Roe talks Trump, gun control

Gary B. Gray • Jun 17, 2016 at 6:17 PM

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, confirmed Friday that he supports presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and is confident the controversial billionaire will pass through July’s GOP convention unscathed.

“If Trump is elected, it means I’ve got a chance,” Roe said during a visit to the Johnson City Press about the congressman’s continuing efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “If Hillary (Hillary Clinton, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee) is elected, I have no chance.”

Roe has never met Trump, but he and a group of House members are scheduled to sit down with outspoken and often disparaged nominee July 7. He also said most people, including 85 percent of District 1 residents, feel the country is headed in the wrong direction and desperately needs change.

“If Trump does get elected, you probably won’t see me for six months,” Roe said. “I’ve learned if you’ve got big policies, you’ve got to hit the ground running.”

Trump’s big policy wants include building a wall on the Mexican Border, halting Muslim immigration, repealing Obamacare, growing the military and taking very tough stances on foreign trade.

Roe, who praised Trump’s business success, also said he was concerned that Trump has not yet realized how difficult it actually is to introduce and pass legislation, especially for the above-mentioned items.

“I’m concerned that he is not being specific enough about how to implement his plans as policies,” Roe said. “Mr. Trump needs to understand the Speaker of the House (Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan) decides what comes and goes on the docket.”

Roe also talked about Trump’s effort to stifle Muslim immigration, the recent tragedy in Orlando and gun control.

“I disagree with Trump’s use of a religious test to get into the country, but I still support thoroughly vetting immigrants.”

He also said the alleged Orlando assassin, as well as others who have used assault weapons to gun down innocent Americans, have, by and large, been mentally unstable. When asked to define what type of weapon he considers beyond what is necessary to defend oneself under the Second Amendment, he balked and said it was not the time and place for such a discussion and that it was more properly a “national debate.”

He also walked around a question about why American citizens need military-grade weapons.

“You can give me an Abrams Tank (battle tank) and put it in my front yard, I’m not going to hurt you,” he said.

Roe’s District 1 constituency is a blend of 12 Northeast Tennessee counties, populated by roughly 750,000 people. So what are his top priorities should he be re-elected to a fifth term this November?

He first mentioned repealing Obamacare, a stated legislative mission of Roe’s for years now.

“We’ve got to repeal that,” he said.”If Trump gets elected, I’ll be right in the middle of that.”

The congressman also will be proposing legislation to create a new retirement account for all Americans. According to the plan, $2,000 would go into an account for each citizen when they reach the age of 6 months. Interest would accrue on that account and could be used for retirement. The plan would not replace Social Security, but serve as a supplement.

“Twenty-five percent of Americans over 65 have zero retirements savings,” he said.

He also said regulatory reform is at the top of his list and cited what he felt are overzealous Environmental Protection Agency requirements that resulted in the loss of coal-related jobs. About 350 such jobs were lost in Erwin this year.

Roe also said what most have known for some time — that he is seeking chairmanship of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, a committee on which he now serves. Roe also serves on the House Education and Workforce Committee, where he chairs the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions. He also sits on the Oversight and Investigations and Health Subcommittees.

Before serving in Congress, Roe served as Johnson City mayor from 2007 to 2009 and vice mayor from 2003 to 2007.

Email Gary Gray at ggray@johnsoncitypress.com. Like Gary B. Gray on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garybgrayjcp. Follow him on Twitter @ggrayjcpress.

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