BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — U.S. Rep. Jim Himes was making the rounds last week and holding town hall-styled meetings to hear from voters who are concerned about the policies of President Donald Trump.
The meeting held by Himes (D-4th District) at Bridgeport City Hall on Wednesday was attended by a standing-room-only crowd of about 250 people.
Himes, unlike many colleagues who made the news, answered questions from his constituents. He hosted a socially liberal, predominantly Democratic crowd who received the assurances they sought, that Himes will resist efforts by the new administration to unwind legislation they value.
Over two hours, Himes field questions from nearly 30 people, who asked about the topics of the day — the Affordable Care Act, immigration, Russian hacking, Trump’s tax returns, and a variety of other, more personal points. Not one sought a rollback of progressive Obama-era legislation.
Himes set the tone with his opening remarks.
“I will adamantly oppose ideas or statements that come from this White House that aren’t about Republican or Democrat, but about eroding the fundamental foundations of our politics, our democracy and our Constitution,” for which he received a rousing round of applause.
And he continued, “I will not tolerate a president vilifying the intelligence community, the judiciary, the media, institutions that are there to improve our country, and I will not tolerate the characterization of Muslims or Jews," Himes said.
Yet, “When this president puts forward, as he promised he would, something that is important, like a construction plan to reduce my time on Route 95 and on the train, I’ll work with the president.
“I’ll absolutely look at tax reform that is progressive and that simplifies the code and makes us more competitive. I represent everybody, not just Democrats.”
Throughout the event he painted a not very flattering picture of Trump and the Republican Party’s legislators. “He needs to be mindful that there’s a level of misbehavior so high that he makes it very difficult for people to work with him,” Himes said.
About policy, he said they have “no tax plan, no ACA revision, no immigration plan.”
Himes said he continues to support the ACA because “it does an awful lot of good, but it’s far from perfect.” When asked about opposing any bills that would weaken it, he said, “Count on me.”
“Republicans are finding that governing is more complicated than criticizing. They now talk about 'repair,' but we must be alert to the damage ‘repair’ might mean,” Himes said.
About the administration’s attitude toward immigrants, he said that for 5,000 years of human history, groups of people were told that their problems were due to an "other." Today, people who rarely see an immigrant are being told their problems are due to “illegals.”
"This is the oldest, cheapest, darkest trick in the book,"; and Trump is "using it to the fullest, while most immigrants are working real hard to get the dreams we have," Himes said.
As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Himes has seen the classified material. “Russia hacked both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee. No question that they tried to tilt the scales … if what we know about Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is true, yes, there was collusion.”
Himes did find a small, positive note. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Richard Burr of North Carolina, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said their committee could subpoena Trump's tax records "if that's where the evidence leads.”
One of the last questioners cited Himes’ Federal Election Commission filings showing that he receives donations from all the major banks and asked, "How do you represent the common man?"
“I’m in a system that requires a lot of money to keep going. I am not unilaterally disarming. I don't like it any better than anyone in this room," Himes said. He reminded the audience that he helped write Dodd-Frank and has been a supporter of the Federal Consumer Protection Act.
All his comments notwithstanding, Himes asked for understanding the other side, “not everyone’s on the edge of social change … to move forward we can’t make them feel bad.”