What are Southern California lawmakers up to with Congress in recess?
Lawmakers face a full agenda when they return to Capitol Hill next month: a new federal budget, the debt ceiling, tax reform and infrastructure spending. Plus, President Donald Trump still wants Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare, and then there’s North Korea.
But for now, during their August recess, members of Congress from both parties are back in their districts getting reacquainted with constituents. Southern California lawmakers are touring businesses and factories, appearing at public events, speaking to community groups and holding campaign fundraisers.
They may seem omnipresent, but that doesn’t mean everyone can see them.
Many tours, fundraisers and speeches are off-limits to the public. Republicans in particular seem wary of holding town hall meetings, where they might face jeering crowds and sharply worded questions about health care and the Trump presidency in exchanges captured for endless viewing on YouTube.
“Angry people show up at town halls,” said Jack Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College. “Right now, most of the anger is on the Democratic side, so many Republicans are avoiding traditional town halls.”
“As an alternative, they sometimes hold (telephone town halls), where a staffer can screen out hostile calls,” Pitney added. “They can also speak to meetings of local organizations whose members don’t jeer.”
Even that doesn’t silence protesters. Critics of Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, have made a habit of picketing his private events, including a recent golf fundraiser in Riverside.
Lawmakers representing swing districts “need to work their districts to show that they are not losing touch,” Pitney said. “Members in safe districts have the luxury of using recess to reconnect with their families, though it’s usually a good idea to take those families to local attractions.”
SPEECHES AND TOURS
Those hosting town hall meetings in the coming days include Reps. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks; Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana; and Mark Takano, D-Riverside, according to the Town Hall Project, a progressive group with an online map of upcoming town hall meetings across the country.
Reps. Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley; Ed Royce, R-Fullerton; Mimi Walters, R-Irvine; and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa, along with Calvert, have yet to hold an in-person town hall meeting in 2017, according to the project’s website. Walters, Royce and Rohrabacher are being targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2018.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, has held several town-hall meetings with constituents this year.
Lawmakers also are speaking to various community groups. At a luncheon earlier this month with members of four chambers of commerce, Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Whittier, said North Korea’s testing of missiles that could carry nuclear warheads has kept her up at night.
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, used a gathering of liberal activists in Aliso Viejo to muster enthusiasm for the 2018 midterm elections, when Democrats hope to take control of Congress.
“It is your job to make sure people are excited next November as they are right now,” Lieu was quoted as saying in a published report.
Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Redlands, who held a town hall meeting in February, is visiting a senior living facility and hosting a veterans resource fair as well as a job fair this month, spokeswoman Sarah Weinstein said. He’s also continuing his “Job For a Day” tour in which he works at local businesses, she added.
Takano spokesman Josh Weisz said the congressman will be at a bilingual town hall forum and a health care town hall meeting this month in Riverside.
The congressman also is scheduled to take part in a town hall forum focused on veterans issues Aug. 22 at Riverside City College.
Takano has “one small fundraiser at the end of the month,” Takano campaign spokesman Charlie Beall said.
Rep. Norma Torres, D-Pomona, toured various businesses last week in her district, which includes Fontana, Ontario, Rialto and Pomona. The businesses include such companies as a furniture-making plant in Pomona and a Fontana screw manufacturer.
On the Republican side, Calvert spokesman Jason Gagnon said the congressman, who held a telephone town hall meeting and spoke to this news organization in a Facebook Live interview earlier this year, is “meeting with constituents, speaking at community events in the district, visiting local military installations and talking to local educators.
“Hearing from his constituents and having productive conversations about the challenges they are facing is incredibly important to Rep. Calvert,” Gagnon said.
Rohrabacher will meet constituents “but not at public events,” spokesman Ken Grubbs said. “He also has plans to celebrate his wedding anniversary.”
Cook “will be in the district for the vast majority of the recess,” spokesman Michael Fresquez said. “He does not have any campaign fundraisers planned. He will be meeting with constituents and attending public events but will not be holding a town hall.”
Walters on Aug. 9 visited an aerospace systems manufacturer in Irvine, according to her official Twitter account. Royce attended National Night Out anti-crime events in Brea, Fullerton, Placentia and Rowland Heights, according to his website.
At the start of August, Issa visited startup companies in his district as part of “Startup Day Across America.” He also appeared on cable news to warn that North Korea’s development of a nuclear warhead that could fit on a missile would rival the Cuban Missile Crisis in terms of threats.
TOWN HALL MEETINGS
Here are some upcoming town hall meetings hosted by Southern California members of Congress this month.
• Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks: 3 p.m. Aug. 20 at Reseda High School auditorium, 18230 Kittridge St. in Reseda. RSVP: sherman.house.gov.
• Rep. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana: Veterans town hall at 6 p.m. Aug. 21 at Rancho Santaigo Community College Building, 2323 N. Broadway in Santa Ana. Information: 714-621-0102.
• Rep. Mark Takano, D-Riverside: Bilingual town hall forum at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 16 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 5250 Central Ave., Riverside.
• Veterans town hall forum 5:30 p.m. Aug. 22 at Riverside City College’s Digital Library, 4800 Magnolia Ave., Riverside. RSVP: takano.house.gov; under “Newsroom,” click on “Events.”
• Health care town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 24 at Rustin Behavioral Health Campus, 2085 Rustin Ave., Riverside.
• Rep. Nanette Barragan, D-San Pedro: 6:00 p.m. Aug. 24 at the YWCA, 7515 Pacific Blvd. in Walnut Park. RSVP: email RSVP.Barragan@mail.house.gov or call 310-831-1799.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story included incorrect information about Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista. Issa has held several town hall meetings with constituents this year.
Rep. Torres “Made In The 35th” Tour Highlights 15 Inland Empire Manufacturers
Ontario, CA – Rep. Norma J. Torres (D-Pomona) drew to a close her “Made in the 35th” tour of manufacturing businesses in the 35th district. The tour, which took place from August 7th through 11th, included informational meetings, events, tours and site visits of manufacturers in a wide range of industries in the cities of Bloomington, Chino, Fontana, Ontario, Pomona, and Rialto.
“My ‘Made in the 35th’ tour highlighted the incredible array of products that are made right here in our backyard, from packaged cookies to military equipment, from hotel furniture to parts for the Mars rover. It was inspiring to see the pride these companies take in their products and their employees and how many are family owned with employees who have worked at their facilities for decades,” said Torres. “Our region’s manufacturing sector is often overlooked in the national political discussions on American manufacturing, but it employs thousands of American workers creating goods that are used around the world. Any policy changes impacting this sector must take our region and our residents into account.”
While manufacturing has only grown 3.4% nationwide, manufacturing in the Inland Empire is far ahead of national trends with a growth of 13.3% in San Bernardino County. A total of 34,500 people are employed in manufacturing in the 35th district with the average wage for manufacturing employees in California being nearly double the average wage for all sectors in the 35th district, $83,000 compared to $47,000. Torres’s tour included:
· 6 cities
· 15 manufacturers, representing 2,268 employees.
· 5 Military/Defense suppliers
· 11 companies that had been in the 35th District for more than 25 years
· 1 company that had been in the District for less than one year
· 3 female-owned businesses
“Despite what is portrayed in the media, manufacturing in the Inland Empire is thriving. However, there is definitely more that can be done to support these businesses and spur economic growth in the manufacturing sector,” continued Torres. “During this tour, I had the opportunity to hear straight from business owners about the challenges they face and how Washington can help. From improving contracting practices to changing regulatory requirements, there is still a lot more work to be done to help American businesses succeed in an ever-more competitive global economy.”