Congressman Gary Palmer addresses healthcare, natural resources at Chelsea Town Hall

CHELSEA- Locals came from Chelsea and nearby areas to the Chelsea Community Center for a town hall meeting with Congressman Gary Palmer on Tuesday, April, 18 at 6 p.m.

During the meeting, Palmer answered questions about various issues including healthcare reform, use of the state’s natural resources and concerns about the Trump administration.

Palmer explained to the crowd why he voted in favor of a budget resolution to begin repealing the Affordable Care Act in January, and why he voted against a bill to replace the ACA in March.

“It’s not going very well. My opinion of the bill, when it first came out, was that it was not a good bill. We need to bring premiums down, and we need to keep our promises about not excluding people with pre-existing conditions. I felt like this bill didn’t live up to its promises, so initially, it was a ‘no’ vote,” Palmer said.

Palmer also expressed the opinion that states should have more control over Medicaid funding.

“I’m on the budget committee. This past year, we sent out $133.7 billion in improper payments, and $36.3 billion of that is Medicaid,” Palmer said. “It’s not going to help the elderly, or the disabled or children. I got involved with getting it added in the bill (to replace the ACA) that states could either choose to take their Medicaid funding as a per capita cap or as a Block grant, and to require work requirements for able bodies, working-age adults without small children.”

Palmer said the Medicaid portion of the bill is expected to have little to no impact on citizens of Alabama.

Palmer voiced his support for the use of Alabama’s national resources to create jobs and a funding source for state projects, specifically on the state’s roads and highways.

“The United States has unbelievable resources with natural gas, oil and coal,” Palmer said. “I think we’ve got tremendous potential to not only create jobs and generate revenue, but also to have a geopolitical impact.”

When asked about the impact that use would have on the environment, Palmer said developing technology is the key to sustaining a clean environment.

“If you’ve looked at what we have done in the past 50 years, emissions have decreased by 50 percent. We can utilize what we have in the short term while developing new technology,” Palmer said.

Palmer was also questioned about the growing distrust between some of the American people and the Trump administration.

“As far as the president goes, he is the president, and he won the election,” Palmer said. “I understand how you feel, because I felt the same way when Obama and Clinton won.”

Palmer said he would be willing to participate in an analysis of Trump’s tax returns if he was asked. Palmer said a bipartisan investigation on the federal government’s connections to Russia is currently underway.

“I’m not interested in anything that compromises national security. I am concerned about our relationship with Russia, because it’s not going the way that you would think it would go with someone who has close ties with Russia,” Palmer said.

Hoover resident said Laura Casey said she got the impression that the majority of the audience were “progressive and socially minded” people.

“The questions that were asked were about how we are going to take care of our people,” Casey said.

While Casey does not see eye-to-eye with Palmer on all issues, she said she appreciated that he took the time to speak with the public.

“I thought Palmer was very forthcoming. I love his ability to dialogue,” Casey said. “But at the end of the day, there are very real issues with how we approach problems about healthcare and income disparity.”

Clay resident Jack Fowler said he admires Palmer for his Christian faith and dedication to traditional values, but acknowledges that he is only one of many representatives.

“He’s a strong Christian, and I believe Congress is trying to get rid of Christianity. I feel that traditional values keep this country strong,” Fowler said. “One of my concerns is that most people in here are negative about the government. I don’t think Palmer can be expected to change the federal government right away.”