By Jeff Keeling
Saying he wants to push for increased job opportunities and greater use of abundant U.S. energy supplies, U.S. Congressman Phil Roe (R-1st) officially commenced his campaign for a fourth term Monday.
Speaking to around 60 supporters at the Johnson City Municipal Building, the former Johnson City mayor and retired obstetrician also said his experience and status on committees has him “more excited” than ever to serve in Congress.
“If you’re around a kitchen table, the biggest issue we have is, ‘can I get a job to help take care of my family and pay my bills,’” said Roe, who faces Dan Hartley of Pigeon Forge in the Aug. 7 primary. Roe said he would continue working to get a modernized version of the Workforce Investment Act passed in order to address a growing gap between the skills many American workers have and those needed to fill available jobs.
Roe first ran for Congress in 2006, when Bill Jenkins was retiring, and was among those defeated by David Davis in a crowded primary field. One of Roe’s fellow runners-up, Richard Venable, then backed Roe when he challenged and ultimately defeated Davis in the 2008 GOP primary. Venable, who soundly defeated incumbent Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey in May’s Republican primary for that seat, introduced Roe Monday.
“He’s never forgotten the people who sent him there,” Venable said. “He does represent us with his voice in Washington.”
Roe, who touched on his pro-life credentials and briefly mentioned his involvement with a Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), also focused on energy and veterans issues. He serves on the Veterans Affairs Committee and on that committee’s Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee.
He stopped short of excoriating the VA despite the recent harsh criticism it has received over patient wait times and improprieties.
“What my goal and promise is, is to make a good VA a great VA,” Roe said. “Right now, we have got a chance to make the VA better for generations, and that is my promise, to do just that.”
Roe also touched on the country’s opportunity to achieve energy independence, thanks in large part to the shale gas and oil revolution. The vast reserves now being tapped, which have driven down natural gas prices, can further reduce prices here and, potentially, create export opportunities, he said.
“Never before in my lifetime have we had the opportunity to be a net exporter of energy, but we have the largest carbon reserves in the world, so now we can. We simply need the policies to make that happen,” Roe said, mentioning approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline as one step toward that.
He said he has never forgotten a man from Stoney Creek in Carter County telling him during his first campaign how depressing it was to know that $10 could basically buy him only one gallon of milk and one gallon of gas.
“If you’re making $10 an hour, that puts you at risk,” Roe said. “You can’t take care of your family. You can barely go to work. That’s why we have to lower energy prices.”
Speaking to News and Neighbor after the announcement, Roe said the outcome over fight for control of the Senate will go far toward determining whether the WIA Act passes, whether energy policies changes and much else. Republicans currently hold 45 seats, and Roe said he was bullish on prospects for a Republican takeover.
“I’ve looked around the country and I think we’re going to win six, maybe as many as eight seats in the Senate,” he said. Six would provide a bare majority for the GOP, and Roe said he believes that would make a major difference in Washington.
“If you look right now, everything we’re passing, practically, gets to the Senate and dies. And they’re good pieces of legislation that get over there that if you could even get a vote they would pass in a Democrat-controlled Senate. (Majority leader Harry) Reid will not allow any of those victories to go through because of politics.
“Have an up or down vote, but just bring it up. We can’t even get these brought up.”