First-term Congressman John Rose visited the Sixth District last week, including a stop in Trousdale County on March 18.
Before running for Congress, Rose formerly served as Tennessee’s Commissioner of Agriculture from 2002-03 and is currently chairman of the Tennessee State Fair Association. He currently serves on the House Financial Services Committee and is a part of three subcommittees: National Security, Oversight & Investigations and Housing, Community Development & Insurance.
Congressman Rose has offices in Cookeville (931-854-9430) and Gallatin (615-206-8204) as well as his office in Washington (202-225-4231).
While in Hartsville, Rose sat down with The Vidette for an interview.
Q: Tell us about why you wanted to serve in Congress.
A: I have a little boy, he’s now 17 months old; his name is Guy. About three years ago, back during the 2016 election, my wife and I were watching the politics of that time unfold and the issues were being discussed.
Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Congressman John Rose, center, poses with District Director Rebecca Foster and Deputy District Director Ray Render during a recent visit to Hartsville.
We came to the harsh conclusion that the country we’re likely to leave to the next generation, to my son Guy, is likely to be worse than the one our parents left to us. We think that if that happens, it will be the first time in the history of this country that one generation has left the country worse off to the next.
We don’t think that’s acceptable and that was really the impetus to run, in the hope that I can have an impact in turning things around and getting the country heading in a direction where we can leave it better to the next generation.
Q: What are the biggest issues you’re hoping to address up in Washington?
A: No question in my mind; the biggest issue facing the country – the thing that really sets the stage for what I talked about – is the debt, now exceeding $22 trillion. A projected deficit this year of a trillion dollars. Debt that we’re passing on to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren that really saddles them with a burden that will plague them and restrict what they and this country can accomplish during their lives.
I’ve heard someone put it this way: “When you take something with no intention of paying it back or returning it, you don’t call it borrowing.” I think our generation owes it to the next to get that under control.
Obviously we inherited some debt, but just during the Obama era we doubled the national debt in eight years. That pace can’t continue and we’ve got to turn that around. Having been now in Washington for 10-11 weeks, it’s clear there’s a problem and we’re all kinda guilty of it. We all want things from the federal government and we want those things irrespective of how they’re going to be paid for. Unlike this county and the state of Tennessee that have to balance their budgets every year and figure out where the money is going to come from, at the federal level we just seem to spend and not worry about where the money’s coming from…
It’s not easy if you’re sitting in Washington where people come to you constantly from various groups, well-intended groups with good causes, but they come and say “We got this much last year and we’d like to get this much next year and we want you to help us.” You can’t argue that at some level but all those causes add up to money we don’t have. Prior Congresses and presidents have not said no, and we’ve got to start saying no more often.
Q: What do you see as the best way to address that debt and deficit?
A: I would hope that the Congress and the president could self-govern; that we could develop the backbone to say no. Recent history would not give reason to be optimistic about that, so it may come down to putting in place some hard restrictions. I would certainly support a balanced budget amendment that would put a hard restriction on the federal government to get its house in order and balance its books. That’s a pretty extreme measure and would require a constitutional amendment and that’s a tough thing to make happen. In the late 1990s we managed to get the financial picture in order.
It’s a spending problem; a lot of people want to say it’s a revenue problem and we need to raise taxes. But it’s clear that we keep spending money no matter how much the government brings in. That revenue stream’s been growing and we just grow spending faster. As an example, I would point to the recent appropriations bill that passed. Not only did it not include the funding for border security that officials said they needed. The president had asked for about $6 billion and they gave him about 25 percent of that, but it also included $56 billion in spending that the administration did not ask for. We didn’t have enough money to protect out border and enforce our immigration laws, but we had $56 billion in increases above what the administration had called for. We have to rein that in.
A lot of the things the federal government does are not the role of the federal government. I think the long-term solution to overspending is to return the responsibility to the states, where I think they’ll be dealt with more frugally and responsibly.
