by Max Marbut
“The silly season is here,” said U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw Monday at the meeting of the Rotary Club of Jacksonville.
With the midterm elections just weeks away, Crenshaw said he’s been traveling the Fourth Congressional District to meet his constituents and find out what’s on their minds.
“In the last two years, there has been a lot of spending, a lot of borrowing and a lot of taxing,” said Crenshaw, a Republican. “There’s a great deal of uncertainty in our country and even anger, frustration and fear.
“We’re at a critical crossroads. If we don’t change direction, the freedom and opportunity we’ve enjoyed won’t be available for our children and grandchildren.”
Crenshaw also talked about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also called the “stimulus package.”
“It was $1 trillion that was going to turn the economy around. It’s the biggest spending program in history. Half of it is still in the bank and it didn’t do what it was supposed to do.”
Other issues that have contributed to the discomfort of his constituents, Crenshaw said, are the “cap and trade” legislation intended to control climate change that was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives but has yet to make its way out of the Senate, and also health care reform.
“It’s going to cost more than it was supposed to cost and people are already being removed from Medicare programs,” said Crenshaw.
He also said that for the first time since 1974, Congress has failed to enact a budget because lawmakers knew that the budget “would be $1.4 trillion in the red.” The house also failed to approve an appropriations budget, which Crenshaw said would lead to enactment of a “Continuing Resolution,” a measure to set spending limits at last year’s levels.
Crenshaw also said some of his colleagues are supporting a plan to go back to the 2008 federal spending levels, which would save taxpayers $100 billion a year.
He cited research concerning the upcoming elections and said statistically, 2010 is being compared to the 1994 midterm election, when Republican candidates won 56 seats in the House.
Unemployment has doubled since 2008, he said. “Blacks, Latinos and young people are bearing a disproportionate share of that unemployment and they’re the voters who put (President Barack) Obama in office,” said Crenshaw.
He also said history indicates that about one-third fewer people vote in midterm elections than in presidential election years and recent polls indicate that “enthusiasm among Republican voters is twice that of Democrats.”
All indications, he said “are the Republicans will take back control of the House.”
Before he shared his comments on the current political climate on Capitol Hill, Crenshaw provided an update on two local projects, the effort to station a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier at Mayport Naval Station and the development of the National Cemetery on the Northside.
He reported that contracts of $70 million have been awarded for dredging and wharf improvements for the future carrier. “The big hump will come (the) year after next,” he said, when the funds for the nuclear maintenance facility to support the vessel will be on the agenda.
“It’s going to be great for national security and great for the local economy,” based on the assignment of almost 5,000 active duty and support personnel with an annual economic impact of $350 million, he said.
Crenshaw said the National Cemetery is starting to “look like Arlington National Cemetery” and that an average of 30 burials each week are being held at the local site.
He said talks with the Veterans Administration will begin soon toward establishing an education center at the cemetery and future plans include a new road from Interstate 95 to the property to improve access.