PORTAGE — U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, was well-received Saturday at Indivisible NWI's monthly meeting where he spoke candidly about the lack of congressional action on controversial topics such as gun control.
Kim Eldridge, vice president of Indivisible NWI, said the organization invited Visclosky as guest speaker because she believes he's "a fighter for the people."
"He listens to us," Eldridge said.
Indivisible NWI — a grassroots, all-volunteer citizens' group in Northwest Indiana's 1st Congressional District — aims to promote public engagement and voter registration, she said.
Speaking to about 30 people at the Iron Workers Local 395 in Portage, Visclosky drew lighthearted laughter from the crowd when someone asked if he would consider supporting term limits, having served Indiana's 1st Congressional District since 1985.
But the conversation turned serious when the topic transitioned to school shootings and the desire by many for stricter gun laws at the federal and state levels in the wake of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Patt Grey, charter member of Indivisible NWI and resident of Valparaiso, asked Visclosky why Congress has taken little action on key issues despite a recent NPR national poll suggesting the majority of both parties want to see common sense gun restrictions and support giving legal status to DACA recipients, protecting thousands from deportation.
"Why can't we get legislation out of the House and the Senate?" Grey asked.
Visclosky answered, "When we had the Las Vegas shooting, I thought that was it. I mean, 500 people were shot by one person. And we did nothing. So I understand your frustration."
Visclosky argued if Democrats controlled the House, they would, at the very least, act to vote on tougher restrictions on assault weapons.
"I would not presuppose or tell you how that vote would come out, but we'd have a vote," he said. "There's no vote now."
In other business, Visclosky highlighted:
- His continued push for the South Shore rail expansion and double tracking project. He said the major transportation project is key to reversing the Region’s population loss, reducing commute times and spurring economic development.
- His opposition to President Donald Trump’s budget plan that slashes funding for the EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $300 million to $30 million. Congress voted to restore the budget to $300 million this year, but the threat to cut this program's funding will continue under Trump’s administration, he said.
- His optimism for Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore being designated as a national park.