Himes talks Trump, GOP, with Wilton Rotary Club

Congressman Jim Himes told members of the Wilton Rotary club gathered for lunch at Marly’s Bar and Bistro in Wilton Center March 3 that he is resisting the more aggressive elements of the Democratic Party who say President Donald Trump is so bad they can’t live with him.

”There are things I stand in opposition to, like the green card issue, but I am hopeful  that some of the things the president talks about will open a door for me to be engaged happily, like investment in our infrastructure. We know how urgent that is. From railroads and roadways to making airports more efficient,” said Himes, a Democrat who represents Connecticut’s 4th District, which includes Wilton.

Tax reform, a subject Trump talks about, is another thing Himes said he could get excited about.

“We have an uncompetitive tax code. If we can simplify that there would be room for both parties to get together,” Himes said.

These past six weeks of Trump’s debut in office have also bothered Himes at times, like when Trump declared the media an enemy of the state. He said it worries him on a fundamental level, because an independent news media is important to democracy. “Hopefully we’ll get beyond this feud with the media,” Himes said.

Himes could have talked about anything but what Rotarians wanted to know about where health insurance, railroad infrastructure, improving education, and other subjects.

On insurance, Himes said the Affordable Care Act and what to do about it are an entire issue on their own. “Republicans now own the place and have to make sure they don’t do things that hurt a lot of people,” Himes said of the efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

He likes the idea that has come forward though, to allow insurance companies to compete across state lines. “I’m open to that area, more competition would be better,” Himes said. At the same time though, heavy insurance competition could be a race to an ugly bottom, with low up-front rates but hidden snags like high deductibles and non-coverage of certain diseases.

“You’d want to have some floor,” Himes said.

One Rotarian was concerned about the Metro-North Danbury line, saying it needs a major upgrade.

“There is no magic bullet to solving that,” Himes said. “Everything that moves the needle involves expense. One thing would be to provide better maintenance and upkeep of our facilities.”

Himes said that infrastructure in general needs to be upgraded, with a combination of local, state and federal efforts.

“One thing that could make a difference quickly is to get more parking at train stations,” he said.

He said he’s a skeptic about widening Interstate 95, because he can’t see how that would be done in a congested area like Stamford, and sees some advantage in modern electronic tolls, but worries that tolls would put more cars on the Post Road, the main drag through the Fairfield County gold coast.

On education, Himes predicted that federal funding for Title One to school districts with a lot of poverty, like Bridgeport, will “go down” during the Trump administration. Other than that, “for better or worse, the federal government does not have much of a role in local education.”

On the election controversies, Himes said he is certain the Russians “busted into” emails and electronic systems and at some point tried to help Trump win. “But they didn’t get into local voting machines,” he said.

The Russians did put a lot of information favorable to Trump out on the social media websites, and “that probably had some effect on the election,” Himes said.