It was standing-room-only at U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s Aug. 28, 2019, town hall meeting at Cleary University. The room in which the town hall took place was set up with 250 chairs — all of which filled quickly, leaving several dozen people standing throughout the evening.
After an Introduction from Cleary University President Jayson Boyers, and a performance of the National Anthem by the Chickapellas, Brighton High School’s all-girl A capella group, Slotkin answered a wide range of questions from the audience — from impeachment to the immigration system to gun legislation, and lots of subjects in between.
Two people seated in the front room directly in front of the podium had signs urging the impeachment of President Donald Trump, and Slotkin dove into the question right off the bat.
“Holding Trump accountable is important,” Slotkin said to a loud round of applause. “I want to be very honest. I believe that impeachment is a very big step. I believe it is something that should not be taken lightly and it has to be something where we bring people along in the process.”
Slotkin said that since the Mueller Report came out, the Judiciary Committee has submitted many subpoenas, though the administration has not yet answered any of them.
“In the next three weeks, we’ll see what the administration decides to do,” she said. “If there’s no response (to the subpoenas), we’ll be in a different world.
“No one is above the law.”
The second question of the evening made reference to an Austrian foreign exchange student at Brighton High School who is, along with their family, scared of a school shooting scenario.
Slotkin responded that in March, a piece of legislation was passed in the House that called for universal background checks and the closing of all loopholes. While she grew up in a gun owning family and knows that there are a huge number of responsible gun owners in her district, Slotkin said this legislation is common sense.
“We don’t want to turn our schools into prisons,” she said. “I don’t believe the solution is arming teachers.”
Slotkin said to a round of applause that she feels the “tide is turning” for “basic, common-sense” solutions.
When asked about universal healthcare and the Affordable Care Act, Slotkin said this area propelled her to run in the first place. Her mother couldn’t afford health care before she ended up in an emergency room with a diagnosis of stage four ovarian cancer.
“I personally believe in a buy-in to Medicare, for anyone at any age,” Slotkin said. “How many people do you know are working a job they don’t like because of the insurance? How many people do you know whose kids age out at 26 years old and don’t quite have a job lined up with insurance?”
Continuing on about medical issues, a question was asked about the importation of prescriptions at a cheaper price. Slotkin believes that while it’s a temporary solution, it is an area that needs bipartisanship to be solved.
On immigration and the treatment of immigrants, Slotkin said that we can’t have open borders, but it’s possible that “we can have border security and treat people with humanitarian standards.” She referred to the Geneva Convention as a guide to draft legislation.
“If we catch an Al Qaeda fighter on the battlefields in Syria, we have a certain responsibility to provide food, shelter, sanitation and access to medical care,” she said. “That same treatment should be afforded to all people at our borders.”
Slotkin said there is “misery in every link” in the immigration chain.
“The system is broken,” she said. “Congress has been derelict.”
An audience member asked why Congress doesn’t pass a bill to require hard copy ballots in order to boost confidence in the election system. Slotkin said that while Michigan already has paper ballots, some states do not and that isn’t at the federal level.
The next question pertained to the shutting down of Enbridge Line 5, the major oil and gas pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac. Slotkin said she looks at the issue from a Homeland Security standpoint, explaining that the approach needs more muscle. She believes that Line 5 is old, dangerous, and a spill could devastate the coastal area for a generation at least.
“I do not believe Line 5 should remain open and I do not believe we should replace it with anything,” Slotkin said to wild applause from the audience.
Answering questions on climate change, Slotkin compared it to her time in the Department of Defense: “In the military, if you even have a 10 percent chance of something happening, you do contingency planning,” she said. “You want to be prepared.”
People wanted to know how she would vote for The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), or “NAFTA 2.0” as she referred to it.
“We are within striking distance of passing it, which I think is a good thing,” Slotkin said, explaining that in order for it to succeed, the issues with its predecessor NAFTA need to be solved so jobs don’t end up in Mexico.
After the longest government shutdown happened in 2019, the audience was eager to know how Slotkin and the rest of Congress would prevent another one.
“(Shutdowns are) shameful and it wasteful,” she said. “We are the only country in the world that allows our government to open and shut based on politics. It is disastrous.”
Congress passed an appropriations bill before the session let out for the summer, so Slotkin believes the government will remain open; however, a shutdown is a possibility for the State of Michigan. Slotkin asked the audience to reach out to their state representatives and let them know that they won’t stand for a shutdown.
The next issue brought up were the effects of the proposed changes to Title IX from Secretary of Education Betsy Devos that would make it more difficult for victims to come forward. Title IX was put into place in 1972 and ensured equal rights regardless of sex. In Michigan, Title IX has made recent headlines with the Larry Nassar sexual abuse allegations at Michigan State University, where hundreds came forward to accuse the gymnastics coach of abuse.
Devos’ plans would make it harder for victims to come forward after sexual assault because one of the changes DeVos wants would make Title IX active only on school property, so anything that occurs outside of the grounds is not protected.
Slotkin said she wrote Secretary DeVos several letters before getting a meeting with her. Slotkin urged her to meet with victims of sexual assault before putting forth the changes, but Devos declined to do so.
When asked about the age-old issue in Michigan regarding roads and infrastructure, Slotkin said that finding funding is a problem, but that the public would only pay once at the state or federal level, not both.
Some in the audience were curious if there were any plans in the works on reducing the deficit, to which Slotkin said that the issue at the current time in to keep it from rising first.
“It seems that both parties have lost their sense that the deficit is dangerous,” she said.
Members from the Alzheimer’s Association asked whether the Congresswoman would make an appearance at their Walk to End Alzheimers, set for Oct. 5 in Brighton. While Slotkin said she’d have to double-check her schedule, if she was free she would be there, and she would be sure to wear her purple blazer.
When asked if she would sponsor a bill to prevent Anti-Semitic discrimination, Slotkin said that although it sounds like something she would support, she reads every bill before making a final call
“A lot of folks rush onto the House floor when votes are called, and they look up at the board to see how the first democrat or republican voted and vote that way. That is not the way our system is designed to function, and I would never do that.”
After the time limit was reached on questions, Slotkin thanked the audience for coming out and that if they should ever need anything, they need only reach out to her.