Goodlatte constituents air concerns, grievances

Dr. Mark Pierce, of Maurertown, speaks during a meeting with Emily M. Loope, district representative for 6th District Congressman Bob Goodlatte on Thursday morning inside Woodstock Town Council chambers.Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – More than a dozen Shenandoah County residents put U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte in a hot seat Thursday during an open-door meeting with one of his staff members.  Goodlatte did not attend the meeting.

The 6th District congressman’s constituents criticized him for refusing to meet with them in person so they could air their complaints and concerns over changes occurring at the national level with government, education and environmental regulation.

Questions ranged from Goodlatte’s position on whether or not President Donald Trump should release his tax returns back to 2009 to the congressman’s support for a southern boarder wall, increased military spending and presidential trips to Mar-A-Lago in Florida at the taxpayers’ expense while cutting health care.

Maurertown resident Mark Pierce asked in a statement to Goodlatte “how do you justify your support of an administration which is so transparently trying to dismantle our democracy?”

Goodlatte staff member Emilee Poole conducted the open-door meeting – an event held monthly by the congressman’s office – at the Woodstock municipal building. At least 20 people from across the county attended the meeting and asked Poole questions or read statements, which the staffer said she would collect and pass along to Goodlatte.

Susie Milburn, of Toms Brook, holds a cutout figure of 6th District Congressman Bob Goodlatte as she reads a letter during the meeting Thursday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Another attendee asked Goodlatte to not support the recently unveiled American Health Care Act – proposed by Republicans as a replacement for the Affordable Healthcare Act.

Dennis Atwood, of Maurertown, asked Goodlatte why he pushed through legislation regarding tort claims and class-action lawsuits without the normal process of congressional hearings. The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Goodlatte, reported out a set of bills dealing with tort-law reform without such hearings, Atwood said. Such legislation reflects reforms long sought by the medical industry but criticized by civil-rights activists who claim the bills would limit the plaintiffs’ use of legal remedies, he added. None of the four proposed bills have been aired in a hearing, he said, adding that it appeared Goodlatte was subverting the normal legislative process as Republicans did with the American Health Care Act.

Many of the people in attendance said they concurred with statements made by others at the meeting.

Black Bear Road resident Diane Krause said she has, for more than 30 years, administered  health care benefits for companies of all sizes. Krause said that of the 745,000 residents in Goodlatte’s district, 10 percent do not have health insurance while only 2 percent pay what is referred to as the Medicare surtax. Many high-income individuals want Congress to repeal the surtax, which amounts to $20 billion a year.

The 2 percent of the people who pay the surtax in the district help cover health care for the 10 percent without insurance or 17 percent when including Medicaid recipients, Krause explained. The 2 percent would benefit, she said, from a repeal of the surtax at the expense of the 10 percent without insurance and 32 percent on public insurance plans.

Emily M. Loope, district representative for 6th District Congressman Bob Goodlatte, records conversations with concerned citizens Thursday morning inside Woodstock Town Council chambers. Rich Cooley/Daily

“They’re screwed,” Krause said. “Why, Chairman Goodlatte, are you pushing through legislation that only benefits 2 percent of the people that live in your district and disadvantages about 97 percent of the people who live in your district?

“Twenty billion dollars for the entire country is what those taxes bring in each year,” Krause added. “That’s like a wall.”

Edinburg resident Trina West said she moved to the area recently and has heard no response from Goodlatte’s office despite making numerous phone calls or sending postcards and letters. West went on to say that the Republican health care bill would benefit the wealthy and not provide affordable care to all.

“If Bob Goodlatte’s constituents lose their health care, he’s gonna lose his job,” West said.

Sally Mielcarek, of Edinburg, said that Trump’s proposed budget aims to cut the Meals on Wheels program at a cost of $3 million per year – the same amount spent each time the president visits his “winter White House.”

Dr. Nathaniel Kirkland of Edinburg speaks during a meeting Thursday with Emily M. Loope, district representative for 6th District Congressman Bob Goodlatte Thursday morning. Rich Cooley/Daily

Woodstock resident Frances Edwards asked Goodlatte if he personally believes Trump should release his taxes and reveal his business interests outside the country.

“(Trump) lied to us about releasing his taxes so if Congressman Goodlatte supports Donald Trump’s lies, I want to know that,” Edwards said.

Other attendees echoed concerns of previous speakers as they read their statements and questions aimed at the congressman.

Goodlatte spokeswoman Beth Breeding stated in an email Thursday that the congressman was in Washington, D.C., because the House of Representatives is in session and voting this week. In one specific action this week, the House Judiciary Committee passed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, Breeding noted.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com