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Senate opening doesn't interest Barrow

Congressman meets with Bulloch County Bar Association

Senate opening doesn't interest Barrow

Senate opening doesn't interest Barrow

U.S. Rep. John Barrow

        Don’t look for U.S. Rep. John Barrow to run for U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss’s seat in 2014.
    Chambliss, R-Ga., announced Friday that he will not seek a third term next year.
    Barrow, the last white Democrat from the Deep South in the U.S. House of Representatives, addressed a report that identified him as a potential contender for the seat.
    “Saxby has done a great job,” Barrow, D-Ga., said. “I am not interested in running for that job at this time.”
    Barrow discussed several issues making national headlines during a Friday lunch meeting of the Bulloch County Bar Association at RJ’s Steakery.
    A featured speaker for the organization’s monthly meeting, Barrow addressed the debate over gun control, a recent vote to suspend the federal debt limit, and growing concerns about an ineffective congress.
    The Democratic congressman addressed the crowd in a town-hall-style, question-and-answer format.
    Barrow led off the program by explaining his opposition to a pair of recent House bills — both of which, he voted against.
    “The fiscal cliff deal did do some things that we needed to do and did free some tax cuts for a very long time, but it raised a lot of taxes and will spend even more than it raises. I could not be a part of that,” he said
    And in regard to a recent vote to suspend the federal debt limit: “This is a daring new precedent. The debt ceiling serves as a very valuable checkpoint for us. It serves as a great set of brakes on even more runaway spending. I don’t want to take those brakes off until we’ve got the car under control, and we haven’t done that,” Barrow said.
    The congressman said he was not swayed by a “No Budget, No Pay” provision to the measure that pressures lawmakers to adopt a budget or have their pay withheld.
    “The ‘No budget, No Pay’ part is just a fig leaf to cover the nakedness of what’s been done. The extension has loopholes big enough to drive a Mack truck through,” he said. “There could still be no budget, and folks will still get paid. That’s what is going to happen. All anyone has to do to get off the hook is pass a budget, even if the other side never agrees with it.”
    Barrow also expressed his thoughts on cooperation, or the lack thereof, between legislators in Washington.
    “Individual egos contribute to the dysfunction, but I think there is something a whole lot more pervasive at work, that is making the Congress much more dysfunctional than it has to be — than it was designed to be,” he said. “The thing that has the biggest impact on hyper-partisanship in Washington is gerrymandering – the way we draw district lines in such a way to radicalize the districts that moderate people are drawn into.”
    Barrow has twice been drawn out of his district by Republicans eager to unseat him. This week, he introduced a bill, H.R. 223, that would take redistricting out of the hands of state Legislatures and put it into the hands of nonpartisan commissions.
    “When I was an intern in Washington, half the members of Congress came from districts that could have gone either way during any election,” he said. “Today, 90 percent of the members of Congress represent districts where election results are never in doubt.”
    Barrow, a staunch supporter of gun rights, was asked Thursday if his stance in the debate over gun control had changed at all, in light of recent shootings in Newtown, Ct., and around the country.
    “My position hasn’t changed any because the Constitution hasn’t changed any; and people’s sense of the various roles that guns play in their lives hasn’t changed any,” he said.
    Barrow said he would not support limits on semiautomatic weapons or high-capacity magazines, calling them attempts at reform that have already been tried and failed.
    Still, “I am prepared to discuss with folks in Congress issues like (gun control), but only if both sides bring all issues to the tables,” he said.
    Barrow discussed a pair of local points-of-interest during the program.
    The congressman said he is “resolutely and adamantly opposed to closing the federal courthouse in Statesboro” — the courthouse appeared on a list of 60 that were susceptible to closing last year — and he is encouraged that it will not happen.
    He added that the Statesboro Outreach Clinic for military veterans, a facility that has been a focus for him in recent years, will officially open next month.
    Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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