By Jack Gurner
COFFEEVILLE – President Barack Obama’s energy bill squeaked through the House last week, but without the help of First District Congressman Travis Childers.
Childers spoke of his objections to the bill at a “Coffee with the Congressman” gathering at the Coffeeville Courthouse during a swing through the district Thursday.
“I thought it was bad legislation,” he told the group of Yalobushians gathered in the second floor courtroom.
Childers said that he would have considered supporting the bill if it had been in a “moderate zone” because the county hasn’t had an energy policy since the Carter administration. “It was not moderate,” he said. “It was overextending to say the least.”
He added that the bill probably wouldn’t see the light of day in the Senate.
Childers described the deal making that preceded the vote and said that he didn’t open the door to any offers. He said that supporters of the legislation began to “pick off” non-supporters by offering to trade something they wanted for their vote.
As an example he used a scenario in which a veteran’s hospital would be built in North Mississippi in exchange for his vote on the bill. “All of you veterans in the First Congressional District have to go to Memphis, Jackson, or Tuscaloosa for serious treatment,” Childers said.
He emphasized that a hospital wasn’t offered. However, if it had been, he would have to come back to Mississippi and admit that he voted against a VA hospital. “That’s what you have to deal with,” he said of Washington politics.
There is a lot going on in Congress, according to Childers. “But, there is nothing more important to me than this economy and jobs,” he continued. “Unemployment is too high. That is my focus.”
“I do get a little discouraged,” he added. “I think this administration tries to tackle too many things at once.”
One of those things that is upcoming is healthcare reform. Childers said that the conservative Blue Dog Health Care Task Force has been meeting twice a week for almost a year so they can have input if there is any healthcare reform.
“I’m not for change for the sake of change,” he said. “I’m for change if we can better it.”
Extremism on the healthcare issue concerns Childers. “There are a lot of people on both sides who think they need to run things. But, I think that the great majority of us are in the middle.”
During a question and answer session, Childers was asked if there were those in Washington who really believed we could afford the recent legislation supposedly designed to get the economy moving again.
Childers, who voted for the first stimulus package, said that he wouldn’t vote for another. But, not because he thought the first was a mistake. “I want to see some results,” he said.
“We no longer have the luxury of wasting money,” added Childers. “You should never have the luxury of wasting money.”
“There are those in Washington who say it is one party’s fault. Trust me, it is not one party’s fault. There’s plenty of blame to go around.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Childers spoke informally with members of the North Mississippi Railroad Coalition and others interested in the rails which run through Yalobusha’s western edge.
The coalition was formed after the recent announcement that the Canadian National Railroad wanted to sell the former “Grenada District” between Memphis and Jackson to Grenada Railway LLC, a non-carrier affiliate of A and K Railroad Materials.
Chiders said that he asked the chairman of the company if they planned to salvage the rail line as some had feared. The answer, according to Childers was that Grenada Railway LLC planned on operating the railroad.
“I’m committed to the success of that railroad,” Childers emphasized. “We’re staying on top of that. We cannot lose that railroad.”