By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Saturday, February 25, 2017, US Representative Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) addressed the people of the Sixth Congressional District and beyond in a town hall meeting in Hoover.
Over a thousand people attempted to attend the town hall meeting with the congressman though only 160 were able to go inside the venue. Many of those, who were camped out for hours prior to the 9:00 am event, expressed fears of the changes that President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress may
implement. Many were not supporters of the Congressman.
Despite the largely liberal/progressive views of the crowd, Rep. Palmer felt the event was necessary.
Congressman Palmer told reporters, “I think we have to make ourselves available to our constituents even when they disagree.”
When asked by reporters why they moved the event from the larger Hoover Tactical Firearms facility, Rep. Palmer said that his office had gotten some emails from people who said they felt uncomfortable there.
Palmer said, “I just want to hear their concerns and answer their questions. At the end of the day we are all Americans we are in this together. They know they are not going to get the answers they want to hear. It is important to have a dialogue.”
Rep. Palmer said he was concerned about the fiscal situation of the country. “We have got to get the economy right. We have the lowest labor force participation rate in over 40 years.” Palmer said that he was interested in reforming healthcare and was deeply concerned about recent bomb threats that had been called in to Jewish community centers. The threats are organized and coordinated and the terroristic threats were the purview of the Homeland Security Department and the FBI and promised that once he is back in Washington his office would make sure that those agencies were devoting their efforts into investigating the threats, which he felt they were already doing.
On the anti-Trump hysteria, Rep. Palmer said, “He (Donald Trump) is the President. They can protest Trump but I can’t do anything about it.”
On the immigration issue, Palmer said, “I think we need to reform our immigration laws they are antiquated. At the same time we have to secure our borders. A nation without borders is not a nation.” Palmer denied that there was any mass deportations of undocumented workers and said that recent immigration enforcement actions were focused on trying to round up the felons.
Rep. Palmer said that in hearings about the crime rampant on both sides of the border, Palmer said that it was a rough day (in a congressional hearing) to hear a mom tell about her daughter being killed. She got killed by a drunk driver who was here illegally and who had been deported more than once.
Rep. Palmer said that Obamacare was in the process of collapsing from its own weight. There are over a 1000 counties with just one health insurer and six counties in Mississippi with no insurance company. Humana is just the latest company to pull out of the exchanges. There are 20 million people without insurance.
Palmer said that Pelosi and the Democrats made a mistake when they passed a bill that nobody read and he did not want Republicans repeating that same mistake. “I think we need to phase this out.” Health savings accounts will be part of it. Health care insurance need to be portable so that you can take it with you when you leave one job for another and you need to be able to purchase insurance cross state lines. “If we can land a man on the moon. If we can launch a mission to mars we are smart enough to fix healthcare.”
Addressing the obvious despair many in the crowd displayed over the recent Trump election victory, Palmer said, “I know how you feel. I felt the same way when Bill Clinton was election. When Barack Obama was elected.”
Carol Griffin said, “Thank you for developing such a healthy culture with your staff. They love you. They respect you. You can feel it.” Griffin asked Palmer to go outside and acknowledge the crowd outside. Palmer agreed and spent five minutes with the 200 plus citizens where not able to get in to the building.
In response to questions about statements that Palmer made about Donald Trump in the Republican Primary season, Rep. Palmer said, “I reserve the right to be wrong. I don’t know whether he is a megalomaniac or not but he is the President.” Palmer said of Trump’s treatment of the press, “Some of it is warranted. I have great relationships with the local press. They have been very respectful.”
On tax reform Palmer said, “I am for a consumption tax: the fair tax.” Palmer said, “We have got the lowest labor participation rate among able bodied Americans in 40 years.” Palmer said that even with that the government has record revenue last year $3.3 trillion. Only $300 billion is corporate income taxes; but because we have the highest corporate tax rate in the world many companies are keeping their profits overseas to avoid those taxes. There is $2 to 2.5 trillion in offshore profits. There are more businesses are closing than are starting up. Two things we are dealing with are taxes and over regulations. The IRS reported last year that they failed to collect $406 billion in taxes. If we have a system that is so screwed up that we can’t collect the taxes we are owed then we need a new system. I grew up in Hackleburg. “I understand what it means to struggle and basically come up through the ranks.” “We need a tax system that is fair and that promotes investment.”
