Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger dropped into Fayetteville City Hall Aug. 31 for a town hall.
Pittenger is pretty far to the right, and I am not, to say the least. About the only thing we solidly agreed on was that the U.S. debt is too high and needs a bipartisan response and that hate is bad, no matter who is doing the hating.
That said, I liked his way of engaging with constituents. He is a Trump guy but the polar opposite of Trump in terms of style.
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Fayetteville is part of his district but generally votes Democratic at the federal level. Pittenger got lots of tough questions, but he he did not lose his cool, speaking in an even tone, hands clasped in front of him, and not giving his opponents much to put in a campaign attack ad.
He fielded questions for an hour and a half. Pittenger probably won’t like the comparison, but the last time I saw a politician at the federal level field every question for a similar length of time around here was Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primary vs. Barack Obama.
Pittenger also scheduled a lot of town halls all over his district – nine in August. I know you’re thinking, “That’s what he’s supposed to do.” And you would be right. But a lot of his colleagues did not, instead choosing to duck their constituents after a congressional session that yielded no major pieces of legislation and was defined by a dramatic failure of the GOP attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
At the town hall, a man who said he was a retired sergeant major pointed out that Republicans controlled the U.S house, Senate and White House.
He asked Pittenger: “When are you going to accomplish what the people sent you to Washington to do?”
Pittenger put the lack of action on the Senate, saying the House passed 274 bills.
“The Senate frankly needs to do their job,” he said.
Now personally, I was happy to see the Senate fail in passing a bill that would have left millions without health insurance.
I asked Pittenger about the House bill, which did pass, and was he satisfied with a bill that, among other things, gave insurance companies a way out of covering people with preexisting conditions. I noted that even Trump called the bill “mean.”
Pittenger spoke of the 240 members in the GOP caucus and the “give-and-take” of passing bills. He talked of Reagan’s notion of taking part of a loaf of bread and getting the rest later.
“Obviously, there are things I would change” he said, without specifying which.
Did he think Hurricane Harvey was related to climate change? one person asked.
Pittenger said he thinks the climate is changing but the word is out on whether it’s caused by human activity.
Roberta Waddle asked if he supports Trump overturning Obama’s executive order protecting the young “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants brought here as kids by their parents?
He said: “I believe in the rule of law.”
Paul Wilson asked if he thinks Trump should continue to “govern on Twitter?”
Pittenger said: “Let Donald Trump be Donald Trump.”
Deandrea Newsome asked, should monuments to the Confederacy come down?
He said: “I believe history is history. Nobody’s paying homage to it, it’s not a rallying point but a reference point.”
As I said up top, Pittenger and I are not going to agree on a whole lot.
However: In an era where bullying landed a man into a job at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., the District 9 representative in Congress proves folks can still disagree without being disagreeable.