Tuning in to his constituents
In order to effectively represent the voice of the people, freshman Congressman Bryan Steil, R-Wis., often uses simple advice from this mother.
“She would always say, ‘You have two ears and one mouth,’” Steil said. “Use them in that proportion.”
Steil, representing the state’s 1st Congressional District, met with constituents at Gateway Technical College, 3520 30th Ave., during a listening session Friday.
He hosted sessions in Milton and Waukesha as well.
The 38-year-old Janesville native opened the session with a variety of topics including human trafficking, retirement benefits, workforce development, trade opportunities and health care for veterans.
Steil then fielded questions on border security, Medicaid expansion, tensions in Iran, climate change and housing.
Kenosha native John Hervat was one of about two dozen area residents in attendance.
“I thought it went pretty well,” Hervat said. “I always tell everybody, ‘I don’t vote for the party; I vote for the person. (Steil) is a good man. I’ve heard him speak before. I’ve never heard any b.s. from him.”
Steil plans to introduce a human trafficking bill with Democrat Madeleine Dean, D-Pa. The bill requires existing Trafficking In-Persons reports to “evaluate foreign countries’ efforts to investigate, prevent and prosecute financial criminal activities associated with the facilitation of human trafficking.”
The bill rollout will take place during a press conference on Tuesday in Racine. Steil is expected to be joined at the event by members of local law enforcement.
“Human trafficking is a multifaceted problem requiring a multifaceted approach,” said Steil, who serves on the House Committee of Financial Services. “This bill is a small piece of the puzzle, but really impactful. It can make a substantive difference.”
Steil addressed an array of issues in just under 50 minutes. Here are his comments on several of the aforementioned topics:
On human trafficking:
“This is an area I spent time learning about in talking to our law enforcement community. It’s a real issue. Often it’s young women who are being pulled into prostitution. (Some) of those women are being trafficked in from foreign countries into the United States. They’re being recruited from primarily low-income countries, and people are profiting from that. One way we can combat this is through clipping off the ability to profit off of human trafficking. We do it with drugs. We’ve done it with terrorism. We need to do it with human trafficking.”
On retirement benefits:
“My grandma lives in Chicago, and she turns 102 in two weeks. She lives on what I call a three-legged stool with Medicare, Social Security and my grandfather’s Wrigley gum pension. That’s always front of mind. We need to make sure the promise and commitment we’ve made to our seniors, particularly through Medicare and Social Security, are paid for. That’s in large part why I’m so focused in on overall federal spending and to make sure we do not have wasteful spending. We need a much more thorough process.”
On workforce development:
“I used to serve on the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents and worked for 10 years in the manufacturing industry. We need to work toward helping middle-class jobs come back to our community. We need to make sure we’re getting technical training and education into our high schools. That’s cost effective for all of us. Gateway (Technical College) is a national leader on this. When I go out and talk to people, they’re looking for welders. They’re looking for plumbers. Let’s get these students trained as soon as possible for great, family-supporting jobs and no debt.”
On trade opportunities:
“There is a need for our farmers to access foreign markets. We produce more food in the United States then we consume. We have to send that food somewhere to make sure the farmers have the prices they need to grow crops generation after generation. They need to be able to sell their products in Canada. The (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement) takes care of that. Dairy farmers are struggling with low milk prices. We need to get that market. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to vote on this on the House floor.”
On health care for veterans:
“One of the areas I think we can do a lot of work on is mental health. My grandfather’s generation called it shell shock, and they just told them to suck it up and go home. We now have a much better awareness. It’s a real problem, a real issue.”
On border security:
“I think we have a true emergency on the southern border. I think sometimes we, collectively as a society, get into political hyperbole instead of addressing the problem. I have a three-pronged approach. You need manpower. You need security. You need a physical barrier. It doesn’t need to be as partisan as it is. I think there is an appropriate need to secure the border. I voted in favor of the funding to do that. But there needs to be a three-pronged approach. One piece without the other two doesn’t get us there.”
On state Medicaid expansion:
“All states have the option to expand their Medicaid under a broader Obamacare package. Wisconsin hasn’t done that. I don’t think you’ll see any adjustment at the federal level. Ultimately, that’s a state-level choice. The argument (against expansion) is you can actually save money by not taking the funds. There are strong arguments as to why you actually save money by not taking it.”
On tensions in Iran:
“I was part of a secured briefing this week. I can’t get into all of the nuances of it. The big picture is Iran is aggressively posturing in the Middle East. They are working actively to destabilize Syria. They’re actively working to destabilize Yemen. There’s a power struggle going on right now between Saudi Arabia and Iran. All of this needs to stop. I don’t think it’s appropriate for Iran to have nuclear weapons. That needs to be checked with a show of force.”
On climate change:
“I think climate change is real. I think it’s particularly man-made, and I think it needs to be addressed. How do you do that? I think the key is that it’s global-forming. It’s not United States-forming. I think we need incentives in place for companies to innovate through research and development and come up with other alternative ways to drive down total carbon usage. Carbon dioxide production has actually dropped in the United States where it has not in a large number of other countries. The real key to this is the technological side and holding India, China and other similarly situated countries fully accountable.”
On affordable housing:
“One of the most impactful things you can do to make sure your housing is affordable is local zoning regulation. If you look at the cost of housing across the United States, across the board, southeast Wisconsin has pretty affordable housing. Compare it to New York or San Francisco or Los Angeles. They have local zoning laws that make it really difficult to build new housing, to get the density, to get the cost down.”