Congressman David Price addresses small gathering in Youngsville during his tour
YOUNGSVILLE -- Franklin County is now in Congressman David Price's political backyard and he spent a whirlwind day visiting key businesses, places of education and government facilities -- trying to get a feel for the needs of his constituents.
And, during a town-hall style meeting that concluded Tuesday's visit, Price, who has served in Congress since 1987, let his constituents get a feel for him.
He answered questions and offered opinions on issues ranging from health care, to rail, road and Internet infrastructure, to impeachment proceedings.
"This tour," Price said earlier in the day, "is a chance for me to learn about the things that are going on in Franklin County and how I can help."
The following offers a taste of his town hall topics, in the order they were discussed.
• Commuter rail
Franklinton Mayor Art Wright and Town Manager Gregory Bethea asked Price what he could do to push North Carolina to match efforts in Virginia, where leaders there purchased the old CSX right-of-way, an initial step in providing rail through the state.
The goal is to connect that line in North Carolina, bringing it down to Raleigh.
Franklinton's interest is having a connection there, which would take people from Franklinton into Raleigh, and off of heavily traveled U.S. 1.
"I think that's a pretty exciting proposition," Price said, noting that as chair of Subcommittee on Transportation, "his main priority is to shake the money loose to get the North Carolina portion of that right-of-way bought.
"... Virginia stepped up to the plate," he said. "We need to step up to the plate.
"... That would really be a game changer."
• U.S. 401
Louisburg Town Councilwoman Emma Stewart and Franklin County Commission Chair Sidney Dunston reminded Price of the importance of current and sustained improvements along U.S. 401.
"... I'm willing to talk to anybody about this," Price said. "I'm not the secretary of transportation, either federally or in the state of North Carolina and I'm not going to pretend to be," he said. "But I do have constituencies and communities and I have ideas ... and I will communicate that.
"I'm trying to hustle the funds, but I'm also trying to make sure the funds are applied where they should be."
• Health care
County Commissioner Cedric Jones noted the county's population is aging and wondered about Price's thoughts on ways to address the current and growing need.
"There are a lot of challenges," Price said. "The shared goal is to get toward universal coverage, but is the way to get their to put everyone under a Medicare type program, or to ... I think a good step is to let people 55 to 65 buy into Medicare if they want to, at cost.
"That's good for them and the system because you take some of the older and sicker people out of the other systems and they become more affordable.
"[Health care is] front and center and we need to make sure the systems we have are in good repair and do some new things going forward."
One resident, expecting his taxes to have gone down but they did not, asked Price's opinion about the new tax bill.
Price said tax breaks went to the wrong people.
"... People are struggling in this country," Price said.
"Our middle, working class, they are the ones who should get the tax breaks and others ought to pay their fair share."
• Military reservists health insurance
One resident asked Price what he would do to better communicate to retired national reservists that they are eligible for health insurance through Bill HR 6416 -- which many might not know about.
"... I'll check in to see where it stands right now," Price said.
Another resident asked Price whether he thought the charges against Trump were impeachable.
"They look impeachable to me. but I want to see a full and fair trial in the Senate that brings forward not just the evidence we had at the House impeachment, but also the evidence President Trump was suppressing; the people he wasn't going to let testify, now some are willing to testify.
"... [What is an impeachable offense] is an important question," Price said. "The founders and the framers of the Constitution didn't spill too much ink on it.
"... there was a good bit of debate in the Constitutional convention and the gist of it is that impeachment power is not just if a president commits a crime.
"Although, in this case, the Government Accountability Office, said that [Trump] withholding that money was a crime.
"But, that isn't the issue," Price said. "The issue is: Is there some abuse of power or some use of the office that threatens the basic interests of the country, that threatens our Constitution or if it threatens the security and safety of the country. And, that admittedly is a judgement call.
"... But, what Trump is accused of doing is, I would say, corrupting our diplomacy.
"I don't think that's too strong a word.
"He was trying to get a foreign leader, a vulnerable foreign leader, to do his bidding in terms of researching a political opponent and publicizing that research and also publicizing a fake theory about Ukraine's involvement in our election.
"He was trying to coerce this foreign leader into doing this political chore and he was holding over this leader, not just a visit from himself, but also critical military aid.
"This gets us into the realm of national security.
"... I've been part of the debate: Do we give military aid to Ukraine and, if so, what should that aid look like.
"I think that aid is absolutely critical, not just to Ukraine, but to our deterrence of Russia and our military and our security interests in Eastern Europe.
"If that's true, then the president shouldn't be messing around with that aid, holding it over the leader's head, lest he not do his bidding.
"... I think that's a very, very serious offense."
• Broadband service
Rex Foster, part of the Northeast Revitalization Committee -- a group trying to bring people, business and services to the oft-neglected region of the county -- said he was encouraged by Price's commitment to bridge the rural/urban divide.
Expanding broadband service would be key for doing that.
"Anything that can be done, we would certainly be encouraged by that," Foster said.
Price said work is underway.
"We really need to push on this," Price said.
"... We have kind of fallen through the cracks in terms of some of the support that has made development possible in other places," Price said.
"That needs to be fixed and I'm determined to work on it."