Malinowski addresses economy, gun laws, abortion

Gun control, abortion rights, climate change and the high price of gas were among the key issues discussed by Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-7, during a live “telephone town hall’’ with constituents on Thursday afternoon, July 21.

Malinowski, who is running for re-election this fall against Republican Tom Kean, a former state Senate leader, fielded call-in questions for more than an hour. Residents were asked to provide their hometowns and first names only.

The Congressman noted that he has conducted over 100 similar talks while in office and promised more to come, saying direct conversations between representatives and the people are “absolutely essential for our democracy.

“Your questions become my priorities in Washington,’’ he said.

While a wide range of topics were discussed, Malinowski acknowledged that the economy and inflation is the biggest issue on the minds of many.

“On the one hand we’ve got 3.6 percent unemployment in America right now, the lowest it’s been in decades,’’ he said. “People have jobs, we have record high consumer spending. Thanks to the bipartisan infrastructure bill we are delivering for New Jersey, the infrastructure funding that we need to rebuild things and create jobs in our state.

“But at the same time, inflation is hurting absolutely all of us and there’s nothing more important for the government to be focused on right now than that problem,’’ he said.

The nation has made progress on some fronts, he added, but needs to do more.

“Gas prices have gone down in the United States for the last 36 days in a row that’s partly because we have been pressing our energy companies hard to reopen refineries that were shut down during the pandemic to produce oil on the public leases that they have from the United States government.’’

He said there’s also been “good progress’’ on a bill he co-sponsored in the House “to get the cost of prescription drugs down for Americans by allowing Medicare at long last to negotiate with the drug companies.’’

Malinowski also said he hopes to be able to preserve health insurance subsidies “that have made Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, much more affordable in the last couple of years.’’

Supply Chain

A key in the long term, however, is need “to fix is our supply chain system.’’

“ I think one of the big lessons of the pandemic is that it is dangerous for the United States to be as dependent as we have been on supply chains that begin in countries that are either hostile to the United States like China, or countries that are fundamentally unstable,’’ he said. “The most urgent urgent task that we have in fixing our supply chains is dealing with the massive shortage of microchips that our economy is experiencing right now.’’

Noting that microchips “are part of pretty much everything that we consume,’’ he said the price of new and used cars has risen because of the shortage.

“We used to make them in America and we don’t anymore,’’ he said, noting that most of the world’s microchips come from Taiwan which is facing threats from China.

Meanwhile, our allies in Europe are “investing billions and billions of dollars to attract microchip manufacturers to go to European countries.

“So we are in a race against time and we are moving very quickly in the Congress hopefully by next week we will have passed the Chips Act which will provide about $50 billion in public investment,’’ he said. “This will be huge for New Jersey, because we’re one of the few states that actually has some advanced microchip manufacturing.’’

Several callers asked about gas prices and what Congress can do to bring down prices.

The Congressman said America needs to get “more refineries online.’’

“A lot of people focus on oil production. Actually, we’re producing as much oil today in America as we were in the several years before the pandemic. The bigger problem is that the major oil and gas companies shut down production at a lot of gasoline refineries across the country. So we have been pushing and prodding them to do that, and having I think some success.’’

It’s far too easy, he added, for oil companies “to sit on the leases that we gave them’’ for land to drill on “for up to 14, 15 years without producing a drop of oil. I think they need to use them or lose them.’’

He also expressed concerns about alleged price gouging by oil companies to increase profits.

“I get a little suspicious when the price of oil goes down by 30 or 40 dollars a barrel but the price of gas does not follow,’’ he said. “I think there are some reasons to believe that some companies in the oil and gas industry are enjoying these high prices and the high profits that go with them.’’

He said he has supported “imposing a windfall tax’’ on oil company profits.

“I don’t think it’s fair to ask working and middle-class Americans to bear the entire burden of the war in Ukraine, the entire economic burden that has followed the banning of Russian oil,’’ he said. “I think these companies that are making record profits should share in that burden as well.’’

Regarding climate change, Malinowski pointed to the recent heat wave as proof of its validity.