On creating a skilled work force Rep. Palmer said, “We have got to train a workforce that fits a 21st century economy. You have got people graduating from high school in Blount County getting a job welding making $50,000 a year.” Not everybody needs to go to college.
A number of Planned Parenthood activists were upset about recent efforts in Congress to defund the nation’s largest abortion provider. Congressman Palmer replied, “I totally support defunding Planned Parenthood. We have over 3000 community health centers. Planned Parenthood is not doing the cancer screenings, they refer them to the community health centers. I don’t think the taxpayers should be required to fund this.
One participant asked Palmer to sign Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-New York)’s resolution to ask for a congressional investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia.
Rep. Palmer replied, “I will not sign Nadler’s resolution because I haven’t read it for one thing. I will look into it but I think the best thing to do is for the intelligence briefings to look into it. They don’t care whether you are a Republican or a Democrat or who you voted for. When they come back and gives us their report we will act on it.”
When one participant who was concerned about anti-Muslim backlash in the country and the ban on refugees from countries where there is a terror concern, asked Congressman Palmer to come to Sunday’s open house at the Islamic Community Center, Rep. Palmer said, “I don’t mind swing by for a few minutes. One thing you will find out about me. I am not afraid to meet with you.”
Palmer said that he is not afraid to have dialogue with anyone, but added, “I am not afraid to disagree with you.”
On mass deportations, Palmer said, “We are not going to deport 11 million people. It would be a humanitarian disaster, but we have to secure our borders.”
On sanctuary cities, Palmer said, “I don’t support any government that defies federal law. I am opposed to sanctuary cities. We have let this issue go on to long and it has festered. We have got to do it where people fill a part of a community. Not just a Hispanic community. Not just am immigrant community, not just a Black community, not just a refugee community but an American Community.”
One cancer patient expressed his support for President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Obamacare) and said that he will still be alive to vote in the next election but may have to go to Canada for healthcare.
Rep. Palmer replied, “I assure you that if you move to Canada and need treatment you will be in a long line waiting for treatment.”
Palmer said, “I will do what I can to make a healthcare system that works.”
Rep. Palmer said, “One of the biggest crises we face is a loss of constitutional government, Barack Obama exceeded his authority through executive orders, George W Bush exceeded his authority through executive orders, Bill Clinton exceeded his authority through executive orders. We need to make sure that we restore the separation of powers.”
On calls to impeach President Trump, Palmer said, “Trump has not been in office for 30 days.” He has not done anything. He is still getting his team in place.
On charges that Trump has violated the first amendment by his treatment of the press, Palmer said, “He has not taken away their free speech.”
When some school choice opponents spoke, Palmer answered, “I will continue to fund programs that work.” Palmer said that as many as 148 schools in Alabama’s are dropout factories. At one point Woodlawn was graduating one third of their students. Palmer said that he has supported Corner Stone Community school for over 25 years and that it and Banks Academy are outstanding examples.
On stopping overreach by regulatory agencies like EPA, Palmer said, “What EPA has done is usurp legislative authority.” Nobody is elected there, so nobody is accountable. Over the years, EPA has served a good role; but we can’t have individual agencies making law. “If they (greenhouse gases) are regulated it should be by an act of Congress not by administrative fiat.”
Palmer said that American industry has made tremendous progress on reducing pollution. “The key is to get other nations like China to invest in the same technology, not only are they dumping their steel they are dumping their pollutions. Regulations cost the economy $1.9 trillion a year.
Palmer told the town hall participants, “My number one priority as a member of Congress is our national security.”
Congressman Gary Palmer represents Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District, one of the most conservative in the nation.