U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) discussed his party’s victory in this year’s midterm elections and what the Democrats will do for college students at a College Democrats-sponsored event Wednesday night in the Marvin Center.
Pallone, who won reelection in one of this November’s heated midterm races, stressed the need to address concerns of college students and the need to motivate students to get involved in government.
One of the first things on his party’s agenda is a goal to make college financially accessible to all Americans, Pallone said.
He said the plan includes reducing interest rates, increasing the tax deductibility of college tuition and maximizing the Pell Grant, a type of federal aid.
“I don’t see how (the President) could veto that,” Pallone said, adding that enacting policy related to the war in Iraq will also appear high on the Democrats’ list of priorities.
Pallone said he strongly believes the reason the Democrats took the majority is because of discontent with the war. People voted by party, not individual, Pallone said, because they want to see a Democratic majority that will end the war.
“We need to push for benchmarks and timetables,” Pallone said while discussing the need for an exit strategy in the war in Iraq. “People have high expectations for us to do something.”
Pallone serves as chairman of the Democratic Health Care Task Force and also spoke briefly on health care in America. He attributed the decrease in coverage to employers who can no longer afford to pay health care and also to funding cuts.
When Pallone concluded his lecture and opened the floor to questions, many audience members grilled the congressman on policy and on his predictions.
One student inquired whether environmentalism, a specialty for the congressman, will take on a larger role in the new Congress.
Pallone responded that people want a clean environment and will give their support, adding that the difficulty lies in determining which members of Congress will support the environment.
Other audience members asked questions about stopping party corruption and his choice for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
“Honestly I have no favorite for the presidential election,” Pallone said. “(Sen. John) Edwards is attractive; my mother loves Edwards,” Pallone joked.
He said he saw an equal likelihood of nomination for Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and for Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico.
Freshman Ytit Chauham said he attended the event because he is from New Jersey and is interested in Pallone. According to Chauham, one-third of Pallone’s district is populated by Indian-American constituents, and he said Pallone represents their district well.
“I think (tonight) was good insight into how the House really works. He’s candid; I like that,” Chauham said.
Junior Steven Smith is also a New Jersey native and said he came to hear Pallone speak because his father, a doctor, works in Pallone’s district. Smith said he wanted to hear what the Congressman had to say about health care.
Pallone was a College Democrat himself at Middlebury College and served as his chapter’s liaison to Columbia University, the headquarters for campus protests during the Vietnam War.
“Getting involved is great training,” Pallone said.
The congressman encouraged all students to take advantage of a political internship. He has two GW students interning on his staff.