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Local News

U.S. Rep. Sean Casten discusses state of democracy at town hall in Algonquin

Legislator talks current events, answers questions

U.S. Rep. Sean Casten speaks to constituents Dec. 14 at Barrington Village Hall about his trip to the 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid, Spain.
U.S. Rep. Sean Casten speaks to constituents Dec. 14 at Barrington Village Hall about his trip to the 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid, Spain.

In the wake of the State of the Union address delivered by President Donald Trump last week, U.S. Rep. Sean Casten said he felt compelled to talk about the condition of our democracy at a town hall Saturday afternoon at the Ganek Municipal Center in Algonquin.

“I had an obligation to talk about some of the fiasco that was the State of the Union that became a reality television show for all in a Trump campaign rally,” Casten told the Northwest Herald. “It was just disgusting. The fact that the Senate decided to have a trial without witnesses is an assault on our democracy.”

Casten said news such as the death of a Chinese doctor who first noticed the coronavirus, and was “being silenced by the Chinese government,” shows how society is in a dangerous place right now.

“The Chinese government is gradually having a reconciliation,” Casten said. “I think it is a good reminder to us [about] the rise of authoritarianism and governments that squelch the voices of people who dissent from the party line. There’s a real danger, and we need to confront that at this moment.”

Casten also discussed his legislation to lower drug prices.

“[The bill] would limit the ability to raise the prices of drugs by no more than the rate of inflation every year, and it would permanently cap the out-of-pocket expense that seniors [pay] today by a few thousand dollars for drugs,” he said.

Members of the public asked Casten questions about current issues, including immigration policy, war with Iran, patents and Social Security, among others. Town halls, Casten said, give him a chance to see what issues matter most to Americans.

“I think we all have obligations as members of Congress given how much is in the news right now,” he said. “There’s just a nervousness, and I feel like we have – as members of Congress – we have an obligation to be more present in this moment.”

One of the most recurring issues he said he’s heard over the course of 25 town halls, including Saturday’s, is how people with special needs lose their Social Security if they earn even slightly above the poverty level wage.

“That’s the second or third time I’ve heard that in the last month or so,” Casten said. “That gets your spidey sense tingling a little bit to go back and see what might be going on on that front.”

Daniel Juffernbruch, 56, of Barrington asked Casten about how we can move forward as a society when America is so divisive.

Juffernbruch told Casten he was one who was adding to the divisiveness and brought up how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s actions of tearing up the president’s speech broke the protocol.

Casten responded to Juffernbruch saying how the president, during his speech, misrepresented statistics and divisiveness of the country, saying he expected more from a president of the U.S.

Casten told the Northwest Herald said there’s a feeling of “hopelessness” escalating across America.

“I think the overwhelming majority of Americans are fundamentally good people who fundamentally want us in Congress to work on the same set of issues. ... I think there’s a feeling among an awful lot of the American public of ‘Are things becoming hopeless?’ ” he said.

Casten pointed to the Senate for not making moves on issues that matter to the public. Many applauded Casten for saying there is a need to elect people who will listen to Americans’ concerns.

“What matters to me more than anything is that we elect people in the public office who realize what a blessing it is and how important it is to put civic virtue first,” he said, “and how important it is to put the truth first.”

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