U.S. Rep. Richard Neal chats with MassLi...
[Comment From Robert Rizzuto Robert Rizzuto : ] 
Hello everybody, thanks for joining us. Due to a pending vote in the House of Representatives on three bills, Congressman Neal will not be chatting until around 2:30 p.m. In the meantime, please feel free to write in your questions in the box below.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 1:46 Robert Rizzuto
[Comment From Robert Rizzuto Robert Rizzuto : ] 
Just so folks know, I'm adding the previously submitted questions to the chat queue right now so we will aim to get to as many of them as possible during the chat.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 2:07 Robert Rizzuto
[Comment From Robert Rizzuto Robert Rizzuto : ] 
We have some great questions lined up for the Congressman, thanks to you folks. Keep them coming! And his office just confirmed the 2:30 p.m. start time, so stay tuned.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 2:23 Robert Rizzuto
[Comment From Robert Rizzuto Robert Rizzuto : ] 
Welcome to the live chat everybody. We have Congressman Richard Neal on the line and ready to take your questions.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 2:32 Robert Rizzuto
[Comment From Richard Neal Richard Neal : ] 
Hello everyone participating this afternoon's live chat. I am Congressman Neal and I look forward to answering your questions today. I want to thank the Springfield Republican and Masslive for arranging this important forum.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 2:32 Richard Neal
[Comment From Michael Michael : ] 
My question for Congressman Neal is when can Western Massachusetts expect an expansion of broadband internet access?
Wednesday August 1, 2012 2:33 Michael
[Comment From Richard Neal Richard Neal : ] 
We are in the midst of scheduling a groundbreaking for mid-August. Some of the work has already been completed. At around August 15th or 16th, we will have an official announcement. Forty five million dollars has already been allocated for broadband expansion after the private sector determined that it was not cost efficient for them to undertake. Families will no longer have to go to the townhall parking lot or the library on a cold winter night to have broadband access. This has been a priority of mine.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 2:37 Richard Neal
[Comment From Kevin Kevin : ] 
I'm a Vietnam veteran and my son Mark is a 2-tour veteran of Afghanistan so both of us have seen how bad combat can be. We've got a lot of Marines and soldiers coming home pretty banged up whether its PTSD or with a physical disability. I think the only way Mark keeps going sometimes is because he can talk to me about the same traumatic experiences as I had. My father was a Marine in WWII so Mark is a third generation Marine. I know how well my dad was taken care of because of his service and I can't stand seeing my son not get the same kind of welcome and care. Mr Neal I keep looking for your record on supporting veterans and I can't find alot of information on where you stand on this. What have you done in the past and what will you do in the future to make sure our military personnel that come home injured are greeted like the heroes they are and taken care of in any medical or psychological way they need?
Wednesday August 1, 2012 2:37 Kevin
[Comment From Richard Neal Richard Neal : ] 
Veterans health care has improved and the Soldiers Home in Holyoke and the VA Hospital in Northampton have both been the recent beneficiaries of an infusion of more federal money. The Vietnam veterans can take great satisfaction from the changes that have swept Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe because of their efforts. We now have one million new veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan; 45 thousand of whom have been wounded. I have not missed visiting one soldier from my district at Walter Reed who has been wounded and I have been to the funeral of every serviceman from Western and Central Massachusetts who have died in defense of our nation. Veterans health care, beginning with a huge infusion of money during the Clinton Administration, is much improved. It is estimated that 40 percent of those coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq have filed a claim with the VA. Expediting those claims remains a priority. My record has been second to none in support of veterans issues and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Springfield's Court Square is an example of my belief in the honorable service the Vietnam Veteran provided to our country. Your service and your son's service are greatly appreciated.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 2:46 Richard Neal
[Comment From Lee Lee : ] 
Hello, Mr. Congressman. First, I'd like to say I very much enjoyed your UMass class. My question is do you think a casino in Springfield would help or harm the city?
Wednesday August 1, 2012 2:47 Lee
[Comment From Richard Neal Richard Neal : ] 
I think that as a purpose of recreation, we have to be mindful of what has happened in Connecticut in terms of competition. I hope that the idea of a casino never becomes a substitute for real economic development. The decision over the casino with the Governor and the Legislature has been made and now it is up to the voters. I do not intend to substitute my judgement for the judgement of the voters.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 2:50 Richard Neal
[Comment From Peter Henry Peter Henry : ] 
The H-1B visa has been used as a means for corporations to import cheaper, foreign workers to replace Americans. Would you support abolishing this visa program at a time of massive unemployment for American workers?
Wednesday August 1, 2012 2:50 Peter Henry
[Comment From Richard Neal Richard Neal : ] 
I think that drawing skilled workers to America is sound. I think we need to distinguish between legal immigration and illegal immigration. Training people, particularly in the high tech industry, and sending them back to compete against America is a mistake. I think with the large number of doctors who were foreign born in the Pioneer Valley, they are a significant resource. In my own family, immigration has played a very important role. If not skilled, they were hard workers. As you know, I supported the DREAM Act. But with respect to unemployment, I have brought thousands of construction jobs to the Valley and will continue to do so. On a personal note, congratulations on using your name; I always use mine.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 2:55 Richard Neal
[Comment From Alexandra Alexandra : ] 
It has come to my attention while following this election that you voted for the so-called "Stupak Amendment", which would have amended Obama's healthcare law to cut off all federal funding for contraceptive care for women. Firstly, as a woman and a mother of three daughters, I am very glad this Amendment did not pass. Secondly, why did you join with pro-life Republicans in this anti-abortion vote?
