Climate change, partisanship issues at Bonamici town hall

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici speaks at a town hall at the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce.

National issues, such as concerns about climate change and partisan gridlock in Congress, were at the forefront at a town hall hosted on Sunday by U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici.

The visit was a part of a tour across the 1st Congressional District to answer questions from constituents. Most concerns were centered around whether any progress could be made on Bonamici’s priorities, such as expanding health care, college affordability or curbing climate change, with a Republican-held Congress and White House.

“When I got elected to Congress, I knew I’d be in the minority, but that doesn’t mean I expect my constituents to expect I do nothing because I’m in the minority party,” the Democrat said. “You find common ground.”

Bonamici cited her work with Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, to develop the Save Our Seas Act, a bill that reauthorizes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine debris Program through 2022. She also mentioned bipartisan work with then-Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., that was necessary to pass the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act of 2014, a bill aimed at bettering coordination of NOAA’s research and forecasting operations.

While bipartisanship is possible, Bonamici said she is concerned about the lack of oversight she feels lawmakers have over the Trump administration. Bonamici highlighted the U.S. Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency, in particular.

“The current Congress has not done a good job to provide oversight to this administration,” Bonamici said. “We’ve seen story after story about them not doing their job or about a culture of corruption … we need to crack down where oversight is needed.”

This issue dovetailed into the concerns some in the audience had about whether a recent report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — a group of scientists convened by the United Nations — was being taken seriously by Congress. The report described the global effects of climate change by 2040.

Bonamici said, as a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, she was disappointed by the Trump administration’s lack of response to the report.

“The administration didn’t even understand who (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) were,” she said.

Bonamici said she still believes progress can be made through educating people and communicating about issues like ocean acidification and renewable energy resources, and that those conversations need to be tethered to job retraining and education in the oil and coal industries.

“We can grow our renewable energy industry,” Bonamici said. “But we have to talk about it in a way where those working in industries like coal don’t feel like we’re taking away their livelihood and their whole history.”

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