By CLINT FOSTER
While making his rounds in Texas’ 11th Congressional District, US Congressman Mike Conaway stopped by a lunch meeting of the Mineral Wells Rotary Club, Wednesday, to speak on a wide range of topics of national importance. There was not an empty seat in the room at Holiday Hills Country Club, as a virtually who’s who of Mineral Wells showed up to hear the Republican serving his fifth term in the US House of Representatives.
“Rotary’s always a great place to come because they have community leaders here who are actively involved in the community,” Conaway told the Index. “Most of these guys are opinion leaders in the community and it’s great to be exposed to them and have a chance to visit with them.”
Conaway was invited to the meeting by Rotary Club member and Owner of the local Days Inn, Roger Patel, whom Conaway said has hosted him on many of his trips to Mineral Wells.
Among the many topics Conaway presented were:
• The passage of a joint budget and gross spending plan for the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years, set at $1.12 trillion and 1.14 trillion, respectively. Conaway said, although President Obama is difficult to deal with on the subject of government spending, spending is “down and going in the right direction.”
• Budget cuts for the IRS and a trimming of Environmental Protection Agency employees.
• Changes in retired military Cost of Living Adjustments. Conaway said no retirees’ checks will go down, but they will see a reduction in the rate of growth for their pensions. He said it is “part of shrinking government.”
• The need for reform to the Food Stamp program by adding a work requirement. Conaway said 10 percent of food stamp recipients (4 million people) are able bodied adults, under 50, with no dependents. He gave the example of a 27-year-old California surfer who recently appeared on television and lives on food stamps with no job. “I don’t begrudge him his surfer ambitions,” Conaway said. “I do begrudge him being an able-bodied, healthy, 27 year old that doesn’t have to work.”
• The need for federal tax reform.
• The need to keep the Affordable Care Act and its issues at the top of the conversation, thereby helping Republicans running for seat currently held by Democrats.
Conaway also answered questions about various topics, including the IRS budget cuts, long-term concerns for the Navy and its need to defend the Arctic and the use of outside contractors for government work in regards to the Edward Snowden incident.
On the topic of the Navy, Conaway said the Obama administration is weakening the US military, while competitors such as China are dramatically increasing their navies and increasing their presence in the Pacific Ocean.
“The number of ships the Navy has is a constant topic of conversation,” he said. “Our navy is smaller (than it was) near the end of World War I. Some of that is because our ships are much more capable.. but the tyranny of distance in the ocean is such that even though you aircraft carrier is much more capable, it still can’t be in two places at once. We think we need about 305 ships. We’re at 285 now.
“(The Obama administration’s cuts have) cut into the muscle and bone of our ability to defend our county. It’s a legitimate concern that many of us on the Armed Services Committee have.”
With regards to outside contractors and Snowden, Conaway said there is a push to eliminate as many outside contractors as possible out of all government agencies and protocols are being put in place to make government secrets more secure. Conaway did not shy away from his opinions concerning Snowden.
“He is a traitor,” he said. “He stole a lot of stuff and a tiny slice of it had to do with privacy issues. The vast bulk of what he stole, he stole from the department of defense. And his activities will cost American lives. That guy, in my view, deserves to be shot. But, we’ll see.”
“We want to make sure we walk that fine line between protecting ourselves from bad guys and over-reaching into our quiet private lives... You can’t go either extreme.”
Conaway closed his speech, as he has before in a similar fashion, referencing the founding fathers and their understanding that only a moral society can self govern. He said that America’s moral fabric is in tatters and challenged those in attendance to “reclaim the moral high ground” so that God can, indeed, bless America.
His presentation was well-received.
“We were very honored today to have Congressman Conaway take time out of his busy schedule to come and be our program at Rotary,” Mineral Wells Rotary Club President Diane Brown said. “We had great attendance and his talk was very informative. We just appreciated the opportunity to hear him very much.”
Likewise, Conaway was very complimentary of the people of Mineral Wells in light of his most-recent visit.
“These folks in Mineral Wells are rock-ribbed conservatives and reflective of most all of District 11,” he said. “District 11 is one of the most conservative districts in all the United States. I thought what I had to say was well-received. When you’re talking to an audience, you can tell if they’re listening or not. These folks were paying real good attention, so I’m flattered by that.”