A world hot spot was the hottest topic at Wednesday’s town hall meeting at the Thomasville-Thomas County Chamber of Commerce.
The first two questions posed to Eighth District Congressman Austin Scott were about Syria. Several more Syria-related and military queries were scattered throughout the event that featured about three dozen citizens.
Scott, a first-term Republican, made it clear that he believes Syria is not a burning issue for the U.S. He believes President Obama is using the recent chemical attack on civilians there as a distraction from pressing issues at home.
“There are public published reports where this was the sixth or seventh time, depending on which public report you read, that there had been a use of chemical weapons in the country,” Scott said. “So why now? Why is this the ‘red line’ with nine (legislative) days left in our fiscal year.”
The fiscal year for the federal government ends Sept. 30. Before then, Congress must pass a continuing resolution or some other appropriations measure.
“There is a lot that has to be done in the next nine days, and there is no reason that Syria had to be a part of it,” Scott said.
Scott, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, intends to vote against attacking Syria pending hearing additional intelligence reports.
“I’m tired of the U.S. getting involved in other countries’ individual disputes,” he said to a rumbling of support from a majority of the audience. “As sad as what happened (in Syria) is, we can’t physically do it all.”
Scott said he will vote for acting against Syria if there is evidence to show that Syria’s stash of chemical weapons is being given to Hamas or another terrorist organization for potential use against Israel.
“I hope you’ll give me a little leeway there,” Scott said.
Before taking questions from the crowd, Scott opened with remarks about the federal government’s woefully unbalanced budget. He thinks the nation’s $17 trillion debt should be the focus in Washington, D.C.
“As a 43-year-old American with a 14-year-old son, I think the debt and deficit are the greatest threats to my child being able to enjoy the American dream my family and I did,” he said. “That is the greatest threat to his generation.”
Washington spends $10 billion per day, about $3 billion more than it takes in. The gap is filled by borrowing, often from nations not necessarily friendly to the U.S.
“The only way out of this is jobs,” the congressman said. “The questions is — how do we get jobs coming back to this country?”
Scott wants to eliminate the corporate income tax. He said that would enable businesses to hire more people.
“Think about the fact that the corporate income tax is 18 days worth of federal spending,” Scott said. “That’s all it generates. Think about how many jobs would be created if we just got rid of it.
“We spend too much time debating what changes we are going to make to that (tax) code and not enough time debating ‘cut it in half’ or ‘get rid of it altogether.’
“We’ve got to get manufacturing jobs coming back to this country. Things have been pretty good in agriculture, but we need to be building things in this country as well as growing them.”
A few questions strayed from Syria and the economy. Two were about climate change.
Without elaborating, Scott said he “absolutely” disagrees with those who claim climate change is caused by human activity. He later said President Obama should give the go-ahead for the Keystone XL Pipeline because it would boost U.S. job growth.
The Affordable Health Care Act was also a topic. Scott said the House should discontinue talk of defunding it until after Americans learn how much it will cost them in a few weeks when the numbers are announced. At that point, he thinks voters will press the Senate to join the House to postpone or repeal the law.
“The president doesn’t want to give up the health care bill, but the thing he doesn’t want to give up more than the health care bill is the United States Senate,” Scott said. “There are enough of them up for re-election — that are going to be in tough re-elections — that, if they don’t support changes, I think the Democrats will lose the Senate.”
At the end of the question-and-answer session, Mike Randall and Marshall Berman presented Scott with an award for his dedication to veterans. The gesture nearly brought a tear to Scott’s eye.
Scott said his devotion to the military and veterans stems from his relationship with his grandfather, who served in World War II as a B-17 pilot. He was a POW.
“No one who served their country honorably should get one penny less than was promised to them,” Scott said. “It’s unacceptable (to do otherwise).”