Democratic congressional candidate Lee Auman says that U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt's greatest weakness is that he has "no backbone, no courage" in supporting what he says are political positions at the …
Democratic congressional candidate Lee Auman says that U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt's greatest weakness is that he has "no backbone, no courage" in supporting what he says are political positions at the expense of voters.
Auman held a town hall at the Jasper Civic Center Thursday. He has been holding town halls in each county of the district in advance of the Nov. 6 General Election, where he faces Aderholt, a Haleyville resident who is the Republican incumbent for the 4th Congressional District.
Aderholt, who has been in office since 1997, has not scheduled an event yet in Walker County for the fall campaign.
"I maintain (the Central America Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA) was the most detrimental decision (Aderholt's) ever made," said in a text after the meeting, elaborating what he said in the meeting was Aderholt's biggest failing, in response to a reporter's question.
"But that decision is just a symptom of a broader problem he has. His time in office has overlapped four presidencies, two Republicans and two Democrats," he said. "He opposed every effort by Democratic presidents, even if that effort would have helped the people of the district, and he has supported every effort by Republican presidents even if that effort hurt the people of the district.
"We deserve someone smart enough to think for themselves and principled enough to do what's right, no matter the political consequences. His greatest weakness is that he has no backbone, no courage."
He said during an opening statement in the meeting that constituents do not feel they are being heard, and he added Aderholt is not coming back to the district and listening to them.
"If you don't go back to listen to your constituents ... then you can't go back to the floor of the Congress and advocate for their needs," Auman said. "So the people of District 4 don't have a voice in Congress right now, and that is why I am running ..."
He emphasized the opioid problem, saying Alabama and the district has the highest rate of opioid prescriptions in the nation. It is worse in Walker County, where he said for every 100 people there are 200 opioid prescriptions.
Auman noted Aderholt said in a July 24 statement, "Due to the epidemic of depression, some people have turned to prescription drugs to dull the pain." Auman said anti-depressants and opioid pain-killers "are two very different drugs for two different conditions."
He also charged Aderholt had taken $135,000 in campaign contributions "from the drug manufacturers who benefit from the opioid epidemic," adding that Aderholt has done "little to nothing to address this issue."
Auman called for a national prescription monitoring program using data bases, with doctors required to check it before prescriptions and update it. Medically assisted therapy is needed in hospitals to help patients, "using medication to wean people off of drugs that will eventually kill them." He also called for amnesty for those reporting overdoses to encourage reporting.
He said rural hospitals, financially stressed to stay open, are raising taxes (such as in Fayette) or are selling (such as in Haleyville and Winfield).
"Robert Aderholt and the rest of the Republican establishment in Congress are more focused on the politics of health care than the people who need healthcare," he said.
Auman said a bill could end reductions in "Disproportionate Share Hospital" or DSH payments for hospital that disproportionally serve low income patients, usually Medicaid and Medicare patients, as well as rural hospital patients. The reductions came to fund the mandated expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare that was later struck down in the courts.
"You will notice the rural hospital closure problem only exists in states that didn't expand Medicaid," he said.
"We don't have to repeal all of anything. We don't have to come up with a healthcare that is going to solve every problem in the world right now. But right now we do need to amend that section" to keep hospital doors open in states that didn't expand Medicaid, he said.
He said expanding healthcare to everyone in the nation would be "massively expensive," which is why he said officials should just focus on the DSH payments before looking at expansion.
At the same time, eventually he said, "We do have to expand coverage because healthcare should be a right. It is a right." However, before going to any new system, costs need to be reduced first.
He said Aderholt has done "nothing" to help with job creation, and he has contributed to losing jobs, some of which go overseas, pointing to CAFTA and saying that it led to textile jobs going overseas.
While Aderholt came out against it, Auman said President George W. Bush's administration put pressure on Aderholt.
"He bent to political pressure and he voted for it," he said. "It passed 217-215, and basically overnight Ft. Payne lost 8,000 jobs. Ft. Payne is no longer the sock capital of the world ... You can't vote for something that hurts the people you are supposed to represent." He later said Aderholt has never tried to adequately explain that vote, and that people don't know the answer "because he is never here."
Auman said unemployed in the state could be put to work repairing roads and bridges in the state, pointing to 1,400 structurally deficient bridges. "We need to increase our investment in infrastructure projects. As things stand now, states are left to cover about 80 percent of the cost" of such projects, leaving a 20 percent federal match, he said. However, state budget problems led to nothing getting done.
While visiting Double Springs this week, Auman learned 72 families outside of Lynn have to buy bottled store water because their faucet water is contaminated possibly with E. coli. Auman said letters written to Aderholt have not had a response. Auman said in Grant, a similar situation for 15 families resulted in Aderholt writing that the federal government could only fund 25 percent of the costs for a solution, making it unaffordable.
"Why aren't we creating jobs to expand utilities (to bring) clean drinking water to places that need it?" Auman asked, as well as universal broadband for internet service. He also called for Congress to provide 50 to 60 percent of such funding.
In the question-and-answer section, Auman said the Mueller investigation needs to come to a close before deciding whether to impeach President Trump, adding so many details are not known at this time.
"The more that has come out, the less people are standing behind him, and I think that is a trend that will continue," he said. "While there are some things, though they are few, that the administration has done that are good ideas, there are many more that I think are bad ideas that hurt the majority of people in this country. I wish we had a president with a mature temperament, and we don't. That's for starters. When it comes to policy, we can have disagreements, but I wish someone can comport themselves like a man and like a president should."
As mass shootings, Auman said existing laws should be enforced and he said three loopholes should be closed, as they could be done quicker than a larger gun bill. For couples who are not married, the abused cannot get a restraining order to prevent the abuser from purchasing weapons, unlike married couples. He noted people on terrorist watch lists can still buy a firearm. Also, private gun salesmen who go to a home to sell a gun does not have to do a background check.
On immigration, he said illegal border crossings have not outnumbered those who overstayed on their visa since 2007. "So most people in this country illegally flew in and overstayed on their visa," he said. "We do have things we need to do at the border to keep us safe, but that is less than half the problem. We need to talk about broader immigration reform and not be wrapped up in the rhetoric of the border."
He called for a better system for enforcing people to stay within the terms of their visa and expand E-Verify. Long-term undocumented people should have a system to turn themselves in, pay a fine, pay any taxes they owe and become citizens, Auman said, allowing immigration agents to focus on more dangerous illegals.
On Social Security, he said it will run out by 2035 but said it would be adequately funded with the elimination of the $118,000 cap on earnings subject to the Social Security tax.
"The trillionaires and the billionaires would pay their fair share and Social Security would be fine for all the future generations," he said. Auman added Aderholt has voted multiple times "to tap into the Social Security Trust Fund and eliminate pensions for workers and veterans."
He also addressed abortions during a question.
"We need to make sure that abortions are accessible, so that when they happen they are safe. We are never going to be able to eliminate the need for that as a medical procedure," he said. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the states will create disparities in service, making it more dangerous, he added.