Darren Doyle, story and photo:
Kentucky District 2 Congressman Brett Guthrie (R), Bowling Green met the Edmonson Voice in Smiths Grove Thursday afternoon for a cup of coffee and a discussion about the current state of affairs around the county, Commonwealth, and the nation.
Rep. Guthrie said he's still working to support healthcare, tax, and infrastructure reform, trying to help bring prescription drug costs down, and bring more tourism to the Mammoth Cave/Edmonson County area.
He noted that sometimes when the media reports that Congress is on vacation, not in session, or lawmakers are anywhere else other than Washington it angers Americans everywhere.
"What lots of folks don't realize is that we work in our districts," he said. "I recently held meetings in all 21 counties in our district. You can't do that if you're always in Washington." Guthrie said that's where you can speak directly to the people, hear their concerns, and learn what's most important to them.
One of our first topics of discussion was healthcare and the problems that lawmakers have faced in the process of trying repeal and replace the Affordable Healthcare Act, otherwise known as "Obamacare."
"This has been frustrating to so many," he said. "We have people who have seen their health insurance premiums increase, some areas, like in Arizona, they've gone up over 100%. People everywhere are being negatively affected by it. I'm not going to deny that some people got coverage that didn't have it because of the Affordable Care Act, but the vast majority that already had coverage have been negatively affected by it. This bill basically interrupted the entire insurance market so we still have to get this done. The House has passed the bill, but now it's in the Senate. The question is, when does that happen? Until we can successfully get a bill to the President's desk to sign, we're not successful in getting this done."
The Congressman said if a repeal/replace bill can't be passed, then the question becomes, can lawmakers do something to help the overall insurance market? He said he wasn't optimistic about that because it would take democrats' support, and he said he hasn't seen that yet.
"Democrats have said, 'let's sit down and fix the law,' but when you start getting down to the details of what it will take to fix the law, you have to repeal some of these insurance mandates and regulations, but they seem to like all the mandates and regulations. To get them to do away with some of those might be difficult to do. I base that on a 27 and 1/2 hour hearing I attended when we passed the healthcare bill, and based on the rhetoric in that hearing, I'm not sure where you find any one of them willing to do what I think is necessary to at least repair our insurance markets."
He then discussed two other topics on which President Trump ran his campaign, tax reform and infrastructure spending. He said there's not a bill yet on tax reform but he expects that soon. The infrastructure issue also is being discussed and worked on. Guthrie said he supported all three of the President's initiatives regarding healthcare, tax reform, and beefed-up infrastructure.
"My view is that the President certainly has the ability and the megaphone to cut through all the media, reach out to people, and sell his products, which are healthcare, tax reform, and infrastructure."
We asked the Congressman about the divisiveness throughout the country today and his thoughts on how that can be changed.
"I attended the KY Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast in Louisville this morning," he said. "For some reason, there were protesters gathered outside because of KY Farm Bureau."
The event is held annually at the state fair and raised over $325,000 this year alone for charities all across Kentucky.
"I don't even know exactly what they were protesting today. There seems to be a group that will protest anything these days," he said. "I think all of us in Washington need to be working on how we can bring people together. You know, when it comes down to it, you have the majority of people that want the economy to grow, they want healthcare to work, they want fair tax reform, and they'd like to have better access to infrastructure. All of us, in our demeanor, in our contexts, need to try to move people forward, bring them together. I'm not sure there's a simple answer to that, but I know it starts with everyone talking about it."
He also discussed the horrible events that took place in Charlottesville.
"What happened there was repugnant. It's deplorable. It's not what America's about. America is about that no matter where you are in life that you have the opportunity to move yourself up and I think we need to unite around that and move forward from there."
He said he appreciates the fact that President Trump uses a direct line to the people, most commonly done through social media and that the President doesn't have to have the media to relay his message.
"I think the mainstream media has made a decision from the beginning to be very negative with the President, no matter what, so in order for the President to communicate his agenda, he has to have a direct line. Sometimes his tweets are a different style in what I'd have, but I do think if he didn't have that avenue, it would be much different. I think his speech on Afghan war was the right tone, the right policy on moving forward, and I'm sure H.R. McMaster, the President's National Security Advisor, helped draft the policy, and he was my squad leader at West Point. You know, some of the things the President does is not my particular style, like the big rallies and things. I even said during his campaign that I didn't think he should say this or that, but you know what?--he won," he said.
When asked about holding a huge "Brett Guthrie Rally" in Diddle Arena, his reply was, "we don't have to worry about that...I couldn't come close to filling Diddle Arena," as he laughed.
We discussed several more topics, ranging from North Korea to China, all the way to local businesses and familiar faces around the county. As our conversation began to come to a close, he said he's still working on healthcare, among other national issues.
"The healthcare bill hasn't passed, but it's not dead. We're working on it...we are. The other thing is how do we bring down the cost of medication? We're trying to pass a bill that will bring more competition to the pharmaceutical marketplace that will drive down prices. What really doesn't work is a single pay, price control drug market. We have to make them affordable, but not such a tightening down that we lose research."
Finally, he spoke on some local issues, and he said he'd love to see a new hotel and facility at Mammoth Cave National Park.
"In 2010, Congress changed the rules in the House that you can't direct appropriation spendings from the House of Representatives. So I just can't sit down and say 'X amount of dollars goes here or there.' I think Edmonson County deserves an opportunity to have a world-class facility that attracts more people. Now that we have Lock number 6 out, this is a great time to bring tourism to the river area in Brownsville. We're working on some of those projects and in the best interest of everyone."
He closed by saying he will continue working to support improvements in Mammoth Cave National Park, better ferry operation, a continued work in the Lock and Dam systems, and bringing tourism to the Green River area which will directly improve the Edmonson County economy.
We quickly finished our coffee and he said he looked forward to stopping back in Edmonson County as he hurried on his way to his next appointment. He said he'd be sure and let us know when he was back in town. If you'd like to contact the Congressman's office, you can visit his website by clicking here.
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