AURORA | Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman spoke via telephone with constituents from across his 6th Congressional District for slightly more than an hour Wednesday night, addressing concerns regarding healthcare, immigration, alleged executive branch scandals, the environment, and more.
On a conference call from Washington D.C., Coffman fielded queries from constituents from across the metro area, including residents from Aurora, Centennial, Thornton, Denver, Brighton and Englewood, among other municipalities. The so-called tele-town hall meeting was the first of two such meetings Coffman has pledged to hold this month. The second teleconference meeting is scheduled for March 29, Coffman spokesman Daniel Bucheli confirmed.
The majority of the questions asked on the phone call pertained to healthcare. In a live survey conducted by a moderator during the call, 35 percent of respondents said they felt that healthcare was the most pressing issue facing them today.
On the first phase of the recently introduced and hotly contested legislation that would replace the Affordable Care Act — what Coffman called a budget reconciliation bill — the Congressman from Aurora waffled.
“There are parts of it that I’m not crazy about, but there’s a lot of it that I think it moves the process in the right direction,” Coffman said during the first half of the roughly 75-minute call. The conversation was extended an extra 15 minutes to accommodate a flood of questions.
Though he expressed occasional optimism regarding certain aspects of healthcare reform, Coffman was critical of the state of the health insurance marketplace.
“Insurers aren’t coming in — they’re leaving,” Coffman said. “So we’re left with an imploding system that’s falling down upon it’s own weight.”
Aside from the pervasive topic of healthcare reform, question topics ranged from local marijuana regulation to the ongoing investigations of President Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.
After re-affirming his distaste for marijuana legalization, Coffman said he would go to bat against Attorney General Jeff Sessions in defense of Colorado’s recreational pot industry.
“I’ll have to fight the Attorney General on this and I’ll probably have to do that through the appropriations process,” Coffman said.
On the issue of so-called sanctuary cities, Coffman said cities that release detained immigrants who have a criminal past should face sanctions.
“We don’t want violent criminals on the street, and if a jurisdiction is going to do that, then, quite frankly — and announce that they’re going to it formally — then yeah, they ought to forgo their federal funds and we ought to suspend it,” he said. “I’ve consistently voted in favor of suspending federal funds to sanctuary cities.”
In response to a question on protecting public lands, Coffman said he prefers to defer to state discretion.
“I prefer the regulations to be done — even on federal public lands — by the respective states,” he said. “I trust our oil and gas commission more than I trust the EPA and I trust our state Legislature and trust our Governor.”
In response to callers who were flustered by Coffman’s decision to hold a telephone call with constituents in lieu of an in-person meeting, he provided additional details on plans for an in-person town hall in CD6 in mid-April.
He said his staffers have shored up a space that can accommodate up to 600 people, but they’re on the hunt for a bigger facility. Earlier this month, Coffman committed to holding a “traditional town hall” event during a congressional district work period in April. The second and third weeks of next month are currently scheduled for district work periods — meaning representatives are able to travel back to their respective districts to meet with constituents — according to the legislative calendar for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Coffman came under fire earlier this year for leaving a constituent event at the central branch of the Aurora Public Library before many people had the chance to speak with him. At the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Marade in January, Coffman said he was planning on holding an additional town hall at a venue that could hold as many as 300 people, according to a video posted by The Colorado Independent.
Coffman recently wrapped up a so-called “listening tour” to gauge the concerns and opinions of local healthcare professionals regarding the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Coffman held more than a dozen meetings with various medical leaders throughout the end of February and the beginning of March. None of the meetings were open to the public.
For a complete recording of Coffman’s tele-town hall, click here.