Rep. Tom Price discusses views on Congress at Kennesaw State forum

Rep.Tom Price during public lecture at Kennesaw State

Students question congressman on range of issues,  get frank responses U.S. Rep. Tom Price…

Georgia (Nov 8, 2011)Students question congressman on range of issues,  get frank responses

U.S. Rep. Tom Price took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and appeared professorial at a Kennesaw State University forum Nov. 7 as he offered views on issues facing Congress and the nation. 

Price, who represents Georgia’s 6th Congressional district, spoke to about 50 political science majors, many of them students in a class on the U.S. Congress taught by adjunct instructor Donna Merrell, who hosted the forum.

During an hour-long talk, the Republican congressman gave an overview of his career, his motivations for seeking public office and the important function that the Congress plays in democratic governance.

Price is the fifth-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives and chairman of the Republican Policy Committee.  He also serves on the House ways and means and budget committees.  Before going to Washington, Price served four terms in the Georgia Senate — two as minority whip.  He spent nearly 20 years in private practice as an orthopedic surgeon and served as an assistant professor at Emory University and medical director of the Orthopedic Clinic at Grady Memorial Hospital.

The four-term congressman, who represents a district that includes Cherokee, East Cobb and parts of North Fulton and DeKalb counties, addressed the tougher issue of the partisan impasse that seems to stifle Congress.

First, Price explained, it’s important to consider the ideological swings in Congress over the past several elections leading up to 2010, which gave Republicans a majority in the House of Representatives. He noted that 89 of the 242 Republicans elected to the House were new to Congress, and 38 of the new members had never run for any public office before.

In addition, Price said, the majority and minority parties have completely different roles in Congress: The minority party’s function is to hold the majority party accountable and provide contrasting views while the majority party’s main role is to govern. Republicans now have a majority in the House and a minority is the Senate.

"What we have is something that feels a little schizophrenic,” Price said.  “We have this sort of yin-yang going on that looks very strange. … One hopes that people will take their jobs seriously and represent their districts, but not in a way that stops us from getting things done.”

Price cited the 24-hour news cycle for accentuating “every discrepancy and every difference” between Republicans and Democrats in Congress.  He challenged the audience to find much reported about two recent bills approved by theHouse of Representatives with strong bipartisan support to reduce regulatory burdens so small businesses can attract new sources of capital.

Students questioned Price about a range of issues, from the president’s new plan for repaying student loans to term limits, tax reform, balancing the federal budget and the impact of the healthcare reform bill. They also sought the congressman’s opinions on the Republican presidential primary candidates, the Republican proposals that are best for the nation, and the current “Occupy Wall Street” protests.

 Highlights of Price’s responses:

… On term limits:

The four-term congressman said he support term limits.

… On President Obama’s new student loan reform plan:

“It doesn’t make sense to me; it doesn’t sound like a policy grounded in logic.  It’s not teaching the right kind of values about responsibility. … We have to stick to the fundamental principle of not having the taxpayer on the line.”

… On the “Occupy Wall Street” protests:

“All the discontent says that people have the same feeling that I do — that people are frustrated at the direction the country is moving in.  However, I think the protesters are misdirected: They should be directing their anger and frustration at the government and not at Wall Street.”

… On the impact of the health care reform bill:

“The bill can’t stand.  The courts will make that decision [on the bill’s constitutionality]. What matters in health care is accessibility, affordability and quality, which I think will all decline under the bill.  The American people won’t stand for standing in line for health care.”

… On getting a balanced budget amendment:

“I’m more hopeful that we have a balanced budget than a balanced budget amendment.  But we can’t get the budget under control without addressing Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.”

… On tax reform:

“I think the Congress will have to enact a tax code revision.  We’ll never get rid of the income tax but we can have a value-added sales tax.  … I think a fair tax is where we’ll ultimately end up.”

… On which Republican proposals are best for the nation:

“The federal government has become too intrusive [on business] to allow for job creation.  The genius of American business is being stifled … by taxes that are too high and over regulation — regulatory oppression.  … American businesses are taking jobs overseas to be more competitive. 

When it comes to improving the tax situation for business, I’m a 0 percent tax guy.”

… On whom he supports in the Republican primary:

Price said he believes only Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have a chance at defeating President Obama.  "I’m endorsing Newt: This is his old district and I’ve known him a long time. … I've reminded him that he must be a visionary leader for the future.”

Price urged students to stay engaged and involved with the process and to seek internships in the local offices of elected officials. Students like Kennesaw State junior Brigan Enser can make a difference, he said.  Enser, a political science major who hopes to go into corporate law, interned in Price’s Marietta office last summer.  He facilitated the contact that brought Price to speak at Kennesaw State.

“I had a chance to answer phones and help respond to constituent mail,” Enser said.  “It was a great experience.”


-- Sabbaye McGriff



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