The Herald Times
by: Ernest Rollins
Defense spending and President Donald Trump’s recently ordered missile strike against Syria were among topics U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth discussed Tuesday during a visit to Bloomington.
The representative of Indiana’s 9th Congressional District touched on a wide range of issues in a meeting with The Herald-Times’ editorial board after visiting the Naval Surface Warfare Center — Crane Division, where he had participated in a symposium on military issues involving national security and modern warfare.
When it comes to the national budget, spending on national security remains a priority for the freshman congressman. He said he was very impressed with what he saw at Crane, and called spending on the military installation “an investment in peace rather than an investment in war.”
Hollingsworth said he has heard from a number of Hoosiers who tell him they do not feel safe, as well as concerns from members of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff that funding is not keeping pace with looming threats.
But Hollingsworth expressed frustrations with the current budgeting process Congress has to follow. When he returns to Washington, D.C., after the current congressional recess, he said, he will be presented with a “fake choice” regarding the federal budget — approve a continuing resolution that would extend federal spending at current levels, or shut down the government.
“That’s a failure of a process,” Hollingsworth said. “It’s a failure of politicians to develop the will to have the hard conversations about what we should be doing with hard-earned taxpayer money, what our priorities are and what we can and can’t get to.”
Hollingsworth said Hoosiers are concerned about federal spending and managing the nation’s debt, and the current process does not help ensure those concerns are properly addressed. While he would not say which way he will vote if his only choices are those he mentioned, he said he wants to talk about the need to change the process.
In addition, Hollingsworth said his approach to federal spending is focusing on those areas that without question need to be handled at the federal level. Besides national security, Hollingsworth cited rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and keeping the promises made to generations who have paid into certain federal programs.
Topics discussed besides national security and the budget included:
Town hall-style meetings
At this point, Hollingsworth said he does not plan to have a town hall-style meeting with the public.
Hollingsworth said when he is in the district, both he and his staff are putting together meetings and having dialogues with small groups of constituents. He said he thinks that method is the best way to engage with people and work on solutions to issues.
Although many constituents have called for a town hall meeting, he thinks those are less productive.
“No one believes that the answer to solve Washington’s problems is to turn up the volume,” Hollingsworth said. “To me, the answer is always how do we engage in a productive manner to be able to get to solutions.”
Hollingsworth said he welcomes more productive dialogues from his constituents and will continue to engage with them. Since taking office in January, he said, he has made hundreds of random telephone calls a week to constituents from both parties to hear what they have to say.
So far, he said, he has had people scream at him, praise him, but mostly it has been in between. From those calls, he said, he has gotten ideas for new legislation or learned more about a topic of concern.
Attack on Syria
Hollingsworth was asked if he supported recent U.S. missile attacks on Syria that came in response to what are believed to have been gas attacks on civilians by the Syrian government. Hollingsworth said the administration of former President Barack Obama relied too heavily on negotiation and diplomacy in its approach to dealing with Syria. He said while the United States may be willing to engage in good-faith negotiations and settle disputes diplomatically, not all actors have the same commitment.
He said the Obama administration decried atrocities in Syria, drew lines in the sand and pledged to take action if the lines were crossed, but Hollingsworth said failure to do so has only emboldened the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“I think that the need to strike represents a failure of diplomacy,” Hollingsworth said. “It is a shame, a travesty that we have to resort to force, but the reality of broadening conflicts and deepening issues around the world means that America has to stand up as a leader and say this is what we will accept and this is what we won’t accept.”
But when it comes to foreign policy actions, Hollingsworth said, what Americans are looking for is clear indication of America’s role within the world. Asked when it’s OK to cross the line from diplomacy and negotiation, he said that’s the most difficult and serious issue of all in foreign policy, and has been for many administrations.
“What I see out of President (Donald) Trump in terms of foreign policy is an America that knows where it stands and the world knows as well,” Hollingsworth said.
Changing Washington’s culture
Hollingsworth said many of the stereotypes the public has about what it is like in Washington, D.C., are unfortunately true.
Instead of being focused on getting results, he said, there are career politicians more interested in moving up the ladder or making television appearances on major networks. He said that must change and it must become a culture that focuses on serving the people, genuinely solving problems and delivering results to the American people.
“The more individuals that we can get in Washington that both bring outside experience and are focused on changing the culture, the better off we will be on both sides of the aisle,” Hollingsworth said.
This article originally appeared on The Herald Times and was written by Ernest Rollins.