WARRENTON — When U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici asked dozens of people sitting in gymnasium bleachers how many had never attended a town hall, more than half raised their hands.
This particular town hall — Saturday at Warrenton High School — came nearly three months into Donald Trump’s presidency, which became the event’s main agenda item. Following a brief introduction and speech, Bonamici fielded questions from the audience for about an hour. Of the nearly 20 questions, a dozen centered on the president, his Cabinet or his policies.
Some members of Congress, including Rep. Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican, have been berated by constituents at town halls throughout the country this year. But Bonamici, a Democrat, saw overwhelming support and agreement Saturday. The sole challenge presented to the congresswoman was a question implying Democrats have not been forceful enough in opposing Trump.
Bonamici focused much of the town hall on the three topics she says constituents have been most interested in lately: health care, Trump’s proposed budget cuts and U.S. attacks in Syria.
Other topics included the Dakota Access Pipeline, Trump’s mental welfare, his trips to Florida, immigration, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court ruling. One questioner also asked Bonamici about the loss of agricultural lands in Oregon.
Near the beginning of her opening remarks, she recognized a bill passed by Congress earlier this month that would direct the National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to boost research toward improved forecasting and storm warnings ahead of major weather events. The bill includes a tsunami warning provision introduced by Bonamici. Before it becomes law, it will require Trump’s signature.
“Sometimes people think we don’t get anything done, but we just got the tsunami bill done,” Bonamici said. “If it hasn’t been signed into law yet, there’s no reason to think it won’t be in the next week or two.”
One audience member was concerned about possible military conflicts after recent North Korean provocations, as well as the ongoing Syrian civil war.
“The specter of war hangs over us like the sword of Damocles,” he said.
Bonamici said she was worried about Trump’s foreign policy decisions, saying they often are unclear and that he should request congressional approval prior to any military action against a sovereign country.
“Erratic is not a good basis for foreign policy,” she said.
Bonamici repeatedly touted the president’s failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as a sign that rising political activism throughout the country is affecting policy decisions.
“That’s been really a hopeful thing to see how many people are asking what’s going on and getting involved and getting engaged. It made a real difference in the health care debate,” Bonamici said.