Congress is in the middle of a two-week recess, and several representatives and senators have returned to their districts, among other things to hold meetings and town halls with their constituents. Voters in New York’s 27th Congressional District do not have that privilege, however. Their representative is Congressman Chris Collins, the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump in his presidential campaign, who refuses to hold open meetings with the voters in his district. Many would like to hear the congressman talk about his support of the president, his views on healthcare, Syria, and “draining the swamp.” But that ain’t gonna happen in the real world. So we decided to adopt the alternative reality view, and imagined how an open forum with Collins might go…
THE PUBLIC: Thank you all for your imaginary attendance in today’s open forum with Congressman Chris Collins. We couldn’t get him in the reality world, so here he is in alt-reality.
Thank you, Congressman, for agreeing to speak with us in this fantasy forum.
CC: You are welcome, Bruce. You know the only way to get me into one of these things is in your wildest dreams, so I appreciate the chance to check this off my to-do list.
If I may follow up, Congressman, why is it that you won’t speak with your constituents in an open session?
Why would I? The only people who show up are demonstrators who come and shout. They are not interested in getting facts.
And you feel you don’t owe it to your constituents. Congressman, your version of facts certainly leaves most of us who live in reality space with more than a few questions. For example, most everything you have said about the Affordable Care Act is hype from the Republican spin machine and without basis.
First of all, Obamacare has failed. We need a replacement that is affordable. We will not pull the rug out from under anyone. The exchanges will continue for two years, the Medicaid expansion for three years.
That begs the question, Congressman, what happens to those in the exchanges, or who have benefited from the Medicaid expansion. The president campaigned on not taking coverage away from anyone. When two and three years down the road when those covered by the ACA expansions see them go away?
Well, we will have great coverage from the private sector for them.
That sounds like the president—endorsing the Congress’s replacement plan, before it went down in flames.
Yes, well, Congress didn’t get it done.
Obamacare has failed.
Premiums grew by huge amounts over the last four years.
You are part of that Congress. Your first vote to replace Obamacare was in May 2013. If you in Congress were so sure that the ACA was a disaster, surely you should have been able to come up with a sensible plan, widely accepted across the Republican caucus. But your couldn’t. Medical care providers around the country opposed what was being proposed under the Ryan-care act.
Well, that’s not really true either. People were signing up. 21 million people had coverage who didn’t before.
Hasn’t that growth been a little less than the rate of growth in healthcare costs before the ACA? The intention of the ACA was to slow the rate of increase. It never promised to reduce costs—everyone agrees that is too much to expect.
Look we have to rid the healthcare system of these socialist ideas. With universal coverage, how will I make any money in the stock market?
You proposed an amendment regarding federal Medicaid reimbursements to localities that would have cost New York State over $2 billion. Why?
To be honest, it was a ploy to buy some votes for the Ryan bill.
But it would have cost New York taxpayers $2 billion.
But it was for the votes from the Southern tier and Long Island.
And to heck with equity and fairness. Got it.
People may die without the actions I took. Everything I did was legal.
Legal, yes. Just not high in the ethics component, eh?
It is all legal.
Sticking with the ethics issue: Congressman, are you troubled by the many conflicts of interest of appointees in this administration? Starting with the president’s not releasing his own tax returns.
He doesn’t have to release them. Those are part of his privacy. Elected officials should not have to release their tax returns.
He doesn’t have to run for office, either, nor do the others who don’t want to shine light into the political process. What are you afraid of?
Look, nobody should have to release his tax returns. We have to rid the healthcare system of these socialist ideas. With universal coverage, how will I make any money in the stock market?
I’d like to return to your comment about the stock market. Do you have any qualms about your investments in, say, Innate Immunotherapeutics and your actions in Congress in support of laws that would substantially aid that company’s profitability? And it didn’t hurt your bottom line either did it? Nor that of then Congressman Price? Don’t people deserve to know that you are not voting on matters that will directly impact your own considerable wealth?
Let me turn to the recent bombing of Syria.
This President is defending America, unlike his predecessor.
But in 2013 you released a press statement saying that then President Obama had to go to Congress for authorization to take action in Syria, and you opposed Obama’s proposed actions10.
Yes, then Obama had to get Congressional approval. But now President Trump doesn’t have to. After all he won the election.
But Obama won in 2012. Doesn’t that count the same? Aren’t you just flip-flopping, and engaging in disassembling the truth for your own convenience?
This president is standing up for the USA.
And to hell with your own supposed convictions about Constitutional power. Can you talk with us about his strategy for dealing with the Middle East?
He is standing up for American interests.
And what does that mean for Syria, Israel, Iran, ISIS.
He is making American interests the first priority.
So he doesn’t have one. You defended the president over his National Security Advisor, General Mike Flynn. Are you troubled with the Russian connections with the Trump administration?
We need to move on from Flynn and concentrate on rooting out the leakers in Washington.
Yes, go after the whistleblowers, and ignore the money and influence-buying. Good defense, Congressman. That wraps it up for us in this fantasy town hall. Thank you, Congressman Chris Collins.
Thank you, Bruce. As I said it is only in your fantasy that I am ever going to appear to answer questions in public.
And so it ends. Chris Collins is okay with the Russian influence in the Trump White House. He has no qualms about the lack of transparency in the Trump government. He is shameless regarding his stock deals using insider information. He is clueless about the difficulties working people face over healthcare.
Come to think about it, I guess I would be afraid to hold a public forum if I had to defend that record too.