Reed, O’Mara hold Town Hall meeting in Branchport

Gwen Chamberlain
Congressman Tom Reed greets Yates County residents who attended his town hall meeting on Jan. 29 in the Branchport Firehouse.

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed began his first full term’s round of town hall meetings on Saturday, stopping in Jerusalem to face a gathering of between 75 and 80 people.

Reed (R-Corning), who was joined by New York State Sen. Tom O’Mara, said he plans to hold 75 town hall meetings around the 129th Congressional District in addition to “tele-town halls.”

Reed said he already sees changes in the House of Representative’s debate policy in this session of Congress. “We’re moving the bar and committed to making changes,” he said, later adding, “The bottom line is, we’ve got to deliver results.”

For example, the final version of a bill needs to be available three days before a vote is held. That’s in contrast to his brief experience in the last session of Congress. He said it was common for his staff to be texting last minute changes to bills to him on the floor right before a vote.

He said there are also efforts underway to cut spending, including a 5 percent cut in Congressional spending.

During the question portion of the nearly 90 minute session, Reed’s staffers distributed forms, on which audience members submitted queries. A staff member selected questions, often combining similar questions to avoid repetition. The topics covered included:

• SPENDING CUTS: Speaking of the need for spending cuts, Reed said “We’re all going to suffer the pain.” When one audience member cautioned about making cuts without considering the potential impact, Reed agreed, noting the need to continue investing in infrastructure improvements. O’Mara echoed Reed’s sentiments, adding that if hydraulic fracturing gets a nod from New York, the state will still need to provide proper oversight, which can be paid for by the industry.

• NATURAL GAS EXPLORATION: Reed said he’s a member of the Marcellus Shale Caucus which was formed so provide a forum for the collection of data and scientific information. “I want to use that resource for all of us.” He said he supports developing the Marcellus Shale natural gas supply, but it needs to be done safely, but he also said it’s a state, not federal issue.

• CONGRESSIONAL HEALTH PLANS: In response to a question posed by Jerusalem Superintendent Daryl Jones, Reed said there is no special health care plan for members of Congress. He said there are 24 federal employee plans available for representatives to choose from. He said the plan he selected is the plan used by postal workers.

Reed also answered questions and took comments about border security, health care reform, earmarks, student loan debt and the job market.