Across the country, members of Congress are touching base with their bases during this month’s recess. In many districts the town hall style gatherings have been unusually confrontational this year, but that wasn’t the case at the one in upper Manhattan today.
Rookie Democratic Congressman Adriano Espaillat, who replaced his long-serving predecessor Charlie Rangel only a few weeks ago, evidently hasn’t been in office long enough to tick anyone off yet. Instead, he played the role of Capital rapporteur for an SRO crowd of several hundred New Yorkers eager to find out what’s going on in DC. Fielding questions on subjects as familiar as Obamacare and as obscure as emoluments, the Rep’s answers often circled back to one inescapable fact: the other party currently holds all the cards.
“We don’t have the numbers. If I told you we could do it, I’d be lying,” Espaillat frankly conceded at one point. Currently, the Republicans have majorities in both Congressional chambers and a Republican occupies the White House as well. Part of Espaillat’s task today was managing expectations and making it clear that the minority party, while not completely powerless, faces very strong headwinds. He went on to say that the midterms in 2018 and redistricting following the 2020 Census offer the possibility of changing that dynamic.
Pledging to #resist the wall that President Trump intends to build, he called it a symbol of division and racism. Inevitably, someone asked about impeaching President Trump. Once again, Espaillat referenced the limited ability of the minority party to set the agenda in Congress. That said, he noted that some Republicans were beginning to voice objections to the President and when he name checked Senator McCain, the crowd applauded. Regarding Trump’s Presidency so far, Espaillat said that “I think he’s his own worst enemy.”