Wicker addresses questions in series of town meetings

CATEGORY: USA Federal Government

AUTHOR: MARTY

Wicker addresses questions in series of town meetings

By Marty Russell

Daily Journal

HOLLY SPRINGS – Mississippi’s 1st District U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker wrapped up a series of town meetings in the district Wednesday and said he learned from the meetings that Northeast Mississippians are still economic and social conservatives.

But Wicker, the first Republican to be elected to the post since Reconstruction, declined to speculate on who his party would nominate in this year’s presidential race the day after conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan defeated front-runner Bob Dole in the New Hampshire primary.

He did, however, say that he believes the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs will not be repealed.

Wicker was in the district this week for town meetings in Ripley, Aberdeen and Holly Springs. The Tupelo attorney has made the meetings a regular feature of his first term in office.

Wednesday’s meeting on the Rust College campus in Holly Springs drew the heaviest turnout of the series with more than 200 in attendance. Wicker fielded questions ranging from a possible congressional hearing on Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakan’s recent meetings with leaders in Iran and Libya to the future of the Head Start program and the significance of balancing the budget in seven years instead of spreading it out over a longer period.

Before taking questions, Wicker praised the recent passage of the telecommunications bill that would open local telephone service to more competition and possibly put telephone and cable television services into competition.

“The Telecommunications Bill will create 15,000 jobs in Mississippi alone to replace some of the jobs we’re losing in other sectors,” he told the crowd made up largely of Rust College students and administrators.

Wicker also predicted immediate passage of the Farm Bill, a seven-year plan for doing away with most farm subsidies and removing restrictions on what farmers can plant, when the House reconvenes next week. The Senate already has passed the bill.

What he learned

In the three meetings in the district this week, the former state senator said he learned from those in attendance that, “The people of north Mississippi are conservatives on economic and social issues and want us to govern accordingly.”

But presidential candidate Buchanan emerged the front-runner in New Hampshire running on economic issues counter to conservative Republicans who favor free trade and supported NAFTA and GATT. Buchanan wants to repeal those treaties and impose tariffs on foreign goods coming into the country.

Wicker said he has not endorsed a presidential candidate and would not speculate on what might happen when a flurry of primaries begins next week.

“It’s hard to predict what will happen,” he said. “The battle will continue into the Dakotas and the South.”

Mississippians will vote March 12 in the Super Tuesday primaries.

But Wicker said he expected NAFTA and GATT to remain on the books despite the growing popularity of Buchanan’s campaign.

“I think GATT and NAFTA are going to remain in place,” he said. “There may be some clarification called for, but I think America in general and Mississippi in particular knows the importance of creating jobs in the context of improved international trade.”

Other questions

Wicker also responded to questions from the audience about:

– The need to balance the budget in seven years as opposed to 10 or 20 years to avoid painful, immediate cuts in some programs:

“It’s impossible to make economic projections that far in the future,” he said. “It’s hard enough to make projections seven years into the future.”

– The future of Head Start, where Wicker said spending has grown by 128 percent since 1990 while enrollment has grown only by 39 percent:

“I believe there are some areas where we can find some savings in administration but not in students,” he said.

– The president’s call for a congressional hearing into Farrakan’s recent visits with Middle East leaders considered to be hostile to the United States:

“I would think that Mr. Farrakan would be delighted to appear before Congress in a televised forum to get his views across,” Wicker said.

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