Brady touches on hot topics, seeks opinions from public
Houston County Courier
By Jenna Duncan News Reporter Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX8) visited Crockett earlier this week for a round table discussion with members of the Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce and local officials. Brady stressed how happy he is to once again represent Houston County in the U.S. House of Representatives. The county was moved into Brady's district as a result of statewide redistricting. In the meeting Tuesday, Jan. 29 at the Crockett Civic Center, Brady reintroduced himself to the community, which he previously represented from 1991 to 1996, and discussed what action he has already taken in Congress as well as what he will face in the next 90 days. After speaking alongside a powerpoint presentation, there was a question and answer session with the audience of about 40 community members. "It's nice to be able to come back," he said. "I could've never dreamed I'd get a chance to represent Houston County again. I had that privilege from 1991 to 1996 in the State House, it was just wonderful. And now with redistricting, I get a chance to work for you again in Congress." He noted that while he has gained some weight and lost some hair since the last time he represented the county, he said his dedication and values remain the same, noting that he still lives with his family at home and commutes to Washington for work every week. "We do that to stay close in touch with the people that I work for - that's you," he said. "We now have almost two million miles flying back and forth to Washington." In the first part of his presentation, Brady discussed what the next 90 days will look like in terms of upcoming legislation and his opinions on the large issues, such as trying to get the federal budget under control. "We've got to start living within our means - there's just no two ways around it," Brady said. "In the next 90 days, we have maybe the best opportunity since I've been in Congress to start changing the direction of Washington and spending." He also prefaced another large policy issue, the issue of the Second Amendment and gun control. As a parent, he said the issue of safety in schools concerns him, but he doesn't believe stricter gun control for law abiding citizens will improve things. Brady then explained what has already been passed at this point, like the automatic spending cuts, and how this will affect Texas and Houston County. The largest cut that will affect locals is the decrease in defense funding, which will cut about 125,000 jobs in state, primarily in the manufacturing sector of defense but will also impact active duty soldiers. "For Texas, we pay a pretty big price for that because we house so many of our soldiers, we make the weapons and technology that they use to defend our country," he said. "Texas is going to take a pretty big hit . . . so these cuts, while it's important that they occur, I think they should be designed differently." He continued into the debt ceiling, showing graphs that depict what has caused the ceiling to rise and what will happen if federal spending continues at the current rate. In addition, the current debt is now primarily held by outside investors and other countries like China, which he warned was dangerous. "Both parties share blame for the debt, one I think more than the other, but bottom line is we've got to figure out a way to change our spending," he said. After discussing the debt, Brady circled back to the Second Amendment, which protects citizens' right to bear arms. He explained the proposals set forth last week by President Barack Obama, like reinstating an assault rifle ban and placing limits on magazines and bullets. Brady argued that similar legislation has not previously decreased gun violence, and also said many of the executive orders by the president are things that should have already happened, such as enforcing existing gun laws like prosecuting cases where applicants lied on background checks and finding someone to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which has been vacant for six years. "What the president' proposing doesn't protect our rights and doesn't protect our schools," he said. "It shouldn't take a shooting at a school or a movie theater or a congress member for the federal government to do what it's supposed to be doing, which is keep guns out of the hands of the bad." Instead of focusing on gun control, Brady said this should be more an issue of mental health and find a better way to help those that are at risk. In the final portion of his presentation, he discussed the fiscal cliff bill - of which he said 92 percent was about permanently lowering tax cuts. Half of the bill was to stop the middle class from being hit with an alternative minimum tax, with large portions limiting the death tax - which Brady said he wants repealed forever - and the rest includes a marriage cut and tax reductions for those with children. "This is not the bill that I want. I want tax cuts permanent for everybody in America," Brady said. "I want the death tax ended for everybody once and for all, but for those of us on Ways and Means (Committee), who for 11 years since the Bush tax cuts went in place and we've been fighting to make it permanent, not temporary but permanent once and for all, we achieved some of that." When he opened this meeting to questions from the audience, questions spanned from school safety to EPA regulations, with Brady asking for the questioner's opinion after he answered each of their questions. Judge Clyde Black, Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace, asked Brady if there is any consideration of a flat national sales tax, which Brady said he thinks would be better than what is currently in place but that it is a hot topic with resistance. "I think if you really want to change the tax code - make us the strongest economy in the world - and be so fair that everyone just pays a little for our country's government, a flat sales tax would be the best way to do it," Brady said. "We're a country where 50 percent of the population is supporting the other 50 percent - and I think that really needs to stop," Black said after Brady asked his opinion on the matter. Crockett Mayor Wayne Mask also chimed in during the question and answer session, asking about the legalization of marijuana in some states and what the federal response might be. "I don't understand this, how you pick and choose some laws to enforce," Brady said. "When you have Arizona trying to secure its border, the government just launches into the state like that, but when you have others legalize an illegal drug we just sort of wink as a nation. It seems to me if a law is in the book, you ought to enforce it … if you can pick and choose there, you can pick and choose anywhere." One audience member countered Brady's response, saying that she thinks the legalization of marijuana and other drugs would take power away from drug cartels and earn the nation revenue. However, Brady said as a parent he thinks that limiting the legalization of substances that impair judgement is a positive thing. "I just don't know any person, young or old, who has stepped to a podium when they've done good community work, or an Oscar, or a sports star who says 'You know - Thank God I've been using illegal drugs. This has really been helpful for me in my life'," he said. "I know we could make some money off it, but I think the cost on the other side is a heck of a lot greater." As the meeting wrapped up, Brady encouraged Mask and other members of the local government to keep in touch with him about the federal funding they receive for programs that are helpful, as well as other citizens so he can best represent voters. He emphasized that as a conservative, his votes in congress will continue to support minimal government and give individual citizens more freedom. "We've got to find ways to solve these problems - we know they're going to be hard votes," he said. "You won't be popular at home, but my thinking is you didn't send me up to Washington to just take easy votes. You didn't send me up there to have my finger in the air figuring where I'll be popular - you sent me up there to study the issues, listen to you and take tough votes to do the right thing."