U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Roswell, has been representing parts of northeast Cobb in Congress since 2005 and is seeking a sixth term this year. After running opposed in the Republican primary in May, Price faces a challenge from Democrat Rodney Stooksbury on the November ballot.
Price came to the MDJ’s office on Monday and discussed the campaign, both his and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s, as well as race relations in the U.S. and why he thinks overregulation is hurting the economy.
Q: How do you handicap the presidential race, both in Georgia and nationally?
A: I think the opposition’s crowing about Georgia being in play is just that: crowing. I think that Donald Trump will carry Georgia, and I think that at the top of the ticket, as polls currently show, that it’s probably a dead heat right now. We’re 71 days — 10 weeks — from the election, which, as you know, is a lifetime in politics. These elections, at one time, didn’t start until Labor Day, which is a week from today. So I think it’s wide open.
Q: You mentioned the Savannah port. Do they have all the money they need to dredge that, get that deep enough?
A: It’s going on a year-to-year basis, but yes. It’s discretionary money. One of the hats I wear is (U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Budget) chair, so whenever I get a question about money, I divide it into mandatory money or discretionary money. Discretionary money is that which Congress is able to control and goes on a year-to-year basis, so each year, we’ll have to continue to revisit that.
The good news is that in a bipartisan fashion, the Georgia delegation along with the South Carolina delegation had embraced the importance of deepening the Savannah River and making it so that port can handle any ship that’s sailing on the open seas. That’s exciting. It’s great news for the Southeast, it’s great news for Georgia. We’ll continue to push and make certain that the resources are there.
Q: You’re in the middle of running for re-election. What do you think will be some of the key issues that will determine how voters are going to turn out this year?
A: We just finished having not a scientific poll, but a questionnaire, if you will, of our constituents in the 6th Congressional District, and the top three issues that they tell us are constitutional authority (and) Article 1, (national security and the economy).
There’s so much angst in this state and across the country about the usurpation of power by the administration, by the executive branch. Rules and regulations that just fly out the door without any grounding in anything the Legislative Branch has done. So the American people are just incredibly concerned about this.
Close behind that are national security — it’s a very dangerous world, and most folks don’t believe that this administration has postured and positioned the United States in a way that makes any sense in a historical standpoint or from a standpoint of allowing the nation to succeed going forward, whether it’s in national security or whether it’s in the area of economic development and expansion — and then behind that is the concern about the economy, jobs and the economy.
We’ve seen the worst — this is hard to put too many exclamation points behind this — we have seen the worst recovery from an economic downturn that this nation has seen in modern times over the past seven or eight years. This is the first administration in the history of the country that has not had at least 3 percent growth in one year of its term. The first ever. This is an astounding statistic. And it’s not that we’re down there in the 2.7-2.8 range just waiting to leap out. As you all know, in the last two quarters, we’ve been in the 1 percent range.
Q: You’ve mentioned (regulating agencies) that do good work: OSHA helps keep people safe at workplaces, the National Labor Relations Board helps people from getting taken advantage of. How do you balance what’s working with what might be overregulation or stepping over the line too much? How do you balance that out?
A: That’s a great question. We need regulation, there’s no doubt about it, but we need smart regulation, wise regulation, regulation where the regulators are seen as teammates and allies to folks creating jobs out here and businesses, not adversaries. Right now, what we’ve got is (an) administration that has empowered the regulators — OSHA, EPA, NLRB and on and on — so that when they come into a business, it’s no longer in a counseling manner. It’s no longer saying we think that you ought to do this a little better, we think that you’ve kind of gotten off the rails on this and this is how you get back on track. It’s to punish them, it’s to fine them, it’s to make them frightened for the very survival of their own business.
I’ll tell you a little story. It’s (about) somebody that you all know. I can’t tell you who it is, but it’s a fella who has a roofing business. OSHA went out to one of their sites here in the southeast a while back. There were two fellas on a commercial roof, they were putting on a roof. They didn’t have their harness on. They didn’t have their harness on because the two guys said they could work faster if they didn’t have their harness on.
Well, it’s against the OSHA rules if they don’t have their harness on when you’re putting on a roof. So OSHA fined this fella — never had an OSHA violation — fined this fella $75,000. So he said, ‘Well, that doesn’t make any sense. I’ll go appeal that. I’ve never had an OSHA violation.’ So he went, appealed it. He said when he walked into the door to the appeal he knew it was the wrong decision to go appeal it. He had a very unpleasant next 30 or 45 minutes, and at the end of the meeting, the OSHA representative said, ‘You’re going to pay $75,000 because you can afford it.’ … That was on a Thursday or a Friday. The next Tuesday, the next Tuesday, this business had the Immigration (and) Naturalization Service — this business had been in place for 20 or 25 years, they’d never had a visit by the INS — the next Tuesday they visited and demanded to see every single I-9 that the business had for all of their employees across the southeast.
You can’t tell me that’s a coincidence. This is an administration that is intimidating and extorting money out of businesses across this country in a dangerous, dangerous fashion. That’s not what the United States is. … That’s not what I would call smart regulation.
Q: On race relations, we’re seeing a lot of incidents lately, a lot of unrest, probably more so than we’ve seen in many, many years. Why do you think that is boiling to the surface now and what can Washington do about it?
A: Well, that’s an extremely difficult issue, but one that I think has been made more so by the current administration, … which is ironic. What great hope and opportunity virtually all the American people felt in 2008, even if they hadn’t supported President Obama’s election, but when he came into office, many, many felt that maybe this is an opportunity to improve race relations across the country, maybe this is a time when people can say, ‘OK, this is an individual who has an opportunity to bring people together.’
And what we’ve seen is exactly the opposite: an administration that divides people based upon all sorts of parameters, whether it’s race or whether it’s economics or whether it’s ideology or political sense. And it’s so very sad, so I think that this nation is reaping what it is sowing at the top, and that is a divisiveness that is destructive. It’s destructive to the body politic, it’s destructive to conversation, it’s destructive to solving the challenges that we have.
It used to be that we understood and appreciated that the way to get through challenges was to get together arm-in-arm and shoulder-to-shoulder and tackle them together. And now we’ve got a group of individuals at the top who apparently believe, because this is their action, that the way to get through challenges is to divide the American people. It’s so very sad. So I’m hopeful, and again, I’m prayerful. I think that if we’re able to embrace the understanding and appreciation of American principle, ethic and moral foundation that all men and women are created equal, that there’s a reason that our founding documents highlight the fact that everybody needs equal opportunity, must have equal opportunity by law. That’s where we ought to focus, as opposed to the divisive nature of an administration that I think has failed terribly and regrettably in this area.