U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pennsylvania, showed his independence from the top elected official in his party at a town hall meeting Monday night.
More than 150 people gathered in the auditorium of Pottstown Senior High School to ask their representative about health care and immigration policy — with a recurring focus on reining in President Donald Trump.
“I am sickened and terrified that the president seems to have little understanding and little regard for our Constitution,” said Ann Tomalavage from North Coventry Township, to large applause.
For his part, the congressman said he hopes cooler heads will prevail, including his own.
“What I don’t do is weigh in every time he tweets something I disagree with,” said Costello. “I think it is the best thing for me to do to try to demonstrate civility.”
Over the course of the evening, Costello ticked off votes he’s cast that contradict the executive agenda: he supports the Paris climate accords; he voted against the House bill in May that would have repealed and replaced the ACA; and he said special counsel Robert Mueller should be “left alone to do his job.”
Costello also fielded questions about the times his positions have aligned with Trump’s. For instance, Costello voted to restrict federal funds to the “sanctuary cities” that will not honor federal immigration detainers without a judge’s warrant.
He also agreed with the president on some climate policy.
A small group of protesters outside the event, and two questioners inside, wanted to know why he voted along with the majority of his caucus to postpone implementing standards that aim to limit ground-level ozone. Costello said he believed the timeline demanded in the standards was not realistic.
Moderate Republicans outside Philadelphia and other cities have been under fire from both sides during this year’s hectic legislative session. Costello represents more than 700,000 people across Chester, Berks, Montgomery and Lebanon counties, in a district that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Democrats in the district hope to unseat Costello when he runs for a third term 2018. Challenger Chrissy Houlahan has already racked up endorsements from the likes of Plumbers Local 690 and EMILY’s List.
In Pottstown, Costello signed off by paraphrasing Sen. John McCain, another Republican who has been straddling a partisan divide in Congress: “What do we have to lose by trying to work together? We’re not getting much done apart.”