Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney spoke on Sunday at her first event in the Southern Tier since being elected to represent New York’s 22nd Congressional District last November. Tenney discussed tax reform, health care, the upcoming budget vote and President Donald Trump’s Twitter account before answering questions from approximately 40 audience members at the Holiday Inn hotel in Downtown Binghamton on Sunday.
Tenney began by addressing the notion that she fully supported all of Trump’s stances and actions.
“I’m not going to explain or try to defend for the president,” she said. “He is an entity unto himself in many ways, and I try to focus on the policy. He has his own style; sometimes I agree with him and think he’s funny and sometimes I think it’s inappropriate.”
The first policy issue discussed was the newly released GOP tax plan, which has come under fire for primarily focusing on tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations.
“The best part of the tax plan is reducing rates,” she said. “My conservative side thinks it needs to be bold, and more bold for the middle class. Keeping the rate at 35 percent is what the president wants.”
She said she supports the “pass-through” business rate, which would cut the federal tax rate to 25 percent for approximately 95 percent of U.S. businesses. The term refers to the business’ profits and losses, which “pass through” to business owners, as opposed to those of public corporations.
“I like the fact that we’re helping small businesses by reducing the rates,” Tenney said. “With the increased minimum wage, small businesses are going to have an even harder time competing with big-box stores.”
The event, hosted by the Southern Tier Tea Party, required a $5 admission fee, but was open to people of all political persuasions, according to organizer and Vestal resident Mark Cuda. Half an hour before the slated start at 3 p.m., roughly 15 protesters could be seen outside the hotel on Hawley Street, holding signs and American flags.
Some protesters, including Cecily O’Neil, ‘95, were with a group called Indivisible Binghamton, the local chapter of a national organization committed to resisting the “regressive policies promoted by Trump’s administration.”
“Our mission is to resist Trump and the entire GOP and especially our representative Claudia Tenney because she votes in step with Trump and all of his ideas,” O’Neil said. “She does not represent us, even though she’s our representative, because she doesn’t care what we think.”
A considerable portion of the 1 1/2-hourlong event consisted of Tenney outlining what she called “myths” and “facts” regarding health care. According to Tenney, the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that 23 million people would lose their health insurance under the American Health Care Act, the House’s version of repeal and replace, is inaccurate.
“Of those so-called 23 million people that are going to lose their health insurance, some of them are people that they’re figuring just aren’t going to sign up for Medicaid even though they’re already signed up,” Tenney said. “They’re not people that are losing their insurance; they’re just people that didn’t get it at all. So the CBO doesn’t get into the details and tell you that and they don’t tell you their methodology.”
Binghamton resident Maggie Atherson, 53, said the event provided a rare chance for dialogue.
“I wanted to hear her and I like what she said,” Atherson said. “I just wish the Senate would vote on what they’re doing in the House.”
The latter half of the event featured a Q&A session, with Tenney reading audience questions from index cards.
In response to a question about the proposed border wall, Tenney said she supported some form of a physical barrier.
“I went to Israel this summer and they have walls everywhere and let me tell you ― they work,” Tenney said. “There has to be some kind of barrier, not all along, but to minimize expense of border agents patrolling.”
Vestal resident Susan Walker, 49, said she is not a Tenney supporter but paid the entry fee to hear her views firsthand.
“This is not a town hall; nobody should confuse it with one,” she said. “It’s less than that.”