KINDERHOOK–Hundreds of people attended a rally in the Village of Kinderhook Saturday in front of the office of Congressman John Faso (R-19th). Many of the protesters carried signs declaring their support for the Affordable Care Act (also known as the ACA or Obamacare) and their concern over efforts by Republicans in Congress to repeal it.
Mr. Faso is a member of the House of Representatives committee considering alternatives to the ACA and has voted for one bill aimed at repealing the law.
There were also people with signs supporting Planned Parenthood and a few had signs saying, “No Muslim ban, No border wall.” A handful of speakers addressed the crowd at the rally, organized by the local Indivisible CD19 NY group. They included two Albany medical students and Hudson doctor Anna Marie Assevero. All of them spoke in support of the ACA. The event also featured two musical performances.
After the speeches, which started around 2 p.m., the group marched from the Village Square to Mr. Faso’s house on Sylvester Street, a short walk away.
Village of Kinderhook Mayor Jim Dunham told The Columbia Paper that the organizers had reached out to him last week about the rally. He said he had spoken to the village attorney and that there is no mass gathering law in the village. He also said that State Police, who have an office in the village, and the county Sheriff’s Office were made aware of the event. He said on Tuesday that his main concern was safety but that everything seemed to go as planned Saturday.
On their Facebook page, the Indivisible CD19 NY group thanked Mr. Dunham and village Economic Director Renee Shur.
When the protesters reached Mr. Faso’s house, his wife, Mary Frances Faso, came out to talk to people until the congressman returned home around 3:40 p.m. and addressed the crowd for about 45 minutes. He stressed what he had said before about ACA, that the government should “fix and repair what’s not working and maintain what is working.” He said he supported the section of the law that prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to people with preexisting medical conditions and the section that allows young people be covered by their parents’ insurance until age 26.
During the discussion in front of Rep. Faso’s house a woman who identified herself as Andrea Mitchell told the congressman that she grew up in Kinderhook. She said that when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor her insurance company promptly dropped her. Rep. Faso hugged her and promised that he would work on that issue.
Responding to questions and challenges from the demonstrators, he talked about problems with the ACA, including high premiums for business owners. He also promised several times not to support eliminating federal payments to Planned Parenthood and explained comments he made at a recent Republican House members’ retreat that were leaked to the press.
The leaked recordings had him urging colleagues not to include a provision to block payments to Planned Parenthood in a new healthcare law. Planned Parenthood receives no federal payments for abortions, but it does receive federal reimbursement for other healthcare services, including cancer screenings and family planning.
The Times Union, in a story by Casey Seiler, reported that Mr. Faso’s office provided a transcript of his comments, in which he told fellow GOP House members, “I speak as someone who has a history of a pro-life position in our state of New York…. I voted 16 times in the [state] legislature against public funding….” But he advised against including a provision to cut all payments to Planned Parenthood in a Republican plan for healthcare, saying, “We are just walking into a gigantic political trap if we go down this path of sticking Planned Parenthood in the health insurance bill.”
“If you want to do it somewhere else, I have no problem,” he says in the transcript, referring to the ban on payments, “but I think we are creating a political minefield for ourselves–House and Senate” by including it in a new GOP-backed health insurance plan.
The story in the Times Union says that Mr. Faso’s position on Planned Parenthood is that as long as an organization is properly providing services in a licensed and legal fashion, it should not be targeted out of “political spite” and that based on that, he does not believe Planned Parenthood deserves to have its funds eliminated.
At the Kinderhook rally Saturday Mr. Faso was also asked about the president’s executive order that halts for 90 days all immigration and other travel to the U. S. by people from seven majority Muslim countries.
“I don’t agree with a Muslim ban” he said Saturday.
On Monday Mr. Faso released a statement saying, “After careful review of the recent executive order regarding immigration policy, I believe that the order was neither well drafted nor well implemented. Given recent events both here and abroad, we need to take steps to strengthen our nation’s security; however, this is most effectively pursued through thoughtful and deliberative legislation. While I acknowledge that the president may act in the event of a national security threat or emergency situation, this process was rushed and led to confusion. There is no doubt that we need to thoroughly vet people coming from countries where there are strongholds of ISIS and al-Qaida. At the same time, we have to balance our security with the need to respect the rights of US citizens and people who are subject to valid immigration proceedings, including lawful permanent residents.”
Another person repeated calls at the rally for the congressman to publish his schedule so that his constituents know where he is if they need to reach him. “I will certainly take that under consideration,” he said.
The crowd again began to chant, “Post your schedule.”
Mr. Faso said that he’s been in Washington, DC a lot recently but that he will look at a “system whereby I can reasonably post public meetings or where I’m going to be at.”
One demonstrator suggested that a town hall meeting with the congressman would be warmer than standing in the cold.
Video of Mr. Faso answering questions from demonstrators is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/IndivCD19/.
David Lee contributed to this story.
Reporting by Casey Seiler was reprinted from the Times Union with permission.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email