Constituents of Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District had been calling on U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, to participate in a town hall for months. On Thursday night, he did.
WPSU hosted “The People’s Business: A Town Hall with Congressman Glenn Thompson,” which was simulcast on WPSU-TV and WPSU-FM and streamed on WPSU’s website and Facebook.
A hundred people sat in the live studio audience, and anyone was able to submit questions online in advance. The event was moderated by Cheraine Stanford, WPSU Penn State producer and director.
Questions ranged in topic from health care to environmental regulation and climate change.
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At times, the audience cheered and clapped in support of their peers’ statements. At other times, they grumbled and expressed disagreement with the congressman’s answers.
“I thought this was great tonight,” Thompson told the media after the event ended. “People got a chance to act out a little bit, but in the same standpoint it didn’t implode the event.”
Thompson answered about 20 questions, the majority of which during the live broadcast but several after the cameras were turned off.
Stanford said the “vast majority” of questions WPSU received were about health care.
“I think health care is a right,” Thompson said.
In late July, the congressman took the podium in the U.S. House to encourage the leadership to not adjourn until they had a health care bill.
Thompson was asked by a constituent at the town hall what brought him to the decision to try to revive a bill that people fought so hard against.
“The frank reality is that our health insurance system that we have, this experiment is failing,” Thompson said, adding that fixes are needed.
On the subject of climate change, the congressman was asked to acknowledge human-induced climate change.
“I think humans contribute. The amount that it contributes versus, compared to the natural evolving climate changes and perhaps are based on sunspot activity,” Thompson said.
Many of his constituents groaned at that — one asking in disbelief: “What? Sunspots?”
Humans are part of the reason the climate is changing, Thompson said, adding that he’s just not sure how much they’re part of it.
Despite some disagreements, Thompson’s constituents welcomed the opportunity to meet with him.
“It’s better than nothing, but only by a little,” said Marc Friedenberg, co-founder of PA5 Truth and Action.
Having a capacity for only 100 is not enough, he said.
“I’m happy that it’s happening at all, but I think there could be probably 500 people or more. And I hope that this isn’t the only town hall,” Friedenberg said.
Thompson said after the event that he’ll continue to engage in “courteous, open, honest, respectful communications” with his constituents, and is committed to listening and leading.