Rep. Keller Holds Town Hall
U.S Rep. Fred Keller held a tele-town hall on Tuesday, March 30, during which he addressed issues ranging from broadband access to problems with the U.S. Postal Service to election reform in PA.
The congressman, who represents PA’s 12th District, began the town hall by discussing some of the legislation he is working on and commenting on certain national issues before spending most of the event fielding calls from the public.
One caller said she was very concerned that people are now avoiding sending things by the U.S. mail because they are concerned that they won’t arrive or that they won’t be delivered in a timely manner.
In response, Keller said he serves on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has been addressing issues with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
While the USPS is seeking tens of billions of dollars in financial assistance from Congress, “we want to see a plan” to make sure the postal service is running effectively before providing financial assistance, Keller said.
Keller said he was responsible for getting the postal service to commit to providing the plan, which was due to be submitted to Congress by the end of the business day on March 31.
“We want to ensure that the post office (U.S. Postal Service) is running effectively and that it will meet the expectations of the American people,” who own the postal service, Keller said.
Keller said he expects that the dozen or more hearings that the House State Government Committee is holding on elections in PA will lead to proposed reforms of the elections.
The committee is doing “a good job” of evaluating “what went right” in the 2020 election and what went “not so well,” and is tasked with offering solutions to problems that it finds, the congressman said.
The 2020 election was the first to be impacted by Act 77, which established mail-in voting and allowed counties to deploy drop boxes for the collection of ballots.
“I am confident that Rep. Seth Grove,” who chairs the committee, “will come up with some things that will address concerns” that have been raised about the way elections are being held in PA, Keller said.
A caller from Snyder County said she has “terrible DSL Internet” and wondered how many years she would have to be in that situation.
Keller said he lives in Snyder County and understands the issues she is facing.
He said that funding to expand access to high-speed Internet has been included in COVID stimulus legislation, and that there are government programs that are working with rural electric cooperatives to being fiber-optic lines to additional areas of the country.
He said he expected that it would still be a few more years before she would get high-speed Internet.
Expanding access to broadband is an issue that everybody agrees needs to be addressed, Keller said, adding, “it is definitely a priority. I think we’ve defined the problem and people are working toward a solution and providing funding to get it done.”
During the tele-town hall, Keller raised concerns about adding to the national debt. The $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that President Biden signed into law last month will add to the national debt, resulting in higher taxes and fewer opportunities for people in the future, he said.
The annual debt service on the growing national debt had been projected to exceed the United States’ defense budget by 2025, and that projection was made before Congress spent $6 trillion responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Keller said.
The national debt is approaching $30 trillion.
“We need to be very cautious about how we spend money,” he said. The country needs a solid economy to pay down the debt.
Keller talked about other reasons he opposed the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, which is called the American Rescue Plan, including the fact that much of it was not tied to COVID-19.
For example, the legislation provided $12 billion in aid to foreign governments, and $135 million for the National Endowment for the Arts.
Keller said he is not opposed to giving assistance to foreign countries, but “we need to be strong to help others.
“We have senior citizens, veterans and children. We need to make sure we help them before we send money to foreign governments,” he said.
Some people may not receive their $1,400 stimulus checks from the American Rescue Plan until the end of this year.
A delay of that extent means the checks won’t serve the purpose for which they are intended, which is to help people get through the pandemic.