When Gearhart resident Arden Bryce heard Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici tell the story of her and her daughter, Selah, on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives back in May, she couldn’t help but feel emotional.
Bryce emailed Bonamici earlier in the year when House Republicans first started proposing plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Bryce, whose daughter has been diagnosed with autism and a host of other medical issues, said she worries about how she would be able to afford the medication her daughter requires.
Bonamici told Bryce’s story on the House floor after voting against legislation that proposed eliminating coverage for pre-existing conditions and preventive care.
“How am I supposed to meet her needs without coverage?” Bryce said. “I hope the more personal connections we make, the more seriously Congress will take their jobs. I know (Bonamici) cared about health care before, but if she can carry this story in her heart it will keep making it personal.”
Bryce was one of the many community members who came to ask Bonamici, D-Oregon, questions about health care, climate change, tax reform and other topics at Tuesday night’s town hall meeting.
Many in the audience expressed concerns about cuts to Medicare and other changes to health coverage proposed by the Trump administration, including Selah herself. Bonamici said there are bipartisan efforts to address the Affordable Care Act, and that any proposal would have to benefit people who use it.
“I’d be concerned about any health care proposal that undermines Medicare,” Bonamici said. “This is the United States of America. There is no reason why anyone should go without health care. I’ll be fighting for you on that.”
Bonamici also discussed her work as the co-chair of the bipartisan Oceans Caucus. Bonamici and her colleagues managed to include amendments that address harmful algal blooms and ocean acidification in the House bill to set funding levels for next fiscal year.
Her amendments increase funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Ocean Service to do coastal monitoring and assessment of harmful algal blooms — which can lead to toxins that shut down shellfish harvests — as well as help coastal communities respond to changing ocean conditions and how they affect fisheries and ocean health.
“Oregon’s economic vitality is dependent on the health of our oceans and coastal communities,” Bonamici said. “Climate change affects our economy.”
While on the topic of climate change, some community members asked how Bonamici would improve the role of the federal government in battling the numerous fires that torched Oregon’s forests this year.
“As we see more extreme weather events, we know climate change can exacerbate these events,” Bonamici said.
Bonamici was one of many Western lawmakers who requested more emergency funding from Trump administration to fight wildfires throughout Oregon. She supports efforts to reform how wildland firefighting is funded, she said.
In large events, the U.S. Forest Service often exhausts all its funding for wildfire suppression quickly, Bonamici said, which forces the agency to borrow money from other USFS accounts that would otherwise go toward fire prevention and forest management.
While there were no active fires on the North Coast this summer, more than 50 firefighters throughout Clatsop County were sent out to help fight fires in other regions of the state.
“When we have fires of this scope, it doesn’t make sense to borrow from these other accounts to fight them,” she said. “Let’s have funding to manage these forests better.”