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On Monday night, United States Congressman Jared Polis addressed questions from residents of his district in a town hall event in Fort Collins. The event occurred during one of Polis’s in-district weeks, when representatives return to their districts to talk with their constituents.
“It makes sure that I’m able to hear what’s on the mind of constituents and then go back to advocate in Washington to move our country forward,” Polis said.
Chief among the topics discussed was the issue of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP, as it’s commonly known, is a proposed trade agreement with 11 other countries, including Japan and Australia. This potential agreement has faced opposition from both sides of the aisle. It turns out this Democrat hasn’t made up his mind about the issue.
Polis has not been able to read the entirety of the agreement that has been sent to Congress, so he is waiting until he is able to finish the document before forming his opinion. This drew some complaints from the crowd.
The audience wanted to know why Polis had voted in support of the fast-track trade authority given to the president back in June, which gave Obama the ability to present the deal to Congress without it having the chance to amend the bill. That power gave the president to negotiate the TPP agreement on his own. The congressman explained he was willing to give President Obama the opportunity to negotiate this pact, even if Polis ends up disagreeing with the final draft.
Another issue the crowd had with TPP was that it allows companies to sue the countries they reside in over the rules and regulations imposed by a country. These suits would go before tribunals organized by the United Nations and the World Bank. A company could also challenge federal, state or local rulings by that country’s government.
People in the audience urged Polis not to support the agreement. He reiterated that he has not formed his stance on the issue at this time.
“It’s over 2,500 pages, so I will be spending some time reading and studying it over the next several months,” Polis said. “Trying to make an informed decision, obviously before we have to vote on it.”
Though it was the most talked about issue, the TPP was not the only topic discussed. Among others, there were discussions of selective service, balancing the budget and Medicare reform. The last controversy struck a chord with Marge Gruber, a member of the audience.
“The question I asked I was very serious about,” Gruber said. “The congressman is saying balance the budget. Where are they getting that money? Out of their entitlement. The people do not know they are talking about Social Security and Medicare.”
Polis responded to Gruber’s question by bringing up the Republican budget. There have been no bills presented, but part of the party’s budget had to do with making Medicare a voucher program. The congressman went on to say he would oppose the measure if any such bill was brought before the House.
“He seems to be incredibly sincere, knowledgeable and informed,” Gruber said after the event.
Polis also discussed his view on campaign finance reform. He mentioned the EMPOWER Act and the DISCLOSE Act. The former would allow the government to match smaller donors to campaigns at a 6:1 ratio, while the latter would add a layer of transparency to how a campaign brings in money.
This push comes as a response to Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that determined freedom of speech extends to spending on political campaigns. Polis strongly disagrees with the ruling, and hopes these bills will be passed.
There was also mention of balancing the budget. Polis previously co-sponsored a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget, one that aims to protect Social Security from cuts. At Monday’s discussion, he justified it as “the least bad option.” He also stated his belief that Congress would not balance the budget unless it was required to.
Polis stayed beyond the allotted discussion time and was able to talk to people whose inquiries had yet to be addressed, hoping to make the best of his in-district time.