By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
People who have been to Rep. Leonard Lance’s other town halls say this was the mildest. Still, it occasionally got raucous.
The first question was about the Trump budget and why it cuts Pell Grants, food stamps, Medicaid and Social Security disability.
“Regarding the budget document, I do not support it,” Lance said.
Lance laid out his problems with it.
“I think it’s very important, for example, that there be funds in the budget to at least begin the discussion on the Gateway Tunnel, which is important to New Jersey and New York,” he said.
It all comes down to what happens in the appropriations process, he said.
“And we in New Jersey have as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. He is the only New Jersey–” Lance said to boos from the crowd.
A Somerville man said he’s a Republican but can’t stand Trump.
“I think the clear criminality of the current administration and lack of outcry …,” Alan Gilson said.
He said the Republican party is morally bankrupt.
“I cannot see myself voting for any Republican for any office for the foreseeable future,” Gilson added.
Instead of defending Trump, Lance said leave it up to special counsel Robert Mueller.
“I support the special counsel Mr. Mueller. I think that that is an excellent step,” said Lance.
“When will you call on the president and the Republican leadership on the tax returns that should have been released?” asked Gilson.
“I’m of the opinion that the president’s tax returns are likely to be subpoenaed by the special counsel,” Lance replied. “Bob Mueller will do a superb job and let the chips fall where they may.”
A Watchung man said he writes to Lance every day about Trump.
“This administration is the most foul administration I’ve ever seen in my life,” Martin Carroll said.
“Thank you,” Lance said. “Your comments are similar to your emails.”
Lance said he votes his conscience and he’ll support Trump when he agrees with him. He took issue with the President on NATO.
“I certainly continue to believe that the NATO Alliance is indispensable, thank you,” Lance said to applause.
And he stood up for the Paris Accord on climate change.
“I hope that the administration will not leave the Paris Agreement,” Lance said.
“He’s a lone voice. I mean, I didn’t come here just to berate him, but I really want him to have a spine. But he doesn’t have a coalition in the GOP right now that has a spine,” said Raritan resident Laurie Fettinger.
This was like the town halls you see on TV with a lot of anti-Trump sentiment boiling up. What’s unclear is how representative this audience was of the general population.
“I think those who come to my town hall meetings in large part tend to be disappointed with the election of President Trump. I can understand that from the perspective of some of my constituents,” Lance said.
Two issues got standing ovations — Medicare for all and funding for Planned Parenthood.