Our Meeting With Goodlatte

[Image description: Bob Goodlatte stands for a photo with three coordinators from Staunton-area action groups.]
On Monday, two of the Indivisible Staunton coordinators and an organizer from SAW Action Movement met in private with Rep. Bob Goodlatte at his Staunton office. Below is Jenni’s summary of the meeting, republished here with her permission. 


A lot of people have been asking how in the world we managed to score a meeting with the elusive Bob Goodlatte. It wasn’t easy. I have managed to maintain a good working relationship with Debbie Garrett in the Staunton office. A few weeks ago I called Debbie and proposed instead of a town hall that I would be interested in knowing if the Congressman would be willing to have a private meeting with myself and a few other community organizers. I asked again on Tuesday April, 18 at the open door meeting about a private meeting. On Thursday Debbie got back in touch with me and said that if it suited our schedule that Congressman Goodlatte could meet with us at 12:30 the following Monday (today). We were to keep quiet about the meeting, no press was to be notified, and we were not allowed to record audio during the meeting. I did however take frantic notes and now I will attempt to decipher them and report back what happened. 

I opened the meeting by presenting this CD6 Town Hall Plan:

CD 6 Town Hall Plan

Planning committee: Jennifer Kitchen, Rowan Walker

DATES to choose from:
  • May 30, 2017
  • June 2, 2017
  • July 7, 2017
  • August 4, 2017 August 11, 2017 August 18, 2017 August 25, 2017
  • September 22, 2017
Location Options:
  • Francis Auditorium – MBU
  • Booker T Washington Community Center
  • Gypsy Hill Park Gymnasium
  • One of the Augusta County high school auditoriums.

Moderator: We are willing to reach out to JMU and EMU to hire someone who is a professional facilitator.

TIME: 6:00pm – 7:30pm

PRESS: We will invite members of the local press.

  • The Daily Newsleader
  • News Virginian
  • WHSV
  • NBC

TICKETS: We would have a lottery system to determine who would be able to attend. There will be a specific number of tickets given specifically to veterans and the disabled.

The venue will be handicap accessible. We will provide an American Sign Language interpreter.

We would live stream the event in order for all constituents to have at least minimal involvement.

We would ask that you take no more than 3 questions from the people participating in the live stream. These questions would be selected at random.

Security: We would be willing to hire outside security.

Audience rules for participation: We would not tolerate any chanting, screaming, or vulgar language. Minimal noise is to be expected when large numbers of people are gathered. We would not tolerate those who aim to disrupt. All audience members would be issued two cards – one red and one green. The purpose of these cards is to allow them to participate in a way to convey their opinion without being disruptive.

This plan was immediately handed off to his chief of staff with the statement that he had no intentions of doing in person town halls at this time.

Conversation then turned to Education — I asked about the voucher system and if he could give some clarification as to how that would work. He had no interest in speaking on this as there is no legislation in front of them at this time. When I asked about how this could lead to government funding of religious schools his response included something about him not having an issue with tax credits being a part of this. He did not make it clear if he was saying tax credits for the schools or tax credits for parents who chose to send their children to religious schools.

We spoke some on health care. He admitted to liking one part of the ACA though he qualified it by stating that it existed in some form before the ACA. He is in support of Community Health Centers. When asked about supporting community health centers and not Planned Parenthood it all came down to abortion. He said if Planned Parenthood were willing to separate facilities and have some that only provide abortion – that way they could be assured government money wasn’t being used to fund abortion (I know, I know…) that he would be ok with funding the portion of Planned Parenthood that did not provide abortions.

He does support drug reimportation and is in favor of finding a way to provide more affordable pharmaceuticals. He does not feel that the ACA is working. It is his opinion that insurance companies are charging more because of government mandates. He would be in favor of an AHCA type plan with reformed regulations and a third part which he referred to as liability reform and would eliminate antitrust.

Bob Goodlatte has no intentions of putting pressure on Trump to release his tax forms. He has no issue with him not following through on a campaign promise. He referred to the demands to see tax returns as a “fishing expedition” and feels that the financial disclosure is more than sufficient.

We briefly touched on the impending government shutdown. He vaguely mentioned spending priorities but didn’t take a stand one way or the other on the wall. He did say that he does not want to see a government shutdown.

In our discussion of the travel ban it was brought up that the first EO was issued too quickly and included permanent residents (these were the only 2 issues he admitted this EO had). He also mentioned it being signed during a “weekend of chaos”. He brought up the issues of being able to properly vet refugees from Syria because of the lack of government. Also the difficulties vetting people coming from places with hostile governments and chaotic environments. When the ban of Muslims was brought up he simply said that people of all religions from those areas where treated the same in the travel ban ignoring the fact that those countries are overwhelming Muslim countries. He doesn’t feel that the 30 day implementation process in an unreasonable proposal.

At the end of the meeting he mentioned that he appreciated the civil discourse. I brought up the town hall plan again – mentioning that this is the sort of environment we want to foster for the town hall – and he assured me that he would look it over. I am hoping to be able to have future meetings with the Congressman and I would be willing to do whatever I can to help other people get meetings with him as well.

Overall he is a very easy person to talk to, I just don’t agree with him.

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