Tiffany holds listening session in county
Locals bring wide range of topics to congressman’s first formal session here
In a wide-ranging discussion that focused on issues more than politics Rep. Tom Tiffany heard from about 50 area residents at a listening session held at Woodland Inn in Medford on Tuesday afternoon.
During the event that was scheduled to last an hour, Tiffany answered questions and responded to statements from nearly a dozen district residents with topics ranging from transportation infrastructure to a recounting of Tiffany’s perspectives of the Capitol riot on January 6. Before starting the question and answer period, Tiffany urged those in attendance to spread the word about the annual Congressional Art Contest which allows students to submit artwork by the April 14 deadline with the winners to be displayed in the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Jackie Barnes started the question and answer session with a question about gun control measures and how those efforts can be stopped.
“I am on your side,” Tiffany said. Tiffany spoke of two bills that have been passed by the House which are still pending in the Senate and that he voted against those bills. He said a third bill, HR 127 has not been scheduled to be heard. He explained it would go to the judiciary committee which he serves on for hearings. He spoke against the bill stating it would require registration of all firearms including antiques and a psychological exam for gun ownership. If the bill were to be signed into law despite his opposition, he said he expects it would be quickly challenged in the courts and would likely be deemed unconstitutional.
Peter Roepke asked about Social Security and how the income threshold for taxation has not been changed since 1994. He said in 1994, about one in 10 people crossed the threshold to be taxed while now it is about 50% of seniors. He noted the state does not tax Social Security income and feels the federal government should not either. Roepke expressed frustration that people are encouraged to set up IRAs and other retirement planning only to have it count against them in the total income levels.
“This amounts to double taxation,” Tiffany said, agreeing with Roepke on the need for reform. “It is something that I am concerned about,” Tiffany said noting that it ties in with other issues such as stepped up depreciation which he said many farmers are concerned about changes in. “I think it goes to the bigger picture,” he said. “Every year more and more seniors are getting clobbered,” Roepke said.
Jack Kettlehut asked about redistricting and if he would support a nonpartisan transparent committee to draw district lines. Tiffany, who prior to being elected to Congress served in the state legislature, cited the state constitution which gives the legislature that authority. He said it should be treated as any other bill and go through the legislature and to the governor to sign. “As with any bill there are people who will agree or disagree,” he said.
As far as commission, Tiffany said he does not believe there is such a thing as a nonpartisan commission. Tiffany also tied in his opposition to the voting portions of HR 1 which is currently in the Senate. “I do not believe we should federalize election laws,” he said noting election laws should be at the state level.
Tiffany also addressed the public campaign financing referring to it as politicians on welfare. He objected to the idea that people could be forced through their taxes to pay for candidates that they did not support.
Jeff Peterson spoke about the need for transportation infrastructure to remain strong and encouraged Tiffany to support the transportation infrastructure bill being proposed by the Biden administration.
Tiffany expressed agreement with the need to invest in infrastructure including the roads, ports and rails. He expanded this to include the basic services that government provides. “I will support a bill that stays focused on that,” Tiffany said, noting he would not support a bill that went into social engineering over mechanical engineering.
He said it concerns him that the infrastructure bill is just the “Green New Deal” but with infrastructure on it. He cited a mileage fee being considered by the Secretary of Transportation and that this puts a greater burden on rural residents than it does on urban residents many of whom don’t even drive.
Tiffany gave the example of 25-30-year old urban non drivers who he said are not paying into road funds yet benefit from that. Peterson said that was not entirely accurate because the people who delivered the goods and services they consume paid into the transportation funds and that is passed along.
Tiffany agreed for the need to put more money into infrastructure, but said he did not agree with the Green New Deal portions of the bill.
Marjorie Nelson asked about mining and how they would protect area waters if the mining moratorium was lifted.
Tiffany cited his experience in the state legislature noting he helped write the current state mining laws and stood by those laws as opening Wisconsin to mining but also guaranteeing local control and environmental protection. He noted there is about $30 billion worth of mineral wealth along the Hwy 8 corridor and that Americans will have to make a choice as modern technologies require access to these minerals.
Others raised concerns about the extension of mining on public lands and if existing mines would be shut down. “We have to decide if we are going to allow mining or not,” Tiffany said, adding that relying on outside sources for minerals has national security and job implications.
Mike Phillips asked about Tiffany’s first-hand views of the riots on January 6. Tiffany told of being on the house floor antechamber when they began to hear trouble brewing. He said he helped moved furniture in front of the doors as the sounds of the disturbance grew closer. At one point Tiffany said the decision was made to evacuate the house members through a tunnel system, some of which he hadn’t known existed. While other House members went to a secure location, Tiffany said he was concerned that would just be a bigger target and left the group to access his congressional office through a side tunnel. “I never felt my life was in danger,” Tiffany said, while emphasizing the seriousness of the situation and that it was a riot.
This lead into Tiffany explaining his reasoning for objecting to the certification of the election and signing on in support of a Texas lawsuit that sought to set aside the election results of several states including Wisconsin.
“I chose to object to electors because there were improprieties in the election,” Tiffany said, stating that his intent was not to overturn the election results, but to review the irregularities and make sure there was an accurate count. Tiffany expressed concern that if the election issues raised during the last election do not get fixed by the 2022 election, that by the 2024 election the election system will be shot. He said there is no worse place for a democracy to be than to have people losing faith in the election process.
Robert Drier asked about the so-called nuclear button expressing concern that president Joe Biden has sole authority over it or even that he does. Tiffany noted that while there is a movement in Congress to take authority away from the president, and that he feels in many ways Congress has given up too much authority over the years, he did not feel Congress should have control of the decision to use nuclear weapons, but rather it should stay with the president and his national security advisors.
Phillips raised concern about Aspirus Medford Hospital not having a formal intensive care unit, especially in light of COVID-19 and what could be done to make sure rural hospitals had adequate resources.
Tiffany stated his ongoing support of the critical access hospital dating to his time in the state legislature and in helping write state budgets that increased funding for these hospitals, which includes Aspirus Medford. He said that ultimately having an ICU would be the decision of the local hospital, but said he would support keeping rural hospitals strong.
In response to questions such as how to stop Biden’s agenda and rein in spending, Tiffany said much would rest on if there were enough votes in the senate to get rid of the filibuster. Without the filibuster, he said there are bills that will pass only because the vice president caste a tie breaking vote. He said if the filibuster stands, that there will be few bills that make it through. He said this would be a good thing considering the dramatic changes he said that would come from such things as the federalization of elections and the equality act.
Tiffany also addressed issues with what he described as an ongoing humanitarian crisis on the southern border. “It is really a horrible situation there now,” he said, noting that he was a supporter of the wall and that it as well as other resources should be allowed to continue.
Tiffany said that he looked forward to an end of gamesmanship and that he wanted to see a return of Congress making the laws. He said there should be differences of opinion even within people of the same party, but that people should work hard and compromise their principles.