After an impassioned response from Three Rivers constituents at the February 28 meeting, Congressman Kevin McCarthy’s 23rd District field representatives Cole Karr and Keenan Hochschild returned to Three Rivers on Wednesday, March 22. The format of the hour-long forum of questions, answers, and comments was focused on how the Trump budget and pending legislation will affect local constituents.
Karr said it was imperative to schedule the meeting for this week to address comments and concerns that are being generated by Three Rivers and others who live in this part of the far-flung 23rd District.
Karr opened the discussion by saying that the federal budget is among the highest priorities of any president and his administration. Among budget items that Karr mentioned were across-the-board cuts proposed for the National Park Service.
“Kevin [the Congressman] will push back on funding cuts for local parks and federal lands because these are vital for the local economy and that of the district,” Karr said.
Candice Uhlir stated her question: “With 53 percent of Tulare County residents on Medicaid, what will happen to those folks under Trumpcare or Ryancare?”
Karr answered by saying that under the Affordable Care Act, the expansion of Medicaid in California was funded primarily by the federal government and administered by the State of California. The current subsidy funds the long-term and custodial costs for low-income families and individuals.
“Trumpcare breaks down Medicaid spending in two important ways,” Karr explained. “There would be a cap on spending and the feds would provide funding in block grants.”
California is currently reimbursed for health care costs at 50 percent, and if certain requirements are met that rate can be expanded up to 90 percent, Karr said. The cap on spending would mean that states would get less from the feds. Block grants would be lump sums that states could allocate for healthcare and other social programs however they choose.
George Tomi said that Congressman McCarthy should oppose allocating more than $50 billion to the military at the expense of cuts to vital social programs.
“Don’t do it,” Tomi said. “Of the other top military powers, the U.S. already spends more on its military than all the others combined.”
Karr explained that it’s not likely these preliminary budget numbers will pass as they have been proposed.
“Budgets are guidelines, and what really matters is how the bill is created from the 12 appropriation subcommittees,” Karr said. “There is ire on both sides of the aisle now, and any budget will need six Democrat votes in the Senate to pass. It [the deliberations and negotiations] all has to be done by September 30.”
Jonny Nesmith, an ecologist at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, said he is concerned with the “draconian cuts” of up to 20 percent being proposed for the EPA.
“At least since 2000 we have evidence that the air quality numbers are actually getting better, and the EPA regulations are the reason for this,” Nesmith said. “If Congressman McCarthy is against rolling back these EPA standards, then we need to know.”
When asked what are the principal industries of the 23rd District, Karr answered that it is agriculture, energy (gas, oil, wind, solar), and military.
“The Congressman supports tax credits for wind and solar energy development,” Karr said.
Rick Lafferty, a local insurance agent, said that his business has suffered during the seven years of Obamacare. There were two failed promises, he cited: (1) that you could keep your plan, and (2) premiums would go down $2,500.
“Obamacare was a disaster but Trumpcare will be 10 times worse,” Lafferty said.
Christina Lynch, an English professor at College of the Sequoias, who could not be in attendance, relayed a situation to the meeting regarding Trump’s immigration policy. Lynch has an undocumented student who has been accepted to Harvard University but is afraid to go because her family might be deported.
Bettina Birch said that Congressman McCarthy needs to go on record as to where he stands.
“We’re not hearing his support for any of these issues that are being addressed today,” Birch said.
Hochschild said the budget addressing these constituent concerns will probably have “shifted priorities” by the time it’s finalized.
The consensus of the audience remained the same since the last meeting. Congressman McCarthy should hold an in-person meeting in Three Rivers or at least somewhere in the district.
Karr said that he is in contact with the Congressman on the concerns expressed by Three Rivers constituents and is working with schedulers to bring McCarthy to the area. Congress has a three-week recess in April so a face-to-face meeting could take place during that time somewhere in the district.
Karr said the best way to follow the progress of the budget with links to all 12 subcommittees is online at appropriations.house.gov.