Congressman Ron Kind hosted a listening session of about 25 people Wednesday, May 10 in Black River Falls and covered a wide range of topics including the inability of the federal government to work together, health care and yes, even yoga.
“Just a couple of weeks ago I had a chance to go over to Europe with Speaker Paul Ryan and the chair of the Armed Services Committee, Mac Thornberry. It was a NATO trip to reaffirm our commitment and our support of the NATO alliance,” Kind said responding to a question about whether Democrats and Republicans work together. “A little personal secret, but Paul Ryan and I are a part of this yoga cult class first thing in the morning at 6 o’clock.”
Kind has also been leading the call for more moderate Republicans and Democrats to come together.
“Part of the key is trying to get people in the same room so you can talk to each other and find out where there are areas of common agreement and overlap. I have been leading this group called the New Democratic Coalition. We are 61 right now, about one-third of the democratic caucus. More moderate and centrist, but I have been calling for a policy lunch with the more pragmatic group of Republicans called The Tuesday Group. There are about 50 of them, just to get the two groups together. Just to talk to them whether it is health care, infrastructure or the farm bill coming up, otherwise we are so siloed in our approach. It’s like you get to Washington and you are supposed to go to your respective corners,” Kind said. “Every time we have that lunch, leadership in both parties go crazy.”
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People in attendance recognized that Kind has worked to reach across the aisle and represent the people in his district.
“I hope behind closed doors you guys are having conversations,” Peter Buschman from the audience said. “Your office has been really good on some issues we have had here locally, so I appreciate the fact that I think you are really taking care of us in the area.”
Besides the gridlock in Washington, D.C., Kind also fielded questions about the recent firing of FBI director James Comey and Russia’s involvement with the U.S. elections last fall.
“I hope we get to the bottom of these investigations, I really do because they are very serious. I hope there is a showing that there was no collusion between the Trump associates and the Russian government because if there was, that is a major, major problem,” Kind said. “We don’t know where the facts will ultimately lead and that is why it is so important to have an independent investigator to make these tough calls and follow the evidence wherever that may lead and hopefully they won’t be obstructed by either party or the person in the oval office.”
Kind also addressed questions about the new health care bill that recently passed the house, which he said was rushed.
“I hope the Senate takes a fresh look at things. I think they said that they want to. Clearly we have trouble on the individual market and the small group market. It’s not working very well. Costs are rising,” Kind said.
Questions about the health care bill also prompted questions about Kind’s support of funding organizations that perform abortions, specifically Planned Parenthood.
“I support Planned Parenthood funding. I know what type of work that they do. The type of preventive services that they provide. The type of testing and screening that they provide for women in our communities,” Kind said. “I think it would be a terrible mistake if that would be eliminated.”
Planned Parenthood and any organization that performs abortions cannot use federal funding for abortions, he said.
“Money is still coming down for Planned Parenthood,” contested Bonnie Pfaff. “It [federal funding] is also going towards organizations and money is fungible where if you use your money for this, the federal funding makes more money available.”
Other topics during the listening session included issues with staffing shortages for federal programs, concerns about water supply, the possibility of federal funding being cut for low-income food programs, the importance of advanced directives and the drug issues facing Wisconsin.