Bedford County will move from the 6th Congressional District to the 4th in this year's election cycle, and U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who currently represents the 4th District, made his first local public appearance during Thursday night's Bedford County Republican Party Reagan Day Dinner.
DesJarlais is a physician from South Pittsburg who was first elected to the House two years ago, beating incumbent Democrat Lincoln Davis. It was his first time to seek or hold public office.
Although the filing deadline has not yet passed, State Sen. Eric Stewart of Belvidere, an insurance agent, is the only high-profile Democrat currently running to oppose DesJarlais for the seat.
DesJarlais voted yesterday for the Republican budget proposal in the House.
"There can be no more doubt that our nation is set on an unsustainable spending course, which if not changed, will surely lead to our economic collapse. The math speaks for itself -- we can no longer maintain the status quo," said DesJarlais in a news release.
Stewart, however, criticized the budget and DesJarlais' support of it.
"This budget does nothing to reduce our deficit, piling on debt for our children and grandchildren." Stewart said in a news release. "And it victimizes seniors by turning Medicare over to big insurance companies who will line their pockets with government subsidies and make seniors pay more for their medical care."
Stewart claimed the budget would add $3.127 trillion to the federal deficit. He quoted a Congressional Budget Office study which claims the budget would add more to the deficit over the next 10 years "than if Congress simply continued the status quo."
During Thursday night's banquet, DesJarlais said the federal government needs to get control of spending.
"No one in this room needs to pay another dime in taxes until the federal government gets its reckless spending under control," he said.
DesJarlais said President Obama has "zero credibility on budget and debt issues." He said that Obama, when running for office four years ago, pledged to reduce the federal deficit by half or else he would be a one-term president.
"We need to help him keep that promise," quipped DesJarlais.
He said the nation's spending on Pell Grants for college students has risen from $12 billion to $40 billion, but without any increase in educational performance.
"The problem is, we're not getting a return on that investment," he said.
DesJarlais criticized Obama's foreign policy and urged strong support for Israel, saying that Middle East issues may drive this fall's election.
"I think we need to stand behind Israel," he said.
He expressed hope that the Supreme Court, which has been hearing arguments on Obama's health care program this week, would overturn it.
"It's looking better as the week goes on," said DesJarlais.
DesJarlais, one of 15 physicians serving in Congress, said that Medicare is "going broke" unless remedies can be enacted.
DesJarlais mentioned having attended a dinner function recently along with Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, a former Shelbyville resident.
"I think we learned a lot from each other," said DesJarlais. He said that the political process needs more facts and less political rhetoric.