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Congressman Tom Reed

Congressman Tom Reed (R-NY 23rd District) met with Ithaca constituents at the Tompkins County Library Tuesday morning to talk about Social Security and other issues.  Reed said he and his staff are scheduling town halls at different times of the week, with some in the evenings.  They are also using the town hall forums to target specific issues.  Tuesday morning the issue was Social Security.

"One of the things I am committed to is reforming and saving Social Security for generations," Reed said. "Now in my role as Republican leader in the House of Representatives for Social Security, working with my Democratic partner John Larson, from Connecticut... we are taking on this issue because it's an issue that's going to have to be dealt with. We are committed."

Click here for more on Reed's take on social security reform.
Reed explained that as the Republican Republican Leader (Ranking Member) of the Social Security Subcommittee on the House Ways and Means Committee, he is working with working with Subcommittee Chairman Congressman John Larson (D-CT), and nine other congress members.  He said there is a lot of agreement on the subcommittee about the importance of reforming the program soon.

"There's a lot of common ground between John and I with regards to saving Social Security," Reed said. "John and I are committed to recognizing that the sooner we act the more tools we'll have in the toolbox to fix this program.  But there are going to be some differences."

He said the main disagreement between himself and Larson is about how the deficit, which would mean Social Security would run out of money by about 2035 if nothing is done, should be funded.  Reed explained that Larson's approach to solving the solvency problem is to add a 1.3 trillion dollar payroll tax increase.  He said he would fight that, preferring ways to grow the workforce, including expanding the number of new, legal, immigrants who would become American taxpaying workers.  But he acknowledged there is a great deal of common ground between Republicans and Democrats on the issue of saving Social Security.

Reed said that those currently drawing from Social Security and those within a generation of drawing from it would be exempt from any changes to the age qualification or amount they are eligible to draw.

"Those promises will be kept," he insisted. "Those that are within a generation of retirement, I honestly believe that they don't have enough time to adjust their retirement plans, and the promise made to them must be kept.  Folks like myself, a generation outside of retirement -- maybe there's an honest conversation to have.  Maybe I'm living longer, so working longer.  So are the ages of 62 and 67 the appropriate ages for early and qualification for Social Security?  I think that's a piece of the puzzle that needs to be addressed."

Reed said he is open to the Payroll Tax Cap removal.  He said Larson's proposal to entirely remove the cap may not be appropriate, but Reed suggested putting the cap at the level for which Social Security was originally designed, which he said is about 90% of the average American's wages.  He said he is also intrigued by the idea of reducing taxes on lower income people.

"This is a trillion dollar problem that needs to be addressed," Reed said.  "We're eager for input. We're eager for ideas."

Reed highlighted a few other current issues including addressing spiraling drug pricing reforms. He stressed that it is of vital importance for the United States to complete the Mexico / Canada trade agreement in part to support US dairy and other farmers that rely on trade with our neighboring countries, and also because he said the Chinese would not negotiate with the US on trade if we can't even come to an agreement with our neighbors.  He said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi needs to be convinced to bring the issue to a vote, but added if she doesn't agree to do it there are mechanisms to force a vote.  he said he is confident the agreement will pass if it can get to a vote on the House floor, with 218 votes in the House of Representatives, and 60 votes in the Senate.

"Don't lose sight of how important it is if we negotiate these situations with China," Reed said. "That is the big elephant in the room.  Getting Mexico/Canada done is critical for us to have successful negotiations with China and keep China in the room in order to resolve our unfair trade disputes with China.  They have given us clear indications that if they see us fail on Mexico/Canada they will not negotiate with us in regards to updating our trade relationship, because, essentially they say to us, 'If you can't get a deal done with Mexico/Canada, why would we stay in the room to negotiate something that you can't deliver upon?'  So that is a critical piece of that going forward."

After speaking for about 20 minutes Reed opened the floor to questions.  Topics included Social Security, of course, and also the issue of all Americans being made eligible for Medicare, funding for medical research, President Trump's weakening of FDA enforcement power (Reed said he would research that).

Reed said he supports a plan for the CDC to research the effect of gun violence.  That drew applause, but a spirited disagreement on how gun violence should be abated broke out (click here to see accompanying article).

Reed said he wants to work with people who may not agree with him to find things they can agree on, and act on those issues.  He said he has learned from the town halls he has conducted, noting that he has been having town halls around the district from the beginning of the time when he was first elected.  he pledged to continue holding them.

"Having the conversation is a thing we need to do more in our country, and I will continue to do my part to demonstrate that we're committed to it by being accessible, and listening, and having a conversation," he said. "Even though we may disagree at times we can have a very good conversation.  We've seen many of these town halls be very productive, and we're getting to a point where we are listening to each other."

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