Senator updates constituents on recent legislation

DAILY LEADER / RACHEL EIDE / U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., talks about progress on recent legislation during a visit to The Daily Leader Monday. The senator is making his way around the state, visiting with community newspapers.

DAILY LEADER / RACHEL EIDE / U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., talks about progress on recent legislation during a visit to The Daily Leader Monday. The senator is making his way around the state, visiting with community newspapers.

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., is making his way around his home state, speaking with community newspapers to give updates about his work in Washington. As part of his tour, he visited The Daily Leader Monday to explain what’s happening at the Capitol.

Wicker’s main concern there is Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who, Wicker said has been halting all legislation initiated by the Republican-controlled house.

Wicker blamed Reid for the lack of amendments made by the Senate on important bills. Wicker added that currently Reid has 350 bills sitting on his desk that will not see the light of day while Reid is in office. This has been an ongoing criticism of Reid from both Republicans and Democrats.

Amendments to the Affordable Healthcare Act are among the many documents pending. Wicker said that he knows there are enough votes to make changes to the act, including changing the 30-hour workweek provision. He added that he feels that a conservative market base approach would have been a better option for healthcare reform.

Wicker said that competition would lower the expected cost of health insurance. “We have the greatest health system in the world, better than Canada or Britain.”

The recent Mississippi Republican Senate runoff election has been one of many illustrations of a splintering Republican Party. Wicker said that taking the runoff issue to court is hopefully a sign that that election will finally come to a conclusion.

“Mississippi by and large has some healing to do,” said Wicker, reflecting on the long-term effects of the runoff. He added that in the spirit of Ronald Reagan offering support to Gerald Ford after a hard-fought Republican campaign for the presidential nomination years ago, the state Republican Party as a whole will be able to move forward together.

In the fall, Wicker said he will be focused primarily on the National Defense Authorization Act. He said that if he could get only one bill through in September, this would be it.

This act funds military equipment and troops at home and abroad. It is particularly helpful for many Mississippi communities and the overall economy, because of the large military presence in the state.

Wicker said the NDAA also would improve national security.

Even though the bill has been passed every year for the past 52 years, he added that he was not sure of its future with Reid leading the Senate.

During his interview, Wicker also touched on a number of other topics:

• He was concerned about the increasing debt and feels that a more comprehensive tax system could help the government balance the budget, like they did under Bill Clinton.

• He said he felt the Keystone pipeline legislation has enough support to pass, if Reid would give it a chance.

• He supports improving Mississippi education, but feels that it is more of a family issue than government. He said that it all comes down to families making education a priority for their children.

• He said that President Barack Obama made a mistake by exiting Iraq. Setting a date for withdrawal of combat forces from the unpopular war in Iraq was one of Obama’s early campaign promises. There have been several problems that have arisen while the U.S. has worked to pull back. Wicker said that the gap left in Iraq has created a national security risk. He added that the president was not listening to the generals and should have left stabilizing forces in the country.

“American presence doesn’t mean war will continue,” said Wicker.

• He also commented on recent news from his alma mater, the University of Mississippi.

Recently, UM Chancellor Dan Jones released a report to “All Who Love The University of Mississippi” about the Action Plan on Consultant Reports and Updates on the Work of the Sensitivity and Respect Committee. The report comes in the wake of several discriminatory incidents dealing with race that have taken place on the campus over the past year, including a confederate flag and noose being placed on the James Meredith statue.

The reports showed that more could be done on the campus to improve the environment for diversity and inclusion. For the past several years the University has been very consciously working to fix many of the issues, and Jones has been very open about the situation.

When asked about his thoughts on the recent reports, Wicker said, “Race relations on the Ole Miss campus are good.” He added that the several incidents on campus were isolated and happen all over the country.