“The need I think should be apparent to everybody in New Jersey because we understand that climate change is real, it’s here, it’s not some scientific paper that gets debated in the United Nations,’’ he said. “It’s five feet of water in your basement many of us personally experience that during Hurricane Ida.

“We’re experiencing a massive heat wave right now. We know that these weather patterns, these extreme weather patterns, are not normal and we know that they’re going to get worse if we don’t do something.’’

But he also said it provides “an extraordinary opportunity here for the United States to lead the world to clean energy.’’

“The whole world is going to be buying the technologies that that are necessary for us to make this transition away from fossil fuels,’’ he said. “I want America to lead that transition. I want our companies, our workers, to make the technologies and the products that the rest of the world will buy. I don’t want China to lead the world in that transition, and that means we have to make the upfront investments that will make America the arsenal of clean energy.’’

Supreme Court

Several callers had questions about the U.S. Supreme Court and its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and abortion rights.

“Nobody asked for this, certainly not in New Jersey, but it seems like the Supreme Court is repealing the 20th century,’’ Malinowski said. “Between Roe vs. Wade and the threats to other rights that we thought had been settled decades ago.

“What we are doing about it for the short term right now is trying to pass legislation in Congress to codify Roe vs. Wade so that it’s part of the law of the land,’’ he said.

“I think that decision that the Supreme Court made and many of the laws that are being passed across the country in response are just a travesty. I think a lot of people out there, a lot of politicians out there who’ve been talking about this irresponsibly just don’t understand what a lot of women and families go through.’’

One woman asked about the need to protect abortion rights when a mother’s life is endangered by an ectopic pregnancy that is fatal for the fetus.

“What you are talking about in those situations is a government-mandated pregnancy that will kill the mother and not save the child,’’ Malinowski said. “Some of these states are even talking about legislation that would prohibit a a woman in that situation from leaving the state from crossing state lines to get life-saving care in another state.

“Again, I can’t believe we’re even talking about this in America right now, but this is the reality.’’

“It’s so incredibly important, since we cannot count on the Supreme Court anymore, for the Congress of the United States to enshrine the basic protections of Roe vs Wade into law for the country as a whole,’’ he added.

Gun Control

Gun control was also raised by several callers.

Malinowski noted that New Jersey has “very strict rules’’ and among the nation’s lowest gun fatality rates, but stronger federal laws are needed.

“We need to keep guns off off the street and out of the hands of criminals and people who are unstable,’’ he said. “I’ve often said I’m pro Second Amendment, but I’m against the NRA and the gun industry, the gun lobby. They’ve done so much damage in our country over the last 20 or 30 years, harm that we are seeing in the headlines all too frequently.’’

He pointed out that there has been some progress made with recent bi-partisan legislation but again, more needs to be done.

“We did pass several weeks ago the first gun violence prevention bill that Congress has managed to pass in several decades. It was a bipartisan bill the product of a lot of difficult negotiations. It wasn’t everything that I might have wanted but it does represent an important step forward.’’

He said he supports an assault weapons ban.

“There is no need for an AK-47 to kill a deer,’’ he said.

“We’re the only advanced country in the world where parents, when they drop their kids off at school, have to worry whether their kids are going to be next,’’ he said. “I cannot stand that and I feel like we have no higher obligation in Washington than to protect kids.’’

“I don’t believe the police should be outgunned by criminals,’’ he added.

Regarding the political divide in the nation, he pointed to the ongoing Congressional hearings on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

“It seems that our politics are extremely divided and angry right now,’’ he said. “There are good reasons for that anxiety. But I think most of us cherish freedom and community. We want our Democracy to work in America. We want to settle our political differences by voting and not by violence.’’

The Jan. 6 committee hearings, he said, is “a good example of Democrats and Republicans coming together to repair what’s wrong with our democracy.

“I hope you will also follow our bipartisan work in Congress to pass legislation to make sure that our democracy is secure going forward from what happened on Jan. 6, so that no leader in this country of either party can ever again exploit any loopholes our laws to seize or cling to power when they’ve lost an election.’’

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