Houston & Peach

Ocmulgee Monument, threats to freedom among topics at Coffee with Congressmen event

U.S. Rep. Austin Scott talks with John Hall and David Barwick at the Robins Regional Chamber of Commerce Coffee with the Congressmen.
U.S. Rep. Austin Scott talks with John Hall and David Barwick at the Robins Regional Chamber of Commerce Coffee with the Congressmen. wmarshall@macon.com

U.S. Reps. Sanford Bishop and Austin Scott joined members of the Robins Regional Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday morning for coffee, breakfast and a conversation that included an update on the Ocmulgee National Monument.

A congressional committee took up a measure in June to expand the boundaries of the 700-acre monument to include 2,100 acres, change its name to Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park to draw recognition and visitors, as well as authorize a study to explore expanding the boundaries even farther south to include opportunities for recreational activities such as camping and fishing.

Should the bill pass, it would become Georgia’s first national historic park.

“We’re expecting the full committee to do a markup and send the bill to the floor,” Bishop, D-Ga., said at the chamber’s second annual Coffee with the congressmen event at Centerville City Hall.

“I would expect sometime before the session is over we’ll get it done,” he said. “It’s ripe to be considered. It’s just a matter of the House leadership putting it on the calendar and bringing it to the floor.”

Bishop, whose district covers 29 counties in the midstate and southwest Georgia, said creating legislation is like making sausage: “You want to see the end result, but you don’t want to see the process.”

Scott, R-Ga., said efforts to push the bill have been collaborative.

“He and I work together quite well on these issues,” Scott said of Bishop. “He’s talking to the Democrats on the committee, and I’m talking to the Republicans on the committee.”

In another matter, both Scott and Bishop expressed concern about the nation’s budget and debt.

“What we’re afraid of, I think, is the loss of freedom that we’ve enjoyed as Americans,” Scott told the crowd of about 50 people. “I see a couple of threats to that freedom coming up. First and foremost is the national debt. ... The interest on the national debt will exceed what we spend on national security. That (will) probably come about within less than five years. That’s a pretty scary thought to me.”

Scott, whose district encompasses more than 20 counties in south and Middle Georgia, said he’d like to see foreign policy shift back to strengthening America’s allies with stronger trade ties and more military capacity.

Bishop said the budget sequestration has had a direct and indirect impact on communities across the country, particularly on the military.

“Unfortunately, that issue is very, very, very evident here at Robins (Air Force Base),” Bishop said. “The military has been put in the untenable position of having to cut the defense budget. ... Of course, that has tremendous implications for us right here in Middle Georgia and all of the communities that have defense installations and, more importantly, for the strength of our national security.”

THE TRUMP FACTOR

Since Republican billionaire Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president in June, politicians and media personalities nationwide have shared an array of responses to his campaign.

“It’s very interesting,” Bishop said of Trump’s campaign. “It’s captivating the interest of a lot of media and a lot of people. Of course, it just underscores the fact that this is America and anybody can run for president.”

Scott hasn’t been impressed by Trump’s campaign.

“He seems to be more interested in having fun right now than specifically answering questions and giving us a plan to move the economy and the country forward,” Scott said. “I think we have several candidates that truly can govern and lead the country towards the economic growth that we need. That requires being able to give specific solutions and articulate it and he hasn’t done that.”

IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL

Congress is scheduled to vote in September on whether the U.S. will end oil and financial sanctions that were imposed on Iran in 1996. A deal proposed by President Barack Obama in July calls for Iran to reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent and allow for inspections of its nuclear facilities in exchanged for ending sanctions.

“I’m a no on that,” Scott said of the proposed deal. “Iran has one of the largest missile programs in the world and, if you look at a map and check the distances between their country and Israel, they don’t need an intercontinental missile. ... They’ve already got a missile that’s got the range to hit over 20 countries. ... They gave up something they didn’t need.”

Bishop said he hasn’t yet taken a stance on the issue.

“I’m reviewing it very, very carefully,” Bishop said. “I haven’t come to a final decision, but ... the bottom line, though, from my determination, will be what I believe is in the long-term best interest of the United States and our national security (and) the national security of Israel, our prime ally in the Middle East.”

To contact writer Laura Corley call 744-4334 or find her on Twitter@lauraecor.

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