Constituents from Atherton, Menlo Park, Woodside, Portola Valley, and La Honda took advantage of the opportunity to ask Ms. Eshoo, who was in Washington, D.C., about national issues that are having a local impact, such as unemployment, health care, and green jobs.
Ms. Eshoo spent about an hour fielding 12 questions. Agreeing with one caller, Helen from Woodside, who suggested that current environmental problems presented an opportunity for creating jobs, the congresswoman said, "Unfortunately, it's almost a form of torture for me to be in a Congress that's as anti-environmental as this one is. They have cut and hollowed out the departments that are responsible for all of these policies."
How to retain highly educated people who train in the United States but then return to a foreign country also came under discussion, thanks to a question from Casey, another Woodside resident.
Ms. Eshoo responded that she was proud to be a co-sponsor of President Obama's DREAM Act, which would let illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as children and completed high school or some college, remain in the country. "If someone graduates from one of our universities, they're talented, and wants to stay and work in the U.S., their green card should be stapled to their college degree," she said. The DREAM Act passed the House last year but failed in the Senate.
With students come student loans, and Ms. Eshoo praised the president for taking the first steps in providing relief for students saddled with educational debt by creating an executive order designed to cap monthly payments, provide easier loan consolidation, and forgive outstanding debt after 20 years.
When Patrick of Menlo Park turned the focus to national health care, Rep. Eshoo said that the Democratic Party had not gotten a convincing message across, despite working for decades to get a plan in place. She said that the framework for affordable health care would be set by 2013 anyway, and agreed with another Woodside caller that the private insurance industry still wielded a lot of power in Congress.
The telephone town hall wound down with a commentary on changes in campaign financing disclosure, with a recent Supreme Court ruling making it possible for corporations to anonymously donate millions, according to Ms. Eshoo's analysis, and job creation.
Saying the Republican majority in Congress refuses to take up the president's jobs bill because they put their dislike of the current administration ahead of the needs of the country, Ms. Eshoo ended on what she called a sad note, stating that it's almost November, with no jobs bill in sight, and unemployment in the Bay Area rising.