U.S Rep. Bradley Byrne, during the Atmore leg of his annual district-wide town hall tour, discussed a wide range of topics, from the possibility of war with North Korea, to the proposed border wall along the Mexican border to the return of passenger rail service along the Gulf Coast.
The August 29 question and answer session was attended by more than 40 people who sought an update on various pieces of legislation pending before Congress.
Of the Korean situation, Byrne – who has twice visited South Korea this year – said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is playing a dangerous game as he works to increase the range of his country’s nuclear arsenal.
“The nearest American (territory) is Guam, and he has verbally threatened Guam,” the Congressman said of the Asian dictator’s potential targets. “If he does something to carry through on that threat, that’s a declaration of war on the United States of America, and we’re going to have to treat it that way.”
Byrne said the American government and military must convince Kim Jung-un of the severity of such action.
“I believe the best thing we can do is use all our force or projection of force to convince him that it’s not in his best interest to do that,” he said. “We must convince him that the price he will pay if he does that will not just be regime change, but regime elimination, that we will eliminate him and a lot of people with him.”
Byrne also pointed out that the U.S. needs help from the international community, especially China (from whom 90 percent of North Korea’s trade is conducted).
Closer to home, the federal lawmaker expressed doubt that passenger rail service would be restored to the Gulf Coast at any time in the near future, although some projections have indicated that such a move could be just two years away.
“One of the things we’ve got to do is determine (a) how much it would cost, and (b) how we would pay for it,” he said. “The position I’ve taken is, I don’t mind Amtrak doing it, but I want it to have some way to pay for itself. We can’t just keep going into the federal budget, pulling money out for that because it would run into a huge debt. That’s one I don’t think we’ll see happen in two years.”
Another major area of questioning concerned the wall that President Trump wants built to slow the influx of illegal aliens into this country from Mexico. Byrne said he shared the belief that such a wall would enhance the safety of Americans.
He also pointed out that the $1.6 billion cost, which would also include electronic surveillance equipment for the areas where construction of such a wall would not be practical, would be borne entirely by American taxpayers.
“I (voted for building the wall) because I thought that was the responsible thing to do to protect the border of the United States,” he explained. “I think the most important thing you sent me to Congress to do is to make sure we are safe, and I don’t think I can assure you that we’re keeping you safe if we don’t have control of our southern border.”
In response to opposition of the plan, Byrne said he feels that most of his constituents (he represents Alabama District 1 in the House) are in favor of the border wall.
“The vast majority of people in my district want the wall,” he said. “I don’t have a scientifically done poll, but I have a pretty good finger on the pulse of my district. Many may prefer that Mexico pay for the wall, but I think I know how the people of District 1 feel about it.”
The measure has passed the House and is pending in the Senate.
Among the other topics covered by Byrne were the effort to repeal or reshape Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act), white supremacy groups and the need to strengthen America’s military, especially its navy.
He said he would support a bipartisan effort to restructure the nation’s healthcare system.
“Medicare is running out of money,” he said. “Medicare is funded through payroll taxes, and we would have to raise the payroll tax to provide the needed money. I will participate in a bipartisan effort, if there truly is one, but I’m not going to agree to raise payroll taxes on people. That would be irresponsible.
“Our effort has failed, but I’m not in favor of sitting back and letting the thing fall apart, which is what is going to happen. If we can’t come up with a solution, a lot of people are going to be hurt.”
As for neo-Nazism and other white supremacy groups, the congressman said he “absolutely abhors the views and conduct” of such groups and promised he would “continue to speak out against them.”
Byrne, who is on the House’s Seapower Subcommittee, said the recent collisions of naval ships with commercial vessels proves that more training is needed for the nation’s sailors and their commanders.
“We have reduced personnel; we have reduced the number of ships, especially new ships, we have,” he said. “We have cheated them (naval personnel) and we have cheated ourselves by cuts to defense. We have got to build our fleet; we have got to put more money into training and retraining. To do that, we have to at least amend, if not repeal, the Budget Control Act (also known as the sequestration law) that was passed in 2011.
“We have used sequestration to the detriment of the people of America, to the detriment of our fighting force. This is not acceptable. I’m for repealing the Budget Control act, getting it out of the way. It failed; we need to admit that it didn’t work.”
Byrne also visited Alto Products and United Bank while he was in Atmore. That evening, he met with several newspaper publishers and owners from this area.