Updated June 25
Sen. Ed Markey told an overflow town hall crowd on Sunday afternoon in Vineyard Haven that “we have to continue to put excruciating pain on President Trump to change his policy on immigration.”
The Bay State junior senator, an early and enthusiastic critic of the Trump administration, told a supportive crowd of more than 200 people in the Hebrew Center that he is headed for the Texas-Mexico border next week for a fact-finding tour of the facilities and the condition of the “2,423 children” detained there and in facilities across the U.S. “We need to shine light on these atrocious policies,” he said.
He told reporters in a brief press availability before the town hall that the U.S. Senate “is now the protection for the country, and I feel fortunate to be part of that. It is hard to stop anything bad in the House of Representatives with Speaker Paul Ryan rubber-stamping the most radical proposals. But you need 60 votes in the Senate, and we’ve denied most of what he’s passed through the House,” he said, noting that Republican Senator John McCain’s “no” vote saved $800 billion in Medicaid spending from being cut.
“We have an election coming, and we need more House and Senate seats to improve the system of checks and balances. We need to organize, not just agonize. If we organize we will win,” he said.
Markey, a veteran of “15 or 16” town meeting formats since the 2016 presidential election, had a supportive crowd, warmed up by Isaac Taylor leading a singalong of “This Land Is Your Land,”
an a capella national anthem from Nanauwe Vanderhoop and a rousing introduction from state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth.
Then Markey hit the ground running, and maintained a fast pace for nearly two hours.
In answer to a press question on the impact of the rapidly changing news cycle on individual issues such as gun laws and healthcare, Markey said, “Trump has largely put all the major issues in play. There’s a return to individual issues periodically, but it’s the full smorgasboard of political controversy that drives the resistance movement in Massachusetts, whether it’s guns, science, women, the environment, and more recently, immigration. But [resistance] has been there since the beginning. The same themes keep reoccurring, and so does the level of response to those issues,” he said.
The news cycle does have an impact. “I would love to talk about the 360,000 new jobs, blue-collar jobs, being created in the energy sector, but the immigration issue needs attention now,” he said.
Markey told reporters and the crowd that there is good news on Alzheimer’s cure funding, on the opioid issue with $3 billion passed and a more comprehensive bill on the way in a bipartisan effort, and with a net neutrality bill for Internet protection he helped shepherd through the Senate recently by a 52-47 vote.
With regard to need for a more detailed Democratic agenda and stronger individual voices to tell it, Markey’s comments gave rise to a thought that Democrats may be playing a long game by providing Republicans with enough rope to hang themselves.
“We don’t have one person running for president, so a single voice isn’t in place, but 90 percent of Democrats are running on the same issues,” he said, noting that Republicans are defining themselves by positions in support of unpopular issues. “The American people like the Affordable Care Act now. They don’t want it taken away, and a lot of Republicans who supported repeal are scrambling now,” he said.
He pointed to recent elections as a barometer that Democrats are on the right side of voters’ beliefs. “Terry McAuliffe won re-election as Virginia’s governor in a close race a few years ago. Democrat Ralph Northam won by almost nine points a few months ago,” he said.
Markey took questions related to clean energy, the Pilgrim nuclear plant, immigration policy, the 2018 midterm election, and how to support progressive candidates in other states.
On clean energy: “We’ve come a long way since the original Cape Wind project a few years ago,” he said, referencing the Vineyard Wind project, to be located 15 miles off the Island. The 800-megawatt plant is expected to provide power to 600,000 homes. “We have to be careful to protect the fishing industry, but this will create thousands of good jobs. We have replacement clean energy sources for Pilgrim,” he said.
On the decommissioned Pilgrim nuclear plant: “Pilgrim is one the five worst-run plants in the country. We need to keep a careful eye on it to avoid problems with spent fuel removal in order to protect from the threats of terrorism, hurricanes, and flooding. Fukushima should be our teacher.” Fukushima is a nuclear plant in Japan that had reactor damage following a tsunami in 2011.
On immigration: Markey thanked West Tisbury resident Robert Knight for a concise, accurate statement of actual immigration law, compared with a welter of inaccurate and confusing takes by the Trump team. “You explained it brilliantly. The policy was when you came to the border you were put in asylum status to await a hearing. I think we need to find out what is going on in countries like Honduras and Guatemala that leads their citizens to flee in fear.”
On midterms and identifying candidates to support: “Races in states such as Nevada and Arizona are opportunities. Go to the RealClear Politics website for assessments on all the races.”
Updated to include more details from Sunday’s town hall forum. – Ed.