U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici fielded a variety of questions — from national topics to local ones — from about 70 constituents who gathered for a Sunday afternoon town hall meeting at the Hillsboro Civic HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici chats with a constituent after Sundays town hall event at the Hillsboro Civic Center.

Bonamici, a Democrat who represents Oregon’s 1st District in Congress, said her Hillsboro event was her fourth town hall meeting of the weekend. She had several more planned for next weekend as well — including two in Washington County. However, Bonamici’s staffers said those events are in limbo because Congress may be called back into session before then. The uncertainty over when Congress may be called back to Washington, D.C., may lead to cancellation of town hall events planned for Sept. 28 in Banks and Sept. 29 in Beaverton.

“I’m supposed to be in the district next week, but instead I may have to return to Washington, D.C., to vote,” Bonamici explained.

Congress is again in “crisis mode” as funding to operate the federal government runs out at the end of September. Many political observers believe there won’t be a last-minute compromise this time around.

“No one wants the federal government to shut down,” Bonamici said. “Well, I should say, most people don’t want it to shut down. It’s not a good thing for the economy or our country. Governing by crisis is not good for us in the long-term. There are a lot of issues facing us, and the top of the list is to make sure we don’t shut down the government.”

Bonamici pointed out that Republicans in the House of Representatives have approved a funding bill that would keep the government running — but only if all funding for the Affordable Health Care Act is eliminated. A majority of the members of the Senate, as well as President Obama, have rejected that provision, creating an impasse.

“The Affordable Health Care Act is not going to be repealed,” Bonamici said. “Implementation is going to be somewhat complex, but the goal is to expand access and affordability.”

Bonamici said she believed a lot of the brinksmanship over the budget stems from partisan animosity toward President Obama.

“There is still a lot of misunderstanding and mistrust,” she said. “I thought things would get better after the election, but it hasn’t. It’s more partisan than it needs to be, and I’m concerned.”

Bonamici said she hoped Congress would pass a long-term budget and “we can have a functioning Congress again.”

When a citizen asked Bonamici about her stance on climate change legislation, she responded by saying climate change is a serious issue, but she does not believe majority Republicans will offer any legislation to address the topic.

“We need to be taking steps. I’m committed to doing what I can, but passing something in the current Congress is pretty unlikely,” she said.

Several attendees asked Bonamici about Intel’s proposed new air quality permit, an issue now before the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and the topic seemed to take Bonamici by surprise.

The first person to bring up the issue asked Bonamici if he “should move.” He explained that he lives near where the new Intel plants are being built, and was worried about the health impacts of added air pollution from the plants.

“I’m not prepared to answer that at this time,” Bonamici said. “It’s a local issue. I can’t answer if you should move.”

Forest Grove resident Dale Feik asked Bonamici if the federal Environmental Protection Agency could be beefed up “so state agencies can force big polluters” to comply with regulations.

“The EPA budget has been cut significantly in this Congress,” Bonamici pointed out. “It is not going to be beefed up.”

Responding to a question about immigration reform, Bonamici said she also does not expect a comprehensive immigration bill to come out of the current Congress.

“Unfortunately, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee doesn’t want a comprehensive bill. He wants to do a couple pieces,” she said.

Bonamici also commented on the “No Child Left Behind” legislation passed during President Bush’s time as president.

Bonamici said there has been too much emphasis on tests, and too much pressure on getting the required test results.

“We need more creativity and hands-on learning,” Bonamici said. “We need to make sure we have a generation of students who are innovative and creative. We have to have art so students use both halves of the brain. And I am fighting to stop cuts to federal funds that come to our schools.”

Toward the close of the one-hour forum, John Williams, who lives in the Rock Creek area, said he planned to ask Bonamici to write a letter to EPA to request that the agency give extra scrutiny to Intel’s request for a new air quality permit.

“I can see why she wants to walk on eggshells on that subject,” Williams said after the meeting. “Intel is the biggest employer in her district, and I’m sure they can bundle significant contributions. It’s too bad if she has to debate whether to send a letter to the EPA. I know she knows people are concerned, and nothing gets an agency’s attention like a letter from a member of Congress.”

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