Wednesday August 1, 2012 2:56 Alexandra
[Comment From Richard Neal Richard Neal : ] 
The Stupak amendment simply restated the Hyde amendment. I have been a long time supporter of enhanced women's health care, and the health care bill has many good preventive measures that go into effect today that specifically deal with women's health. I have also been consistent over the course of a career for using NIH dollars for ovarian cancer research, osteoporosis and mammography screening. I have also been consistent in supporting the Violence Against Women's Act. As a reminder, the President signed the health care bill with the Stupak amendment included.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 3:01 Richard Neal
[Comment From James James : ] 
Representative Neal, Massachusetts has been a leader when it comes to LGBT rights. What will you do to see that DOMA is repealed so that those in same-sex marriages here in Massachusetts received federal marital recognition and benefits ?
Wednesday August 1, 2012 3:02 James
[Comment From Robert Rizzuto Robert Rizzuto : ] 
Just to clarify the question, DOMA refers to the Defense of Marriage Act which, at the federal level, defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. And although Wikipedia isn't always a reliable source, the article on the topic does provide an overview of what DOMA covers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defense_of_Marriage_Act
Wednesday August 1, 2012 3:04 Robert Rizzuto
[Comment From Richard Neal Richard Neal : ] 
I am a supporter of the repeal of DOMA, as is President Obama and Vice President Biden. I am also a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act. I have always opposed a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 3:06 Richard Neal
[Comment From Michele Michele : ] 
As you have raised over $5,000,000 in contributions from Wall Street firms, big banks, insurance companies, political action committees, and other monied interests, how can I be assured that you will represent the interests of the middle class voter?
Wednesday August 1, 2012 3:07 Michele
[Comment From Richard Neal Richard Neal : ] 
Michele - My policy regarding campaign contributions has been to accept some, to reject some and give some away. The contributions I receive come from teachers, fire fighters, electricians, tin knockers and have always reflected the interests of Massachusetts. Recall that my first fundraiser was for $5. With some humor, I would note your question follows the line of another candidate who consistently accepted special interest money from the financial service industry as a member of the state legislature. It is great that I am the only candidate who has the support of the AFL-CIO.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 3:12 Richard Neal
[Comment From Michael Michael : ] 
Would you support welfare reform, with measures such as; 1. Drug testing for new applicants and current recipiants? 2. Checking on their job search activities to ensure they look for work like those on unemployment and 3. restricting EBT cards to food purchases only and tightening policies on the often abused ebt cards?
Wednesday August 1, 2012 3:13 Michael
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal answers reader questions remotely from Washington, D.C.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 3:20 
[Comment From Richard Neal Richard Neal : ] 
Thanks for your question on welfare reform. As the Mayor of Springfield, I saw the changes that had taken place in the welfare system. Welfare was supposed to be a trampoline; that people would hit and bounce back up into the economic mainstream. We are now five years into this economic recession and a lot of good people are out of work. I recently visited the State Department of Transitional Assistance in Holyoke and saw an example of five terrific women who had, through no fault of their own, lost their jobs and after considerable effort, made their way back into the economic system. They were the result in some measure of the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, which I supported. Richard Gephardt, the then Democratic Leader, tasked me to chair the Democratic position on welfare reform which was a very good plan. If you recall, candidate Bill Clinton in 1992 proposed ending welfare as we know it. I was a supporter of his position.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 3:21 Richard Neal
[Comment From Bruce Bruce : ] 
Congressman Neal, you have had a long and successful career in politics. I was hoping you could tell us what you believe to be your greatest accomplishment as well as mistake you've made in your political career.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 3:22 Bruce
[Comment From Richard Neal Richard Neal : ] 
Thank you for the question. I count amongst my legacy the successful peace process in the North of Ireland. The people of the Second Congressional District have given me a chance to participate in all of those "it can never happen" moments. That process today serves as a model for successful conflict resolution around the world. My work has been applauded by Bill and Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair and the former President of Ireland Mary McAleese. Equally important, however, is the success I have had in generating federal dollars to the Defense Accounting Center in Southbridge, the new Federal Courthouse in Springfield, the State Street redevelopment project, the vigorous support for restoring the old Technical High School and the development of the Classical Condominiums, the Memorial Bridge restoration and, of course, Monarch Place. I have succeeded in sending tens of millions of dollars to Westover Air Force Base, which has helped to keep 4,800 people working. And let us not forget Springfield Union Station. And finally, my defense of Social Security, Medicare and abolishing the Alternative Minumum Tax have been acknowledged by millions of Americans. As for mistakes; I will save them for my memoir.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 3:32 Richard Neal
[Comment From Edsel Edsel : ] 
Congressman Neal; Looking into the future, what do you see yourself doing when you are no longer a Congressman? What kind of hobbies and interests do you enjoy now that you plan to enjoy more often when you retire.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 3:33 Edsel
[Comment From Richard Neal Richard Neal : ] 
I do not intend to retire for some time. I will continue with my veracious reading habits, my passion for exercise and leadership on Capitol Hill. Nobody ever describes me as ineffective or lazy and that would be true of supporters and critics alike. Thanks.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 3:37 Richard Neal
[Comment From Robert Rizzuto Robert Rizzuto : ] 
That concludes our chat with Congressman Neal, who we'd like to thank for participating during a busy day in Washington.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 3:38 Robert Rizzuto
[Comment From Robert Rizzuto Robert Rizzuto : ] 
And thank you to the readers who sent in questions today. Your participation is what makes these events successful. As a reminder, we will have Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren joining us for a live chat this Friday at 1:30 p.m.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 3:41 Robert Rizzuto
[Comment From Richard Neal Richard Neal : ] 
I want to once again thank the Springfield Republican and Masslive for organizing today's on-line chat and I want to express my appreciation to all those who particpated. I always enjoy a conversation with my constituents on issues that are important to them. Today was no exception.
Wednesday August 1, 2012 3:41 Richard Neal
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