Arizona ... and the Rio Grande Valley,” Lance answered.
“I do not believe it is necessary to have a wall ... based upon my having been there. I do think we should beef up security and that may mean a better wall or a better fence in certain” areas.
“I do not believe a wall [is needed] throughout the whole southern border, particularly in Arizona,” he stated. “The terrain there is incredibly rough.
“Regarding the payment, I think $20 billion is far too much ... and I would like to see a concrete proposal precisely where the administration believes the border needs to be secured better and a concrete proposal on its funding.”
Ginny MacGonagle of Bethlehem Township asked about Lance’s observations that Trump’s travel ban was “rushed and poorly implemented” and his statement that “it’s Congress’ role to amend our immigration laws,” which she said suggested that “the President may have overstepped his power.
“Will you publiclly condemn the President’s discriminatory travel ban?” MacGonagle asked, “and promise that you will not do the President’s bidding by passing any legislation that discriminates who can and cannot come into our country based on religion or country of origin?”
“I was the first Republican in New Jersey to criticize the initial executive order,” Lance answered about Trump's travel ban. “I certainly don’t think it should have applied to green card holders and certainly we should permit into this country brave residents of Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries who have served as translators and interpreters for our forces.”
Lance said he hopes Trump’s revised executive order “will be much more narrowly tailored and if I don’t like all of its provisions I will certainly say so ... I favor letting refugees into this country so long as they are fully vetted.”
Lambertville resident Kelly Kappler, a “proud product of the Montgomery school district,” said she came from a long line of teachers.
“My grandmother was a first generation American and a science teacher,” Kappler told the Congressman. Her mother and two aunts are also educators, she said.
“The Choices in Education Act, HR610, which is currently in committee, would change federal education funding,” Kappler told Lance. The act would distribute block grants to states and allow them to “distribute a portion of the funds to parents who enroll their children in private schools or home school their children," she said.
That would funnel “money away from already strapped public school systems,” Kappler said, to other schools “not held to the same level of accountability,” and she wanted to know how Lance might vote on that measure.
Lance, a Clinton Township resident, said he is a “proud graduate of the public schools in New Jersey.” He noted his graduation from the now-defunct Glen Gardner grade school. Lance recalled that the Glen Gardner school had “one teacher for kindergarten and first grade, another teacher for second and third grade, another for fourth and fifth, another for sixth and seventh and the principal taught eighth.”
“And I’m a proud graduate of North Hunterdon Regional High School,” Lance said. “I am a proud supporter of the public schools.”
Lance said he wasn’t familiar with the bill Kappler referenced, “However, I do not favor significant funneling of money away from the public schools.”
Lance noted he was “honored” to have been endorsed by the state teachers union before the fall election.
“I fought for teachers when I was in the state legislature,” he said, “including protecting pensions for public employees.” He said he would continue to work for teacher organizations in the state and the NEA in Washington.
“I hope we that can continue to have strong public schools, as one of the bulwarks of our democracy,” Lance told Kappler.
Annette Cordasco-Longo of Bridgewater was the last questioner of the evening. She told Lance that Trump denigrated the country, its intelligence agencies and its free press during the campaign.
“I am troubled to hear the president of our country say complete falsehoods and accuse the free press of ‘fake news’ ... I haven’t seen the Republicans push back against this behavior,” Cordasco-Longo said.
She asked how Lance would mobilize Republicans to push back against Trump’s statements.
“I favor a free and unfettered press,” answered Lance. He promised he’d speak what he believes to be the truth “when the President misstates.”
“The Republicans need to push back when he is not honest,” Cordasco-Longo answered, which prompted the crowd to chant, “Push back, push back.”
Lance promised to state his point of view when he disagrees with the President, and promised to continue the dialogue with his constituents.
Because of the interest in Wednesday's Town Hall, Lance added a second event. That will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, also in RVCC’s Nash Theater.