Congressman Gary Palmer, R-Alabama, on Tuesday held a town hall at the Irondale City Hall. The four-term congressman spoke to citizens about China, energy policy, Afghanistan, the national debt, completing Jefferson County’s Northern Beltline, and other issues — many of them addressing the citizens’ concerns.
“The big issue is what is going on in Afghanistan,” Palmer said. “I am very concerned about the number of Americans and other people trapped in Afghanistan. I am not sure that we can get everyone out. The Americans citizens in Afghanistan are not just in Kabul. They are in Kandahar and Herat. The Americans are spread all over the country and the Taliban has complete control of the country.”
Sources are reported Tuesday that there are anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000 American citizens still in Afghanistan.
“We secured the Bagram Air Base today,” Palmer said. “At our last town hall in Clanton yesterday I was approached by a former Afghan interpreter who worked with us. He, his wife, and their seven children were living in the U.S. His wife and his six-year-old daughter went back to Afghanistan to tend her sick mother. I am not sure that we can get them back.”
“I am concerned about how this will affect our standing in the world,” Palmer said. “We gave promises to the people that helped us including the interpreters. People are not going to trust us.”
“Some in the news media are reporting that the Afghans would not fight,” Palmer said. “That is not true, Somewhere between 50,000 and 70,000 Afghans have died fighting alongside us in this war. This month alone 2000 Afghans were killed defending their country against the Taliban. That is a misrepresentation of these guys.”
“We have verified that the Taliban is going door to door and seizing the family members of Afghans in the United States and called them on the phone to say that they are holding them as hostages,” he said. “If they do not return to Afghanistan to stand trial, they are going to kill their families.”
“My big concern is that there is going to be a lot of bloodshed in Afghanistan in the next six months,” Palmer concluded.
Palmer told APR that the fall of Afghanistan was one of the biggest American foreign policy disasters “of my lifetime. Next to the fall of Iran. I think it is bigger than the fall of Saigon because we have good relations now with Vietnam. This is bigger than the Bay of Pigs.”
“We need to finish the Northern Beltline,” Palmer said. “It is absolutely critical to the development of Jefferson County and the Birmingham area.”
“Unlike Atlanta, we have room to build,” Palmer said. “They have outgrown their infrastructure.”
“I think we have tremendous potential to create a high-tech corridor between Huntsville and Birmingham,” Palmer said.
“One of the things that we have in Birmingham is the hills and the mountains,” Palmer said. “People come to Birmingham thinking Alabama and they see the mountains and the beauty of the area. This is a great place to be and to raise a family.”
Palmer said that he and the entire Alabama delegation are trying to get the completion of the Appalachian highway system as part of the infrastructure bill.
“It is being sponsored by Joe Manchin Rob Portman, and Bob Casey,” Palmer said. The Northern Beltway is the one section that is not built out. “It was approved in 1989. We are one of the largest cities in the country that does not have a complete belt around the city.”
Palmer said that there is a group that measures the amount of congestion we have in the country.
“Birmingham ranks 56th in congestion out of 494 metro areas,” Palmer explained. “18,000 semi-trucks go through downtown Birmingham every day.”
Palmer said that he was concerned not just about the time that constituents spend in traffic congestion but all that you are burning excess fuel and all the emissions that cause.
“If we can get the northern beltline, it will be great for Irondale,” Palmer predicted.
Palmer said that building the Northern Beltline would allow better utilization of Birmingport, “One of the most underutilized assets that we have. I talked with Joe Knight about this.”
“We have got two modern intermodals,” Palmer said. “Our rail service will reach 78 percent of the United States in 2 days.”
Palmer explained that better access to Birmingport will allow manufacturers in the area to use water transport to access the Port of Mobile and it will allow residents to access the river from 459 providing recreational opportunities,
Palmer said that Steny Hoyer told them that the infrastructure bill will be voted on Tuesday, but since then had heard that infighting among the Democrats could further delay it.
Palmer said that if they can get their bill attached to the infrastructure bill that would mean $365 million for the Northern Beltline.
While he hopes that Northern Beltline funding is in the infrastructure bill, on the whole it is not good for the country because it adds to the growing national debt which is growing faster than the American economy.
“Our debt is two percent bigger than our entire economy,” Palmer said. “This is causing inflation. Inflation on energy is 25 percent. That really impacts low-income people.”
Palmer cited research that showed that people who live in homes where they are not able to adequately heat their homes are “17 times more people to die of respiratory issues” than people who live in homes that are warm enough.
“I think we have made some really bad decisions on energy policy,” Palmer said.
“Energy is the most inflationary component of everything in our economy,” Palmer explained.
Palmer acknowledged that climate change is real, but most of it is natural variation and that even if the entire world cuts our CO2 emissions to zero if would do nothing to change what is happening.
Palmer said that he feared that we would start losing manufacturing in this country again due to the rising cost of energy and that shutting down construction of the Keystone Pipeline and suspending leasing of oil and gas exploration on public lands were bad decisions.
Palmer was concerned that the Biden’s administration’s bad policies on energy was turning the country from an energy exporter to a country that is dependent once again on OPEC.
Palmer chairs the House Republican Study Committee and is one of the top 5 Republicans in the House.