By Lauren Jost
More than 16,000 11th Congressional district residents listened to Rep. Gerry Connolly's 15th telephone town hall call Tuesday night.
Connolly (D-11th) gave his constituents an update on legislation he has worked on this session, including transportation improvements, tax credits for start-up businesses and issues with the pending sequestration.
The Department of Defense released $180 million on Monday to fund the widening of Route 1 in Mount Vernon through Fort Belvoir. Connolly and Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) helped to secure funds in the project.
Connolly also highlighted the passage of the transportation appropriations bill which provides "$150 million in funding for Metro and a $96 million federal payment for construction of rail to Dulles," according to a press release.
The $150 million in funding for Metro is matched each year by $50 million each from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, Connolly said.
Recently, Connolly said he had co-sponsored legislation to restore funding for Fairfax County's Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) team. The local USAR unit, Virginia Task Force 1 team based at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, has served during Hurricane Irene, the earthquake aftermath in Japan and a search and rescue effort in Haiti.
"The amendment offered by congressmen Connolly (D-VA) and Michael Grimm (R-NY) restored $7.7 million in funding for the nation's 28 USAR teams," read a June press release from Connolly's office.
After his update, Connolly took questions from residents. Callers hailed from Annandale, Burke, Fairfax, Woodbridge, Dale City and Springfield. Questions ranged from inquiries about patent reform, the Affordable Care Act, alternative energy and mortgages, among other topics.
Rosemary, from Fairfax, asked the congressman what his plans were concerning Social Security and Medicare.
"It is harder and harder for the private market to qualify for insurance at any price," Connolly said. "That commitment [to Medicare] is sacred. I will not support any plan to voucher-ize the care.
"We need to be there for today's recipients and future generations recipients," Connolly said. "There is a difference in philosophy here in Congress."
When asked about sequestration--automatic budget cuts of $1.2 trillion from defense and civilian budgets over the next 10 years--Connolly said he believed sequestration would be "likely" addressed in the lame duck session after the election Nov. 6, 2012.
"I believe sequestration is a bad thing. What can help us avoid it? A balanced approach to debt reduction. How do we do that? Spending cuts and revenue enhancement, has to be new revenue on the table," Connolly said. "Ronald Reagan raised taxes five times and raised the debt ceiling several times. If he can do it, we can do it."
Chris, from Woodbridge, asked Connolly what his thoughts were on alternative energy and "anti-climate change" mentality.
"Overwhelming the scientific evidence is that global warming is real," Connolly said. "That is the consensus in the scientific community. If we ignore it, we do so at our peril."
"It seems to me that we've got to do what we can to lessen manmade greenhouse gas emissions and take advantage economically of alt energy sources that create jobs," Connolly said. "The wind industry has more jobs than the coal industry.We know that the wind potential off the shore of Virginia on or exceeds any of the potential oil reserves that exist offshore."
Residents whose questions were not answered live by Connolly were provided the opportunity to leave a voicemail for the congressman. Connolly said his telephone town-hall calls would resume after the fall election.