Reed Talks Syria, Farm Bill At Town Hall Meeting

P-J file photo

GERRY — U.S. Rep. Tom Reed said President Donald Trump’s decision to coordinate a U.S. led airstrike against chemical weapon facilities in Syria was a “reasonable action” meant to send a message to dictator Bashar Assad.

Reed made the comments to about two dozen area residents at a town hall meeting at the Gerry Rodeo Center. It was the first of three town hall meetings Reed, R-Corning, made in his sprawling 23rd Congressional district Saturday.

“The use of weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical weapons like we saw in the horrific videos, is not going to be tolerated in the world,” Reed said.

The airstrikes, according to Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, involved U.S., French and U.K. allies and targeted three Syrian chemical weapon facilities. More than 100 missiles were launched in the attack, Dunford said afterward.

The strikes were meant to halt the use of chemical weapons on civilians, such as the recent attack in the Syrian town of Douma.

About two dozen area residents attended Saturday's town hall meeting at the Gerry Rodeo Center.

“This was to send a message that this type of weapon was not going to be tolerated,” Reed said.

The congressman touched base on a variety of topics and also fielded several questions. Among legislation being reviewed in Washington, Reed noted, is the 2018 farm bill, a draft of which was released last week by the House Agriculture Committee. Reed said he expects to see a “tremendous amount of activity” to take place in committee.

The farm bill, which requires reauthorization every five years, regulates most farm and nutrition programs, including food stamps.

“We’re very interested, at this point in time, to getting feedback,” Reed said. “This is where the legislation is created; this is where the legislation is drafted before it goes to the floor of the House.”

Reed said one of his priorities regarding the farm bill is looking at food stamp reform.

The congressman said he has long advocated for work requirements for those who receive assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“I think it’s good policy. I think it’s the right thing to do,” Reed said.

The draft legislation includes the requirement that certain people who receive SNAP benefits either work at least 20 hours or attend job training classes. Those who fail to do so could lose their benefits.

“What I believe we should do is take the approach that I have long held that giving fish to an individual for a day feeds them for that day, and that is good,” Reed said. “However, if you could not only give them fish but teach them how to fish you will arm them for a lifetime being able to take care of themselves.”

The work requirements in the Republican draft bill would only apply to “abled-bodied” people without children or disability and whom are capable of working, Reed said.

A heated exchange regarding SNAP benefits took place after a woman in the audience questioned why someone receiving government assistance can buy shrimp and name brand products such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi. She said food stamps should be limited to specific items.

The comment led to a back-and-forth with another member of the audience, who likened the monitoring of an individual’s cart at the grocery store to profiling.

Reed — in the only time he raised his voice Saturday — came to the defense of the woman, and pointed out that her tax dollars were being used to buy “shrimp and lobster.”

One man said they were his tax dollars as well, and noted that “people should be able to buy fish if they want to.”

The discussion on benefits, Reed said, only furthered his point that food stamp reform should be brought up and debated in Congress.

At Saturday’s meeting, Reed also touched on trade talks with China, tax breaks and the Robert Mueller investigation. On the latter, Reed said he hopes to see the investigation regarding Russia’s possible interference in the 2016 General Election through to “sunshine.”

“I’m confident this will wrap up sooner rather than later,” he said. “We need to get to a conclusion. … Sunshine will have its day.”

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