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Rep. Perry answers questions on topics from Trump and immigration to gun control at town hall

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 8/7/19

HUMMELSTOWN — Standing in front of the fire hall in the Hummelstown Fire Department, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry faced his constituents, some who lauded his record in the House of Representatives and …

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Rep. Perry answers questions on topics from Trump and immigration to gun control at town hall

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HUMMELSTOWN — Standing in front of the fire hall in the Hummelstown Fire Department, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry faced his constituents, some who lauded his record in the House of Representatives and some who asked him to defend his positions.

At the end of the event on July 30, Perry said the town hall — which some of his critics who were protesting said was his first since 2017 — was civil and that he planned to hold more town halls in the future.

“I’ve been the member of the Pennsylvania delegation that has done the most town halls. But they became dangerous, I’m going to tell you that, and they became uncivil and we had different guidance,” Perry said. “We’re not going to agree on everything. That’s OK.”

During the town hall, some audience members applauded in support of Perry’s points, while others voiced objections.

Attendees were asked to write their questions on index cards. The questions then were read by Hummelstown Mayor David Roeting; he did not read who asked the question. Perry, who is serving his fourth term but his first representing the new 10th District, opened the town hall talking about his record, setting the rules of the event and asking people to be respectful.

Perry was asked about 30 questions on a variety of topics — his female genital mutilation legislation, election security, immigration, Medicare for All, and student loan debt.

Several times throughout the night, Perry was asked in different ways why he wouldn’t condemn comments made by President Donald Trump.

And several times, Perry remarked that there have been questionable statements on both sides of the political aisle and that he tries to stick to policy and “stay out of the drama.”

One constituent asked Perry why he was able to condemn the suicide bombing of a bus carrying Central Reserve Police Force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir, India, in February (which Perry has introduced a resolution for), but not condemn Trump’s tweets that four congresswomen, including U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

The second-to-last question of the night asked Perry what’s the “line that Trump must cross before you make a public statement of condemnation.”

“I’m not condemning anyone,” Perry said. “I’ve got my vote, and you’ve got your vote. There are things that are said that I find distasteful on both sides. … But we all have a vote. This is America; we all have a vote. You all have your opinions. You don’t need me to tell you what to think about all this stuff, right? My job is to do legislation and be your conduit to the federal government. I do the best at that that I can.”

“But silence is complicity,” one constituent yelled out.

After, constituent Sherie Smith of Shiremanstown said it’s fine if Perry wants to agree with Trump, but he could also say his rhetoric is unacceptable.

“That doesn’t mean that you don’t like his tax bill. It just means that you don’t like him saying the things that he says about his fellow congressmen who are of color,” Smith said.

Immigration

As the evening wore on, audience members began interjecting more frequently, asking follow-up questions or commenting on Perry’s points.

For example, several people audibly groaned when Perry was asked about immigration about halfway through the town hall.

Perry responded that there was a crisis on the Southern border, and he thought the country was being abused. He said the people entering the United States illegally were “disrespecting” people entering the country legally “by letting other people walk right past them and go to the front of the line for employment, work permits and what have you.”

“Do you actually think we’re caring for people appropriately at the border right now? Is that your contention? That those children are being cared for appropriately?” one constituent said.

“I don’t support the status quo, ma’am,” Perry responded.

He said the children were being cared for “as best we can under the circumstances.” Some in the audience responded with groaning, and Perry asked if he could finish.

“It was never set up for 5,000 people a day to come in between the ports of entry. Our system was set up for people to come through the ports of entry so that we could determine if they were coming legally or not and what their status was,” Perry said.

Thirty percent of the children coming across the border were being trafficked, he said.

Some people called out, “No,” while others applauded and cheered.

Several times, Perry referenced his copy of the Constitution that he brought with him.

When Perry was asked about paid family and medical leave, he said there wasn’t a provision in the Constitution that required it of employers, but added it was great when businesses did.

Gun control

Similarly, on the heels of the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California on July 28 where three were killed, Perry was asked what he would do to help end the mass shootings and stand against “hate and white supremacy groups.”

Perry responded that there’s “no place at all for racial-based supremacy groups.”

His comments came before another spate of weekend violence in the United States. A mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, killed 22 people on Saturday. Early Sunday, nine more people were killed in a Dayton, Ohio shooting

“Regarding the gun violence, we search long and hard for some solutions to it. Every single person from the mayor to the president agrees to support and defend this thing — the Constitution of the United States,” Perry said holding up a copy of the Constitution.

“We don’t get to pick which rights we choose to defend and which ones we don’t,” Perry said, adding that there may be mental health or social media issues.

What can you do instead of taking guns away? one constituent asked.

“Nobody wants to infringe on Second Amendment rights, but what kind of studies or what kind of research or restrictions can be placed,” the constituent said.

“What we can do, I think, is arm, if I can use that term. What we can do is inform some of our public officials and people in places where these things unfortunately have occurred to be more aware of some of the signs,” Perry responded.

Voter identification

The Second Amendment was raised again when the conversation turned to voter eligibility after Perry advocated for identifications to be required to vote which one audience member argued disenfranchised voters.

“How does it disenfranchise voters?” Perry asked him.

“It disenfranchises people that can’t access — they don’t have a drivers license,” he responded.

Perry said identification was provided for free when legislation was passed in Pennsylvania. “If it’s not too much, sir, if that disenfranchises people, what does limits on the Second Amendment do? That disenfranchises people of their constitutional rights as well.”

Supporters and critics

After the town hall, critics and supporters echoed their criticisms and support of Perry.

“I thought he did a wonderful job,” said Carolyn Wolf, of Lower Paxton Township, adding that she agreed with him on most things.

Carlisle resident Robert Hirsch decided to come out after he saw in a York newspaper that people were calling Perry unaccessible. He recalled one day that he had met Perry, and the next time, Perry remembered him and called him by name.

Hirsch said he voted for Perry because he was a fan of his military background and how Perry grew up, and the similarity to how he too raised his son while working two jobs.

“The best thing about him is his Constitution,” Hirsch said.

“A nation without law is anarchy,” Hirsch added.

On the other hand, Perry’s critics said they felt he dodged questions and said things that were untrue.

For example, Perry was asked on his stance on late-term abortion. He said he opposed it, to the applause of some audience members.

“And I am appalled, and I am shocked, and I am disappointed by what some people are calling fourth-term abortions or post-birth abortion,” Perry said.

“That’s a lie,” one constituent called out.

“Lie,” said another.

“I was asked where I stand, that’s where I stand,” Perry responded.

“With lies,” one constituent said.