During a town hall meeting Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (DFL) wasted little time making her stance on impeachment against President Donald Trump known.
“I know and I can well imagine that many of you are here tonight on a topic that's probably the biggest story of our times,” McCollum said, addressing the crowd of constituents gathered at Stillwater Area High School. “And that's the impeachment inquiry that was recently opened into President Trump's actions.”
McCollum voiced her support for the inquiry and said that Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he allegedly sought assistance from a foreign leader to investigate 2020 challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden, not only posed a grave national security threat but also “goes against the spirit of democracy.”
“I have to say that I take no joy in this, no joy at all. This is not what I signed up to do in Congress, but it's part of my job to do accountability and to defend the Constitution,” McCollum said. “President Trump and I … (took) the same oath of office, and that oath of office is to protect and defend the United States Constitution, not the presidency.”
Impeachment was also a major topic of conversation during the town hall's question and answer session. While some constituents thanked McCollum for supporting impeachment proceedings, others criticized her for doing so.
“If impeachment is so important, why isn't there a vote now?” asked one constituent. “It's not really an impeachment process; it's a delay of vote just for political purposes.”
McCollum, however, stood firm.
“Thank you for your comments. I defend your right to say them, and I wholeheartedly disagree with them,” she replied.
Other constituent concerns covered a range of issues—such as intellectual property rights, ranked-choice voting and the federal budget deficit—but questions and comments primarily focused on health care and the environment.
When asked about her support for Medicare For All, McCollum said she while she is not opposed to it, she prefers “Medicaid For All,” which would expand Medicaid from a means-limited program to one that anyone can buy into. Compared to Medicare for All, McCollum said, its Medicaid counterpart can be rolled more quickly and effectively.
“It covers more, and like that, we can put people on it …. It's not as cumbersome and as starting-from-scratch to write it,” she explained. “I'm not opposed to it (Medicare For All). I'm just not there yet because I don't think we're ready to put that in as fast as quick, and I'm willing to take incremental steps.”
Talk of the environment also dominated much of the question and answer portion of the meeting.
“I'd like to thank you for being a voice crying out in the wilderness on behalf of the Boundary Waters,” one constituent told McCollum. “I'm just wondering what if you could give us some advice on what we need to do to get other national politicians and state leaders to get on the same page as you are.”
McCollum has called for the renewal of a U.S. Forestry Service study on the environmental impact of proposed sulfide-ore copper mines near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) watershed. That study, commissioned by the Obama administration in January 2017, was intended to run for two years, but was killed by Trump's Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, last fall.
At the town hall, McCollum reiterated her support for the study and criticized the Trump administration for cancelling it.
“They don't want any science getting in the way of making a decision for profit,” she said. “So, we're raising the awareness; you're raising the awareness by talking about it here.”
McCollum encouraged constituents to become involved in efforts to protect the BWCA and raise public awareness of its national importance.
“It is a hidden gem in the Department of Interior, and it can't be hidden any longer,” she said. “We need it to be Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Yellow Stone, Arcadia, and oh yes, did I tell you about the Boundary Waters? That's going to be my goal; that needs to be our collective goal.”
Elizabeth Callen can be reached at 651-407-1229 or email@example.com.