U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, stopped by the Gainesville Rotary Club on Monday to eat lunch and strengthen some Hall County connections.
He spoke briefly to the community club about polio and the role of Rotary members around the world in helping to defeat the disease.
But before he ate, he answered questions from The Times about some of the biggest political issues North Georgians and all Americans are currently facing, including sequestration, the federal budget, immigration reform and whether he’s running for U.S. Senate.
It’s no secret Kingston is a possible contender to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie, in 2014, but he hasn’t formally announced.
He’s set up an exploratory committee and introduced Philip Wilheit Jr. at the lunch as co-chairing his finance committee.
Kingston said he is going to be spending a lot of time in Hall County. In a possible hint at a future announcement, he said he wanted to “carry” Hall County.
“We believe that Hall County is important,” Kingston said.
Kingston is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, which directs federal spending. Kingston said there’s been some impact from sequestration, across-the-board budget cuts, on military installations and defense contractors. There’s also some impact on university research, he said. But the country has to get its financial house in order.
“I think people will be feeling pinches of it,” he said. “But the bigger disaster would be ending up like Greece or Cyprus or Portugal, or some of these countries where they refuse to deal with their financial excesses.”
The Hall County/Gainesville poultry industry was freed from one worry from sequestration — Kingston was able to help make sure that there was not a “glitch” in U.S. Department of Agriculture meat inspection for beef and poultry from sequestration. As Gainesville is known as the “Poultry Capital of the World,” that’s relevant locally, Kingston said.
Congress is split on the federal budget, with the House of Representatives taking a more conservative approach to spending.
While Kingston is making visits in the state, the Senate is considering legislation on gun control and immigration this week, he said.
Both issues could face opposition in the House. Senators have to make the case that stricter gun control means less crime, which Kingston said isn’t the case. Connecticut, where a mass shooting took place at an elementary school in December, has very tough gun laws.
Kingston indicated the possibility of compromise on immigration. A pathway to a guest worker program or temporary work visas is a place where both chambers could find common ground, the congressman said.
“Amnesty would be very difficult to get through the House,” he said.
Kingston said he’ll be around again soon.
“I’m no stranger to Gainesville, Ga., but I’m going to become a more frequent visitor,” he said.