HEFLIN — Speaking after a visit to a Cleburne County school Tuesday, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, said he’s heard no complaints from constituents about his recent vote to replace Obamacare.
The congressman also said he has no public events scheduled for the recess, only appearances with private groups and businesses.
Rogers came to Cleburne County Middle School to discuss civics and the workings of government with 269 students.
His recent votes concerning health care policy were not mentioned during the program but he did answer a question on the topic posed by The Star after he finished speaking to the students.
“I just had several people say that we were proud we finally got it done and they are proud that I voted to repeal it,” Rogers said.
Rogers voted in favor of the American Health Care Act, which changed several policies put in place by the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare. The bill passed the House, but need Senate approval before becoming law.
Rogers went on to say Tuesday that he had planned no additional public appearances, but did have several private speaking engagements to attend in Cleburne County and today in Montgomery.
Many constituents in Calhoun County have criticized Rogers’ reluctance to hold meetings with the public, with one group holding a town hall meeting in March with an effigy of the congressman.
The program was held in the school’s gym and the students filled all available bleachers on each side. Rogers used a wireless microphone that allowed him to walk around the gym and get nearer to the students.
Rogers wanted to make sure the students knew that just because Congress was not in session that he was not on vacation. He told the fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders that he uses his breaks to do committee work and to visit his district.
“When you see Congress is not in session and you hear that silliness on TV or in the newspaper that we are on vacation, it’s just silliness. Just because you are not in Washington does not mean you’re not working,” Rogers said.
Rogers stressed the importance of visiting his district while Congress is in recess.
“Getting around my district and visiting with constituents like I’m doing today, like I have been this morning, is just as much a part of my job as being in Washington,” Rogers said.
He told the students about himself, his history in politics and the fact that he commutes to Washington every week instead of living there so he can be close to the people he represents.
He also stated that it’s a very expensive to live in Washington.
“Sixty House members sleep in their offices to cut costs and they go to the members’ gym to shower. I don’t do that, I don’t live in my office, I think that’s nasty,” Rogers said. He said when he does come home he is in the community: shopping at Wal-Mart and Winn-Dixie, going to ball games and his church.
“That is the best way to stay in touch,” Rogers said.
Rogers quizzed students about their government: how many members are in the Senate and House of Representatives, how old you have to be to get elected for various offices and qualifications to run for office.
Rogers took questions from the students near the end of the program. One student asked Rogers for his thoughts about the wall on the southern border with Mexico.
“I like the wall,” Rogers said enthusiastically to raucous applause and cheers from the students.
“What we are worried about is not poor immigrant workers coming here looking for jobs, it’s bad people willing to bring things into our country that will kill us,” Rogers said.
“We want to keep terrorists from coming across our borders with nuclear weapons or chemical weapons or biological weapons, we want to keep drug traffickers from bringing their drugs into our country, we want to keep human sex traffickers from bringing sex slaves into our country, that’s why we want to seal our borders,” Rogers said.
He does welcome immigrants from Mexico with conditions; they must prove they are not terrorists, he said, they must pay taxes, obey the law and must want to speak English.
“This is not about racism,” Rogers said.
Two students asked Rogers about the ongoing threats from North Korea.
“Anything North Korea has we can slap down,” Rogers said referring to North Korea’s threats of using intercontinental ballistic missiles. He told the students he is worried about the 275,000 Americans living in South Korea and the Americans living in Japan.
After the program Rogers posed with the entire student body for a group photo.