U.S. Senator Ron Wyden Discusses Government Shutdown in Latest Town Hall Meeting at LB

The current federal shutdown is unnecessary, according to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden.

The government could be back up and running by having two separate votes: one to approve agreed-upon government functions, and a second to debate the President’s priorities, specifically the building of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

In week four of the ongoing federal shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, Sen. Ron Wyden spoke at his annual Linn County Town Hall. It was held at Linn-Benton Community College’s Russell Tripp auditorium on Saturday, Jan. 19 at 3 p.m. Hundreds of people checked in with Wyden staff and passed by security staff on their
The senator focused on health care, including health insurance and mental health. Wyden said that without good health, citizens cannot focus on their quality of life. His brother suffered from schizophrenia, and his constituents suffer from the high cost of medicine and hospital bills.

Senator Wyden Poses with members of Civil Discourse Club.

As an insurance agent, Albany City Councilman Alex Johnson II is concerned about clients whose medicine has more than tripled in the past six to eight months, and furloughed government employees who are worried about their health insurance being canceled unless they pay the full price out of pocket under COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act).
Sen. Wyden also addressed the recent federal tax-cut given to wealthy US citizens, saying that not a single big earner in Oregon ever called for a tax cut. “What a great statement amount the Oregon way,” Wyden said. “They didn’t want it to go up, but they never asked for it to go down.”

Town hall audience members who had a question were given a ticket and when their number was called they asked Wyden their question. John Green told Wyden that if he could remove two people from federal office in Washington, D.C., it would be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Trump. The shutdown, entering its fourth week, has caused the salaries of many government employees, including security personnel, to be furloughed. Speaker Pelosi recommended that President Trump refrain from giving a televised State of the Union address since security workers are not currently being paid. President Trump then canceled military transport for a U.S. delegation to Afghanistan where Pelosi and other U.S. officials were going to visit U.S. troops.

Senator Wyden presents a flag flown over the Capitol Building to Derral Hunt of Albany’s Vets Helping Vets HQ.

Sen. Wyden stayed afterwards to field more questions from about a dozen audience members, including Chareane Wimbley-Gouveia, who is on the faculty at LBCC but attended the event as a citizen. Before the event, Wimbley-Gouveia expressed concern about the government shutdown, saying, “I think it’s wrong to tell people to work without pay. It erodes young people’s faith our government.” Wimbley-Gouveia went on to say, “In my opinion, government isn’t a political game. It’s a service for our fellow citizens, working for the common good.”

A theme among attendees at the Town Hall echoed Sen. Wyden’s call for bipartisan communication and education about current events. Audience member Jason Lawyer, a resident of Albany, voiced appreciation for the event. Lawyer said the more advertising the better for events like this, saying: “I’m sure there’s a lot of city and government things that are going on but I never hear about them; I think it’s great to hear about everyone’s ideas and hear discussion about them.”
There are two upcoming opportunities on the LBCC campus for students to share their opinions. One is the Civil Discourse Club at LBCC, which has meetings on Mondays from 11 a.m. to noon in Takena Hall, Room 207. The other is on Wednesday, February 6th when LBCC will host a Heterodoxy event regarding free expression on the LBCC campus. The Heterodoxy Academy is a national group of folks in higher education who want to increase diversity of thought. Students will have an opportunity to join in on the discussion from 5:15 pm to 6:15 pm in the LBCC Board Room. RSVP to coxly@linnbenton.edu if you are interested.

Story by Karen Canan

Photos by Caleb Barber and Alex Gaub

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