Congressman Frank Pallone Jr.’s demeanor did not waiver as he patiently addressed constituent after constituent at a recent town hall meeting.
Pallone (D-NJ) shared updates on his work in New Jersey and Washington, D.C., and attendees shared their concerns about myriad topics from health care, with some people calling for Medicare for all, climate change, immigration and gun safety laws, to the recent events of India revoking Kashmir’s status, live organ harvesting in China, and potential impeachment proceedings of President Donald Trump.
The town hall meeting was held at Metuchen High School on Aug. 15. Pallone stood for more than three hours until school administrators closed the doors at about 10 p.m.
In the first 200 days of the Democratic majority, Pallone has led the House of Representatives’ passage of legislation to lower health care and prescription drug costs and to end bad robocalls. He said he has introduced a bill to rebuild and transform the nation’s infrastructure and recently announced a plan to achieve a 100% clean economy by 2050.
Pallone said to pass any bills in a divided government, one must have support from both parties. In 2018, he was elected chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee for the 116th Congress, which has jurisdiction of more than 40% of what the House of Representative does.
The committee members discuss health care, energy, environment, telecommunications, the internet and all kinds of consumers, he said.
“The issue I was most involved in with the committee was health care. The Affordable Care Act, I was the main drafter of it,” he said, noting when Trump came into office, about 95% of Americans were covered by some kind of insurance, either by public insurance like Medicare and Medicaid, or private insurance.
He further said 65% of people receive their health insurance through their employer, but many people, before the Affordable Care Act insurance, had to go on the individual market because they either owned a business or were self-employed and it was expensive.
Pallone said one of the main goals of the Affordable Care Act was to cover people who did not have insurance and who had previously had a bite on the individual market.
“The hallmarks of the plan were to guarantee you would have a robust plan that covers a lot of things,” he said. “It wasn’t a skeletal policy … and also that you couldn’t be discriminated against because of pre-existing conditions.”
Pallone said he was proud of the Affordable Care Act, however, since Trump came into office, he said there have been attempts to repeal the law.
The congressman said he is also working to try to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, which he said is an initiative which may have the support of the president.
“One thing we did in committee is try to bring back competition with generic drugs,” he said. “Over the last few years, the brand name drug companies have, for various reasons, tried to really suppress generics. Either they buy generic companies or they don’t give them the formula to develop the generic drug.”
In the fall, Pallone said, members will develop legislation that would have the government negotiate the prices of drugs.
Also in the works is robocall legislation, which came out of the House committee before the August recess. Pallone said his office has fielded many questions on the topic.
“The problem with robocalls is that as time goes on, the robocall providers have gotten around the law so the law needs to be revised and that is what this bill does,” he said.
Another hot topic in the committee is climate change. Pallone said the House, through a bill, supports on record the Paris Agreement, an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance, which was signed in 2016.
He said the committee’s goal is to become carbon neutral by 2050. He said the committee is developing legislation which will seek to implement the goal and move forward with infrastructure initiatives.
Pallone’s district covers Carteret, Edison, Highland Park, Metuchen, New Brunswick, part of Old Bridge, Perth Amboy, Piscataway, Sayreville, South Amboy, South Plainfield and Woodbridge in Middlesex County; and Aberdeen, Allenhurst, Asbury Park, Atlantic Highlands, Deal, Hazlet, Highlands, Interlaken, Keansburg, Keyport, Loch Arbour, Long Branch, Marlboro, Matawan, part of Middletown, Monmouth Beach, Oceanport, Sea Bright, Union Beach and West Long Branch in Monmouth County.
Pallone has offices in New Brunswick and Long Branch.
Contact Kathy Chang at firstname.lastname@example.org.