Smith: Congress not as contentious as portrayed

Wednesday, March 28, 2018
U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith speaks at a McCook Area Chamber of Commerce meet-and-greet Tuesday.
Lorri Sughroue/McCook Gazette

McCOOK, Neb. — There’s not as much acrimony in Congress as portrayed in the media, Nebraska’s 3rd Congressional District Rep. Adrian Smith said Tuesday.

Speaking at a meet-and-greet at the Keystone Business Center hosted by the McCook Area Chamber of Commerce, Smith said after the meeting that “there’s more bi-partisanship than what makes the news.”

What animosity does exist is just par for the course, Smith indicated, adding that the Founding Fathers were able to put their differences aside when crafting the Constitution and Bill of Rights, despite documented rancor between the personalities

Which leads him to believe that the same can happen when addressing gun reform. When asked about his reaction to the recent “March for our Lives” student-led rally at Washington over the weekend, Smith said he believes in free speech and that lawmakers needed to put personal differences aside and forge a solution.

“We need to have thoughtful discussions on the most effective ways of preventing these tragedies,” he said of mass shootings that have taken place in theaters, concerts and ballparks. The shooter at the Parkland, Fla., shooting had a long history of being mentally unstable, an angle that needed to be investigated further, he said. But discussions would not be a time for “political posturing,” he added.

Smith touched on a number of topics Tuesday, including China’s threat to boycott soybeans in response to President Trump's tariffs on the country.

The threat is being used as calculated political leverage against rural America, Smith said, with the administration hearing a lot about it, including Pres. Donald Trump, who is “aware of it and acknowledges it.” With 300,000 U.S. soybean producers potentially being affected, Smith couldn’t say whether China would go through with the threat or not, but that there’s been more thoughtful discussion on trade recently than years’ past, and that’s good.

There are already contentious issues surrounding the Farm Bill that is coming up for debate, he said, with himself focusing on strong crop insurance being included in the bill.

Other subjects Smith spoke about included:

* Internet sales tax, where companies outside of a state that sells merchandise charges sales tax for items, like brick-and-mortar stores: Smith said he likes the idea of a level playing field, yet “you have to make sure it’s done right.” Factors to consider included eBay entrepreneurs selling items to buyers out of state and if they are charging a sales tax and the myriad tax codes unique to each state. And each state would have to “buy in” or else it would make it difficult, he said.

* President’s Trump’s plan for infrastructure updates and how Nebraska could benefit: Smith said regulations that slow things down needed to be examined. The 2009 stimulus funds is an example of having shovel-ready projects ready to move forward, that were halted in order for federal dollars to come through. Smith said there needs to be more competition for infrastructure projects but there are policies in place that prevent that. Smith later identified some of those policies as environmental regulations and favoritism toward union contractors.

* Essential Air Service: he’s heard great things about the air service in McCook, North Platte, Scottsbluff, and other airports that utilize federally-subsidized EAS. There’s always an annual attempt by a colleague to remove it, Smith said. He added that there should be a requirement that goes with the funding that airlines must advertise to make sure the seats are filled.

* deficit: in response to a question about the national debt, Smith said there were a number of things to look at, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, that are growing an concerning rate.

Smith, originally of Gering, Neb., keeps a townhouse in Washington and a home in Gering for him and his wife, Andrea and their son, Zeke (Ezekiel). He was first elected in 2006 and faces three challengers in the Republican primary, Larry Bolinger, Arron Kowalski and Kirk Penner. Another candidate seeking the seat is Paul Theobald, Democrat.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Smith attended a fund-raiser in McCook.

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