Rep. Rick Allen breaks down the local impact of national legislation

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“The Means Report” prides itself on covering the issues that affect your community, your state, your nation – that’s what it is all about. This week’s show exemplifies that as they discuss the hot button issues that are changing lives each and every day in the nation’s capital, and to do that Congressman Rick Allen is the special guest to help navigate those waters and figure out what lawmakers are doing on the community’s behalf, especially in his role on the Education and Workforce Committee. Also, Rep. Allen is talking about the National Defense Authorization Act and how it helps the military do its job. Plus a subject that “The Means Report” has tackled before with the medical community – the opioid crisis, which impacts people in such profound ways.

Brad Means: We only have a little bit of an opportunity to be with Congressman Rick Allen before he heads back to Washington D.C. to continue working on behalf of his constituents and his country. Congressman Allen, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us. I appreciate you.

Rep. Rick Allen: Glad to be here. Thank you, Brad.

Brad Means: Alright. So, you’ve been traveling the district?

Rep. Rick Allen: Yes.

Brad Means: You never stop. What are people saying? Everybody happy? What do they need?

Rep. Rick Allen: Well, you know, three years ago when Speaker Ryan was elected Speaker we got together and we came up with what we called The Better Way. And that is exactly what we’ve been working on. That includes, of course, we had to deal with- We tried to deal with healthcare. And we’re still dealing with that. And the conversation’s long from being over on healthcare. The big one was tax reform. And that’s what I hear the most about in the district. Obviously, businesses are growing. The economy is growing. The economy responded, really, better than I thought it would respond to the tax reform. I think the last number was four, over 4 percent growth. We haven’t seen that in a long time. And, of course, it is an opportunity to grow your business. We’ve brought almost 300,000 manufacturing jobs back to this country. So, it’s having a major impact. And then, obviously, everything that we’ve got going on in the 12th district. I mean, the Cyber Center of Excellence, what we did, the innovation and technology centers that we have downtown now at Augusta University’s riverfront campus. There’s nothing like that in the United States.

Brad Means: Let me ask you about cyber and, really, just the workforce in general because people in higher education will tell you we can’t churn these graduates out fast enough. There aren’t enough workers in the cyber industry. Do you see that in other fields, as well?

Rep. Rick Allen: Yes.

Brad Means: And what can we do to get more workers?

Rep. Rick Allen: Yes, we need welders. We need electricians. We need– I mean– Like I said, I don’t visit a business that they don’t need a skilled workforce. We’ve got two problems: One is our workforce is aging out and also, right now– Well, I was at the White House Tuesday a week ago and we signed the career technical and education reauthorization. We’ve been working on that since 2006. And what that does is allow state to apply to the federal government for grants to fund the programs that those states need based on the population of the states. What we initially wanted to do was give total control back to the states. We find that this is going to be a very useful– All of our career technical education people are excited about it. What we’re going to see is sort of a little different road to education, like Cyber, for example. You can graduate from high school and if you qualify, you can go to five semesters, which you get college credit for, and you will then be ready to go to work in the field of cyber. And some of those jobs start at $80,000 a year.

Brad Means: Yeah, they’re great jobs.

Rep. Rick Allen: Yeah. And plus, if you– I mean, in this gig economy, I mean, the sky’s the limit. And, you know, innovation and technology, obviously, we’re going to be the center of that. But then, again, we need welders. We need, like I said, electricians. The biggest need at Plant Vogtle right now is electricians.

Brad Means: It’s interesting to hear what you say. We’ve got the president of Aiken Technical College on last week. He said the same things you’re saying.

Rep. Rick Allen: Yep.

Brad Means: People are needed in those fields. And folks, if your child gets a job in that area or if you do, you stay right here at home because the workers are needed right here in cyber and otherwise.

Rep. Rick Allen: And you can go on and get an undergraduate degree, but what this allows you to do is get in the workplace, get that workplace training, which makes you more valuable. Then, if you want to go back and get an undergraduate degree and take freshman English and history and all those things, then you can do that. But this way, you don’t have a sea of debt. We have $1.5 trillion in student debt in this country. And, like I said, we’ve got this big gap in skilled workforce. So, that gap had to be closed. And we think this is a real opportunity. In fact, I tell young people today that I don’t think I’ve seen in my lifetime opportunities like this for folks who are doing well in high school and getting ready to get in the workplace.