Q: The president’s proposed budget contains pretty substantial cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Do you support those cuts in general or do you want to look at the details?
A: Three things about the president’s budget proposal: he does ask again for adequate funding for border security and immigration enforcement. I think we have an obligation to get that under control. This country has laws on the immigration front; they should be respected and enforced. I hope the Congress will take a closer look at that this time and make the right choice.
The president’s budget also calls for a substantial increase in defense spending. Unfortunately, we have neglected our defense infrastructure over the last eight to 10 years. I think that’s the most solemn obligation the federal government has, to defend the country. We have to make sure we have an adequate defense capacity for this country and I fully support the effort to fund national defense at the appropriate level.
The budget calls for a 5 percent cut in discretionary spending and in some non-discretionary areas such as Medicare and Medicaid. I think that’s a step in the right direction. Showing we can start to rein those programs in across the breadth of the federal government is a good thing. With respect to Medicare, this is a group of people who have a certain expectation that they’re going to be cared for, that we made promises to, and in most cases they’ve paid into the Medicare trust fund to provide for that benefit when they reach retirement age. I think we have to be very careful what we do in terms of impacting the benefits they are expecting. As retirees, they’re not in good position to make adjustments. It’s one of my concerns about the Affordable Care Act, because it was largely financed on taking funding from Medicare and diverting it to supplement the funding for Obamacare. We see how that’s working out…
Medicaid was enlarged significantly with the Affordable Care Act and the costs have risen significantly. I think what we’re seeing with all of these programs is the federal government’s not very efficient at managing anything, but certainly when you turn over something as important as our health care to the government, you shouldn’t be surprised when it doesn’t go well.
Q: Senator Lamar Alexander wrote an opinion piece (published in last week’s Vidette) stating he didn’t support the declaring of a national emergency on immigration, mainly for the fact that set a potential precedent for a future Democratic president to act similarly on guns, climate change or other issues. Do you think declaring an emergency was the right thing to do?
A: I do think it was the right thing to do and I support the president’s declaration of this emergency. I think anyone who takes a serious look at what’s happening at our southern border; it’s hard to conclude anything other than we have an emergency there. The number of people crossing illegally has ballooned in recent months; the number of unescorted children and families that are showing up at the border and expecting to get into the United State has ballooned. We’ve seen a number of caravans now and frankly, the country is ill equipped to deal with that influx of folks.
Obviously Congress gave the president that power many years go and we’ve seen multiple presidents declare emergencies; a number of those are still in effect in some cases decades after they were declared… I share Sen. Alexander’s concern about how that power might be misused by the president or future presidents and I certainly hope they won’t do that. I think perhaps the Congress should revisit the law allowing that power to the president. That would be the appropriate way to deal with this. This issue is probably going to be heard through the courts…
Q: Has there been an adjustment to being part of the minority in the House now?
A: That’s all I know as a first-time candidate for public office. It’s a great privilege to be able to represent the people of the Sixth District of Tennessee. I hear from my Republican colleagues who have been there longer that it is quite an adjustment.
The Congress has gotten off to a slow start in terms of the legislative agenda. I think that is in part to the Democratic majority being unfamiliar with how to operate the House, having been out of power. I think it’s also due to the discord within the Democratic majority and we’ve seen that in the press.
Q: Are there areas where you’ve found you’re able to work with the other side of the aisle on?
A: Very few, really. I will say a great many of the bills pass with overwhelming majorities. So there are vast areas where there is agreement and consensus on what good policy should be. You just don’t hear about those things. You hear about the areas of disagreement and they’re significant disagreements. Unfortunately, in a lot of those areas we fail to take action and that can be frustrating.
Our Founding Fathers wanted our government to be very deliberative and created a system of checks and balances so it would move slow and be difficult to enact laws. When you see that up close it can be very frustrating… So the system they set up is working to a great degree the way they should.
Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or email@example.com.