Whatever you think of U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Cogan Station, you can’t accuse him of being a part of the Republican establishment in Washington.

For one, he has endorsed Donald Trump, whose unorthodox bid for the presidency has distressed so many party leaders that there has been talk of efforts to deny him the nomination at the Republican National Convention in July even if he has secured more delegates than any of the other candidates.

This is something that Marino, who is seeking a fourth two-year term in the House, simply can’t support.

“It is up to the voters to make the decision,” Marino said this week when he met with the Sun-Gazette’s editorial board. “If I see any of my colleagues, or any subversion on the part of Republican Party leaders at the national level, any back-room moves by the millionaires and billionaires pulling the strings, I will be the first out there exposing these people for what they are.”

Marino is glad that a Trump nomination has the potential to fracture the Republican party. He said the presidential candidate connects with working people in a way that party leaders have neglected to do.

“These are people who think we middle-class people aren’t smart enough to run the government,” Marino said.

There are some issues on which Marino and Trump disagree, but maybe not in the way you would expect.

Marino said he believes Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from traveling to the U.S. should be taken “a big step” further.

“No one should be coming into this country that we cannot do a serious, in-depth, adequate vetting on,” Marino said. “I don’t care if it’s (my uncle) from Italy. If he doesn’t pass it, or if there are no records for which to do a background check on him, he doesn’t get in the country.”

Marino also said it is not feasible to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, something that Trump has proposed. Law-abiding, working undocumented immigrants should have the opportunity to be here legally, he said. Though if they want to become American citizens but came to the country illegally, they would have to go to the “back of the line.”

However, Marino’s first priority regarding immigration is securing the U.S.-Mexico border. That would require using drones and increasing the number of border agents.

He also isn’t opposed to building a wall to keep people from entering illegally, and Trump’s demand that Mexico pay for such a wall isn’t such a crazy idea, he said.

“No, they’re not going to hand over a check, but we do a lot of trade with Mexico and Mexico relies a lot on the United States for trade,” Marino said. “You have to assist in this, Mexico.”

In another break from the establishment, Marino said he disagreed with the immediate decision by Senate Republicans after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia not to consider a replacement chosen by President Barack Obama.

“There is a process,” Marino said. “As much as I do not like the president’s policies, pursuant to the Constitution, he has the prerogative to nominate somebody.” He said the Senate should go through with the process.

“If you don’t like that person at the end, vote no,” Marino said.

On the legislative front, Marino is a co-sponsor of a bill that would give homeowners in flood plains more choices when it comes to purchasing flood insurance.

He said the bill, the Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act, would remove regulations to encourage the development of a private flood insurance market as a way to keep costs low.

Flood insurance premiums skyrocketed in recent years when the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 became law. The law, which phased out government subsidies for flood insurance, was designed to reduce debt by allowing premiums to more accurately reflect the risk of living in a floodplain.

As a result, many homeowners became unable to afford flood insurance.

Marino, who voted for the law, now said it should be repealed.

“I don’t believe in subsidies, but this is one area where I believe they should go back into play,” he said, while adding that it isn’t a priority for many in Congress.

Marino also said he has been particularly prolific for a third-term member of the House.

Last year, he helped push a bill through the House that would improve the collaboration between the Drug Enforcement Administration and pharmaceutical companies as a way to fight the abuse of opioids, like prescription painkillers, which have been linked with the national heroin epidemic.

March 31, 2016
By NICO SALVATORI (nsalvatori@sungazette.comWilliamsport Sun-Gazette