Brad Means: Also, if I hear what you’re saying, and, obviously, we can’t spend the entire broadcast talking about this, but I did want to ask you real quick. The perception among your opponents is that President Trump and others are getting rid of the Obama-era policies that would help forgive student debt or help those kids who are facing a mountain of debt get out of it. If I’m hearing you, though, that’s still the goal, to try to help kids not face that.

Rep. Rick Allen: Exactly. Because, frankly, they’ve been misled. Nobody– I was amazed. You know, in business, you go and apply for a loan and you have to demonstrate to the bank that you can pay that loan back.

Brad Means: Yep.

Rep. Rick Allen: That’s not the way it works in education. And I don’t– As I travel, I run into someone everyday that asks me can I, would I forgive their student loan debt. They tell me how much it is. I’m amazed. And I say, why did you do that. I didn’t know. I did not know. I did not know when I got out of school that I couldn’t buy a car or I couldn’t buy a home because of my student loan debt. So, you know, these folks have been misled. There was no criteria. There is now. We’ve got the Prosper Act, which we’re trying to get to the House floor. And, I’ll tell ya, we put some very, very specific measures in that to make sure people knew what they were getting involved in.

Brad Means:  What are farmers in the 12th congressional district telling you? Congress taking steps to help them, make sure they have money, make sure they’re not hurt by tariffs and other things working against them. What are they saying to you now?

Rep. Rick Allen: Well, you know, we’re– the House passed our Farm bill. The Senate has passed their Farm bill. We go to conference when I get back to Washington. And I was very honored to be named to the conference committee, one of two people to represent the Education Workforce Committee. So, this will be my first conference. And, obviously, the bills are very different. And, I think– Again, I think we’re come out with some agreement. But that’s critical. It has to be reauthorized before the end of September, when the current farm bill expires. It is a much better farm bill, much more accountability. And people say, why do you need a farm bill. It’s nothing that’s out of the ordinary. In other words, when a farmer plants his crop, he goes to the bank and borrows the money to put the crop in the ground. And what he has to have to get those funds, as a guarantee of repayment to the bank, is crop insurance. And some idea at the end of that harvest– Prices fluctuate worldwide. Commodity prices are all over the place. And he has to have some guarantee that he can get enough of that crop to pay the bank back in order for the bank to loan him the money. Now you say, well, is that a big deal. Is that a national security issue? It is because–

Brad Means: It’s our food supply.

Rep. Rick Allen: Exactly. And people don’t understand this, but if our farmers are not able to plant, to get the funds to plant, then roughly, 40 to 45 days, your grocery store’s empty.

Brad Means: Why can’t farmers be more sufficient, self-sufficient? Some see this as a hand out.

Rep. Rick Allen: Well, again, all you’re doing is creating stability because– Well, if the entire world– In fact, President Trump at the G8 made one final offer to those nations. He said, alright. Let’s do this. No more government subsidies and no more tariffs. We’ll take you on uno, uno. And obviously, they turned it down.

Brad Means: Yeah, obviously, they did.

Rep. Rick Allen: Because most of the governments, China is one of the biggest problems we’ve got. But most of the governments want to be heavily involved in agriculture, heavily involved in business community because they want to control their people. Obviously, the President– And I believe this. We should have open and free trade. We’ll take on any nation out there, but if those nations are subsidizing and they’re driving down the prices, then, it’s impossible to compete.

Brad Means: And, by the way, I want to say to the farmers, not dumping on you all, just presenting the opposing point of view. And also, farmers have said they are sometimes reluctant when the government gets involved because they don’t want to take the assistance. But as you’ve illustrated–

Rep. Rick Allen: And not every year do they need the assistance.

Brad Means: Not every year they need it?

Rep. Rick Allen: No.

Brad Means: We need to talk about the opioid crisis and the work that’s going on on Capitol Hill in that regard. We also need to talk about what’s being done to improve and strengthen our military. And we’re going to cover those topics and more with Congressman Rick Allen the 12th district in Georgia when we come back.

Part 2

Brad Means: Welcome back to the Means Report, everybody, with Congressman Rick Allen from the 12th district in Georgia here to talk about what’s going on on Capitol Hill and, indeed, what’s going on in his district. And, Congressman Allen, those two things intertwine when it comes to the National Defense Authorization Act. That’s a national endeavor, obviously, but also impacting people right here at home, even when it comes to soldiers’ paychecks.

Rep. Rick Allen: Yes. Actually, we gave our soldiers their largest pay increase in some time, 2.6 percent because prior to moving the caps a year ago, they had not received any increase in 10 years. And so, obviously– Again, we have been trying our best to get that done. But it always gets clogged up in the appropriations process.

