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Energy tops Deals talk
U.S. representative answers questions about drilling for oil, proposed fair tax
U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal takes questions from audience members Thursday evening in the theater at the Georgia Mountains Center as he completes his tour of town meetings across the 9th District.
A year ago it was illegal immigration, but U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal said energy has emerged as the topic most on the minds of his constituents.

The Gainesville Republican completed the fourth and final day of his tour of the 9th District on Thursday with town meetings in Dawsonville, Cumming, Cleveland and Gainesville.

While Congress has adjourned until mid-September, Deal said he joined House Republicans last Friday in voting against adjournment.

"I thought we should stay in session until we got a vote on (offshore oil) drilling," Deal said, drawing applause from his audience in Gainesville.

House Republicans unsuccessfully tried to attach language allowing offshore drilling onto a bill for military construction.

Deal said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vehemently opposed any oil drilling bills and the GOP saw the bill as its one chance for an amendment that was germane, related enough to pass House rules.

The congressman launched into a detailed explanation of the complicated parliamentary maneuver.

"You can’t explain this in a 30-second spot," he said.

Deal said a handful of his House colleagues have maintained a vigil on the House floor to protest the decision against the amendment.

When asked in Gainesville if he planned to join them, the lawmaker said he needed to be in the district.

"I think I’m doing my job by being here and listening to my constituents," he said.

In Cleveland, where three dozen residents gathered for the town meeting, a woman challenged Deal on his support of both offshore drilling and exploration for shale oil in Western states.

Her remarks drew an angry rebuke from Jill Putnam of Cleveland who carried a sign with messages denouncing the Democratic leadership and in support of drilling.

"I feel like we have no representation in Congress," Putnam said. "Pelosi will not allow an up or down vote, and that’s all we want. She’s taking the heat so (presidential candidate Barack) Obama can go out there and say ‘Oh yeah, I’m for limited drilling.’"

Deal also reiterated his support for drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, saying he had voted 14 times for exploration of the oil-rich area.

Those attending the Gainesville meeting said they agree with Deal’s approach to energy.
"That is, to me, our No. 1 issue," said Martin Ellard of Gainesville, who attended the meeting. "I think he did a good job of explaining it."

Bradley Lawson of Gainesville said it was reassuring to know that people are thinking alike.

"Energy is certainly a big issue," Lawson said.

Rudy Mack of Oakwood asked Deal what would happen if Israel attacks Iran over nuclear weapons.

"I think you’re right," Deal said. "I don’t think we’re going to see a situation where Israel sits around idly and lets Iran have a nuclear bomb capability. The truth is, countries like Saudi Arabia and Jordan and others don’t trust Iran either, and, in fact, that is one of the concerns they have expressed privately about our withdrawal from Iraq. They see that we will create a vacuum by our absence that will allow Iran to take over the territory of Iraq."

Pressed further about partisanship in that situation, Deal said in that situation, he believes partisan politics would be pushed aside over the concern for national security.

At all of his stops, Deal drew applause for his support of the proposed "fair tax," a national sales tax, which would replace the current income tax system.

But Deal said the bill, which has only 72 sponsors in the House, needs more support.

"You need to tell your friends in other districts to put the pressure on their member of Congress," he said.

Deal, the ranking member of the Health subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, defended his vote in favor of a bill that reversed proposed cuts in Medicare.

"That’s part of system that medical providers live under that I think needs to be overhauled," he said. "Even though it was designed to cut down the costs of escalating Medicare costs, we’ve had to come back every year and undo it."

Deal also voted with the majority to override President Bush’s veto of the bill.

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