Omaha World Herald: Jeff Fortenberry hears about tariffs, immigration and elections at Bellevue town hall

Jul 31, 2018
In The News

Tariffs were a hot topic at a wide-ranging town hall hosted Friday by Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, who also passionately defended the idea of a congressional compromise on immigration.

Fortenberry hosted a town hall with more than 100 people at the Bellevue Volunteer Firefighters Hall. It was his first of seven town halls over the next few days.

The Bellevue town hall was on the subdued end, with participants citing bill numbers and digging into specific policy proposals. A brief, heated discussion broke out on the topic of abortion and participants were divided on whether federal funds should go toward Planned Parenthood. Fortenberry, a Republican, said he opposes abortion and government funding for Planned Parenthood.

The discussion started with a few questions about tariffs — those affecting newsprint and agriculture.

Fortenberry has taken a more pro-tariff approach than many fellow Nebraska Republicans. He told the crowd he doesn’t like trade deficits and wants to see U.S. trade policy reduce those deficits.

But he noted that getting into trade disputes has hurt Nebraska farmers, who export a large share of their goods. He said he wants President Donald Trump to resolve the country’s trade issues as quickly as possible.

“Nebraska farmers are good Americans, and I think they want the best possible trade we can get for the entire country,” he said.

One questioner wanted to know why Fortenberry voted for an immigration compromise that included money for a border wall, permanent status for DACA youths and other proposals.

Fortenberry said he saw that package as the best chance of making changes to the country’s immigration system.

“Do you want movement (on immigration) or not?” he said. “Now where are we? More chaos at the border, so we’ll throw more money there. The DACA issue is not resolved.”

Fortenberry also praised his colleagues, Rep. Don Bacon and Sen. Deb Fischer, for ensuring that five replacement aircrafts for the 55th Wing’s half-century-old reconnaissance fleet is part of the $716 billion defense authorization bill. This is in response to The World-Herald’s investigation into fleet readiness at Offutt Air Force Base, which is in Fortenberry’s district.

Another constituent wanted to know why Fortenberry voted against $380 million for election security. Fortenberry said the government hasn’t spent the first $380 million that had been appropriated for election security and that he wants to see how that works before spending more on the issue.

“Don’t read too much into that, please,” he said. “Our elections ought to have integrity.”

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