Brad Means: Are there lawmakers on Capitol Hill who say, no, I don’t think they need a raise.

Rep. Rick Allen: Yes, there are.

Brad Means: How does it get clogged up? How is that not just fly right through?

Rep. Rick Allen: Well, there are lawmakers that have other priorities. I think national defense is our number one priority and that’s why I want to make sure our soldiers are equipped and paid the way they need to be paid. And so– But we’ve also got almost $100 million for additional facilities at Fort Gordon, as that cyber command grows. You know, I have visited the cyber command in Virginia and they’re getting ready for a move down here. And we’ve got to be ready to go. We’re hoping to get that done by 2020. And that is going to– If you think you’ve seen a big difference in our district so far, you’re going to really see a big difference then.

Brad Means: It seems like the state of Georgia and the nation are smiling on Augusta right now. Is that fair?

Rep. Rick Allen: Yeah. Absolutely. We are seeing tremendous growth. It’s going to– This innovation and technology, this gig economy is here. I’ve seen so many, like I said, in touring the innovation center, talked to so many people down there that are involved in this economy, gig economy here, the cyber has been the engine and then, there’s going to be lots of other parts to this. And it’s going to allow us to be, what I’ve said, to, hopefully, be the cyber center of excellence or the Silicon Valley of the East Coast.

Brad Means: I wanted, before we talk about the opioid crisis, ask you about President Trump. You were in the same room with him a week or so ago.

Rep. Rick Allen: Yeah.

Brad Means: You got your picture made with him. Does he ever offer some insight into the things that he’s facing

Rep. Rick Allen: Yeah.

Brad Means: The Russian probe. The criticism of his family and the investigations thereof. What’s he say when you’re just talking to him?

Rep. Rick Allen: He was– You know, last week, obviously, he was talking about– Well, I was with him the week before where he got companies and industry groups to agree to four million apprenticeships in less than five years to try and get this, close this skilled labor gap. That was fascinating. And those companies were very– He was energized. What energizes President Trump is making progress. All this other– This noise?

Brad Means: Yeah.

Rep. Rick Allen: You know, somehow, he just plows right through it. But it does bother my constituents. I can tell you that because some are very disturbed by all the, obviously, the negative things. But, now, he has the ability to plow right through that. We have the ability to plow right through that. We have gotten an awful lot of legislation done. And the opiates which we’re going to talk about is one of the most critical, probably national security threats that we have today.

Brad Means: How does the opioid crisis affect our national security? I did want to talk about that.

Rep. Rick Allen: Well, several things. One, you know, they talk about doing away with ICE. Well, ICE just uncovered enough fenyl to kill 2 million people in this country. On the border. I don’t know if you’ve heard about that.

Brad Means: I had not.

Rep. Rick Allen: Oh, yeah. Well, obviously, we’ve got to secure our borders. We’ve got to secure our ports. Wherever these drugs are coming in, we’ve got to secure those areas. We’ve got to stop the supply. But, you know, we’re losing anywhere from 100 to 140 people a day in the United States to drug overdose.

Brad Means: Well, going back to the fact that it’s coming in through our borders. Some say President Trump’s re-election possibilities hinge on that wall being built. Any chance that’s going to happen?

Rep. Rick Allen:  Well, he tweeted about that last week and I’ve gotten lots of questions about that, about shutting the government down over this funding of the wall. I think what he’s trying to say there is Congress, give me an immigration bill. Our immigration system is broken. I agree with him. His four pillars, I agree with the four pillars. And we need to get that done. We’ve got 193 votes on the Goodlatte One bill. I supported that bill. I did not support Goodlatte Two because it did not include migration. We need, you know– we need to change and go to the four pillars, which is merit-based, which, again, would be very good for our economy. We need to make that happen. But, getting back to the opioid. We have crafted over 20 pieces of legislation to help folks fight this battle. And, you know, we have to stop the supply. We have to stop these people who are distributing. We have to give law enforcement the tools and we did that. And the other thing, for those folks that are addicted, we got to help them get well.

Brad Means: Do you think the medical community, both on the healthcare side, the mental health side, have what they need right now to help these victims of addiction?

Rep. Rick Allen: If they don’t, we need to know about it because what we’ve done is responded to their requests to try to battle this terrible disease that we have in this country right now. And it is– I mean, it is all-consuming. It touches every home. Unfortunately, we’ve had many young people we’ve lost right here in our district. And it’s got to be dealt with. And we’ve got to win this battle.

