By Congressman Jo Bonner
Alabama Political Reporter
Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting with and hearing from several hundred people from all walks of life who live in Southwest Alabama. They came out to speak their mind on a wide variety of issues spanning from federal involvement in local education to illegal immigration to the budget deficit. I want to thank everyone who attended one of my 14 town meetings and in some cases braved heavy thunderstorms to give their views.
Beginning last Monday, my staff and I spent four days on the road visiting city halls, volunteer fire departments, senior centers and community halls from Wilmer to Brewton and northward from Perdue Hill down to Gulf Shores. Whether it be seniors, veterans, business owners and community leaders or young people, all shared concerns about their country and our future.
We began the week with a moving presentation of a Bronze Star to World War II Army veteran James Philpot, who waited some 70 years to receive the high commendation for his “meritorious achievement in active ground combat against the enemy on December 1, 1944” while serving with an anti-tank unit in the Rhineland of Germany. Philpot spent most of his life after his military service unaware that he was eligible to receive one of the military’s highest honors until he inquired with my office several weeks ago. We helped to confirm his eligibility for the Bronze Star and secured the medal and certificate from the Secretary of the Army for presentation to him during the Wilmer town meeting.
Whether in Bayou La Batre, Satsuma or Gulf Shores, folks expressed their dissatisfaction with the direction of political decisions in Washington, from the unsustainable national debt to ridiculously tight Red Snapper fishing limits in the Gulf. I noted the House of Representatives, in which I serve, has offered up and passed budget blueprints for three years in a row that actually cut federal spending – unlike the Senate and the White House. Unfortunately, the House does not have the constitutional power to force its will on the Senate, which, until recently, has refused to write and pass its own budget plan. However, the House has been able to cut our own operating budget by some 20 percent over the last three years and we continue to hold hearings and write legislation to reduce federal spending. We will not approve a budget that expands the size of government.
Obamacare and the growth of government were also common topics during the town meetings, as most urged Congress to continue to press for the repeal of the unpopular health care law. I have opposed Obamacare since it was first written, and I have voted several times to repeal and defund it. One gentleman in Fruitdale compared the growth of government benefits and their expense on the taxpayer to the carrying capacity of a mule. A mule can only hold so many people before it is forced to lie down. Rather than working to promote economic opportunity and the creation of new jobs, the president has chosen to place further burdens on the backs of employers and taxpayers. He prefers growing government to growing jobs, and expanding benefits rather than expanding employment.
The House has passed dozens of bills to stimulate business investment and create new jobs, only to see them die in the Senate. Of course, we will continue to fight for a halt to senselessly onerous federal regulations that kill jobs. This fight includes my legislation to open up more areas in the Gulf of Mexico to reef fishing – transferring control of more reef fisheries along the Gulf Coast from the feds to the states. Washington has totally botched its management of reef fish, including Red Snapper, and I am encouraged by the growing support my legislation is receiving from coastal fishermen.
Federal efforts to grant amnesty to the more than 11 million illegal immigrants already in this country as well as proposed curbs on gun ownership and Second Amendment rights were equally hot topics of discussion. I have opposed and will continue to oppose amnesty for those who choose to break our country’s immigration laws, and when I was sworn in as your congressman in January, I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. I cannot and will not oppose the Second Amendment, which was placed in that vital document for a reason – to protect the remainder of our rights.
I want to close by again thanking everyone who came out to talk to me and my staff over the last week and I always look forward to hearing your views – whether in person or by phone, letter or email. It is an honor to represent you in Congress and I will continue to do my best to make sure your views are heard in Washington.