Editor’s note: This article is reprinted from MyVeronaNJ, with permission.
By Virginia Citrano
Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.) kicked off a new era in government Sunday, holding her first town hall, a gathering that also was the first in-person town hall in the 11th congressional district since 2013.
Sherrill fielded more than three dozen wide-ranging questions over the course of the two-hour meeting, at the Police Athletic League building in Parsippany.
The session opened with a re-enactment of Sherrill’s swearing-in ceremony, and the congresswoman talked briefly about her committee assignments in the House of Representatives–-Armed Services and the Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
She also talked about why she has joined the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of centrist Democrats that has drawn ire in some quarters for previous positions seen as undermining Obamacare.
Sherrill said that it was important for her to join the coalition because one-quarter of its membership is now from New York and New Jersey, which she believes will make it a key influencer on local infrastructure projects like the Gateway tunnel.
She also hailed Blue Dog for its involvement in a bipartisan effort spanning both the House and Senate to end the federal government shutdown. While she had voted against Nancy Pelosi for House speaker earlier this month, she said, she now is confident Democrats had created a pathway to bring younger members into leadership positions.
“We are growing the bench,” she said, before adding that “Speaker Pelosi has shown that Congress is a co-equal branch of government.”
There were questions on the shutdown, and on healthcare, defense spending and priorities, tax and immigration reform and the green economy. Veterans affairs, trade tariffs, regime change in Venzuela, community policing and criminal justice reform also came up, as well as President Donald Trump’s border wall and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
A Whippany Park High School student who said he had volunteered for the congressional campaign of Sherrill’s opponent, state Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26th Dist.), asked about ending the divisiveness in government.
Sherrill, a former U.S. Navy helicopter pilot, responded that she already has been working with veterans on the Republican side of the House.
“I have differences ”, she said, “but there are a lot of issues we have agreement on.”
An even younger student wanted to know what Sherrill would do to keep kids safe in school. The congresswoman pointed to her support for common-sense gun reform and measures to address the opioid crisis.
Asked about her support for renewable energy, Sherrill said the country needs a focused plan for a green economy. But without subsidies for nuclear power-–something that has drawn opposition in New Jersey–-the country “would have to move back to dirty power,” she said.
New Jersey is in a good position to be a leader in green energy, she noted, because Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th Dist.) is the new chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Sherrill also countered a request that she immediately support Medicare-for-all, a question that drew applause from many in the capacity crowd of 400 people.
Instead, the congresswoman said she supports first asking the Congressional Budget Office to draw up an independent report on how Medicare-for-all would function and how it would be paid for.
Now, she said, only one study exists on the subject, a George Mason University report funded by the Koch brothers. Sherrill said she wants to make sure a Medicare-for-all plan would protect jobs in the current healthcare system, as well as the ability of New Jersey’s pharmaceutical industry to produce new medicines.
Re-instating property tax deductions lost in the Trump tax plan is a priority, as is passing real tax reform because tax revenues collected in New Jersey now are paying for bridges and roads elsewhere in America, she said.
Sherrill also said she supports measures to preclude federal government shutdowns in the future, by either party.
“Shutdowns are becoming more egregious and more frequent,” she said. “This is no way to run a government.”