Brad Means: You know, recently we witnessed the remains of many of our troops, 55 of them from Korea being returned to the United States. I don’t think that ceremony got much play on the mainstream media. How is our relationship with North Korea? And don’t you think that’s a significant step that they helped us bring those remains home?

Rep. Rick Allen: Exactly. I would classify it as evolving. I think the president– I think he’s right. I think you have to sit down across the table from each other and try to get to know each other and try to build some consensus or trust. He’s big about that. Like I said, he wants to go meet with the leadership in Iran. He said, I’ll meet you anywhere, anytime. So, he’s not saying that, hey, I can out-negotiate. I just want to get to know you. I want to find out what, you know– OK, I can tell you what I’m concerned about. I can hear your concerns and maybe we can, you know, do a deal. Obviously, the president– we’re spending $50 billion a year fighting terrorism across the world. And what we’d like to do is end that threat. And part of that is Iran is the biggest supporter of terrorism right now in the world. And we got some players there. Iran. We’ve got Syria and, of course, Pakistan. And, of course, Russia has relationships with them. We have relationships with all the other countries in the Middle East. And, between those relationships, we ought to be able to stop this threat.

Brad Means: How do you think President Trump handled himself on the stage with Putin the other day? Faced a ton of criticism from that. How do you think he did? Was he weak?

Rep. Rick Allen: You know what? President Trump is President Trump. OK? He is– One thing you don’t have to worry about him, he doesn’t put on any false– I mean, he is who he is. And, frankly, most people like that about him. I mean, he doesn’t have a political bone in his body. He’s not politically correct and most people like that. Which does create some issues, as far as the media is concerned, because they want him to be either more likable or not to say the things he does say. But, basically, he’s– one lady, I think, they interviewed on the media said, well, all he’s doing is saying what we’re thinking. But, obviously, I’m sure he’s getting good advice. I don’t give him advice about Twitter or any of those other things. What I do is give him advice about what’s going on in the 12th district of Georgia, what I went to Congress to do, and that is this: one, I want less government. I want more freedom, less government. And I want folks to go back to work. And the president and I agree 100 percent on that.

Brad Means: Talk to me about the mid-terms upcoming and the Republiicans’ chances of holding onto the control they have on Capitol Hill or do you fear a blue wave coming?

Rep. Rick Allen: Well, the president talked about that the other day. He was very candid. He said, well, you know, I looked back. History’s not on our side here. And so– But, I’ll tell you this. He agreed– And I don’t think any president’s ever agreed to this, but he agreed to be, to do three events a week all over the country.

Brad Means: Yeah, he’s not stopping. Rallies every other night.

Rep. Rick Allen: Yeah. And so, he says, I’m going to do what’s necessary. You know, somebody asked me the other day about his message and they said, well, he keeps saying the same thing over and over again. I said, you know, it takes 21 times before people really can understand what he’s talking about. And he’s got, obviously, so much negative news that he’s got to penetrate that. So, you’re going to hear it over and over again. You’re going to hear jobs, opportunity, make this country great again, give people the dignity and respect they deserve by giving them the opportunity to have a good job.

Brad Means: My last question for you. You’re coming up on eight years in Congress. You started in ’12.

Rep. Rick Allen: Four.

Brad Means: Started in?

Rep. Rick Allen: ’14. 2014.

Brad Means: 2014. Excuse me.

Rep. Rick Allen: I run every two years.

Brad Means: Listen, math is not my strong suit. My point is this:

Rep. Rick Allen: I could say something about the University of Alabama, but I won’t.

Brad Means: It is that. It’s that Alabama math. That was high school I think. My point is this: You feel like you’ve been there long enough to know how to navigate things, to know how to get things done, and know how to work the system.

Rep. Rick Allen: Well, it’s been very different under President Trump than it was under President Obama. So, you know, President Trump– when I see him, he says, well, Congressman, you tired of winning? I said, no, sir. He said, well, hey, send me something up here so I can sign it and we can make this country great again. He is just nonstop about making this country what it can be. Under President Obama, it was his last two years, so it was kind of like he was trying establish his legacy and we really didn’t get a whole lot done.

Brad Means: Congressman Rick Allen, whether you’ve been in Congress for a year or 30, I appreciate your service to this country very much and your time.

Rep. Rick Allen: Yeah. Good. Thank you so much.

Brad Means: Absolutely. Yes, sir.

Rep. Rick Allen: Always great to be with you.

Brad Means: Thank you, sir. Rick Allen, 12th district of Georgia.

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