By Jonathan Pleasant
Congressman Phil Roe made a recent visit to Mountain City, hosting a town hall meeting at the Johnson County Crewette Building. A large crowd was in attendance including many local government and business leaders as well as members of the general public. There was considerable representation from the Hispanic community as well, many of whom came to hear Dr. Roes views on upcoming legislation concerning immigration reform among other issues.
The meeting was held during the lunch hour, and a meal was provided. The event began with an invocation followed by a solemn moment of silence in memory of Specialist Fred Greene who was killed at the Fort Hood tragedy in Texas. The bulk of the meeting consisted of a presentation conducted by the Congressman, which was followed by a lengthy question and answer session. A wide variety of topics were covered ranging from education concerns to potential military action in Syria, and the continuing work to reduce the nations budget deficit.
Concerning Syria, which was likely the most hot-button item on the agenda, Roe began by explaining his own military background when he served in Korea. Expressing his belief that Americas past military actions have resulted in positive future developments, Roe was still keen to point out the extreme sacrifice of those fighting on the front lines. In fact, the Congressman listed his work with veterans as one of the most gratifying parts of his job, and indicated that he worked diligently to become a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee.
That being said, Roe indicted that there are several big questions that must be answered before he could vote yes on taking military action. The first and most important of these concerned whether or not there is a direct threat to the United States. Roe also questioned what goals the action intended to accomplish and whether there is a clear plan for gauging when these goals had been accomplished.
Beyond these concerns, Roe was equally interested in gauging public support, considering it one of his duties as a representative. Asking the crowd in attendance whether they would support military action, the Congressman was greeted with a unanimous show of disapproval. Roe indicated that he had met similar results at numerous other meetings, and that he had received consistent phone calls from constituents asking him to vote against military intervention. In light of this information, Dr. Roe explained that if he were to vote under the current circumstances, his answer would be no.
Roe also spent time discussing the federal budget, using charts and graphs to explain exactly where federal dollars are spent. Identifying areas of discretionary spending, the Congressman laid out ideas for promoting American energy development and creating jobs. One area where there was much concern was the Affordable Care Act, which Roe feels will end up costing much more than it is worth. At thousands of pages long, Roe explained that the act has spurred a new movement to see bills reduced in size and simplicity to prevent future problems from lengthy rules and loopholes being slipped in for approval.
Discussing immigration, the Congressman took a more moderate stance, citing the need for reform to help cut illegal immigration while at the same time increasing the efficiency of the system to meet the needs of the country. One of the many facts and figures that Roe revealed is that 40% of those now living in the United States illegally initially came here through a legitimate process, showing the strong need for a better review system.
Eventually the floor was turned over to the audience who were given an opportunity to submit their questions. Topics included further details on immigration reform, especially those coming from Muslim nationalities, to a discussion of the Benghazi Investigation. Dr. Roe answered each question in turn and seemed to have a very strong grasp of affairs on the national level. Displaying an uncanny ability to recall specific data, most of those in attendance seemed very satisfied with Roes responses even though there was some obvious frustration with policies that have been enacted by the leadership in both the executive and legislative branches.
These much larger issues aside, Congressman Roes visit seemed to have a very positive response and stood as just one example of how he has tried to reach out to the more than 720,000 constituents between Gatlinburg and Mountain City. Roe concluded by saying that the capabilities of his local offices has been an ongoing priority and that he continues to welcome questions and concerns.
By Jonathan Pleasant