Fortenberry speaks on health care, immigration

2013-08-08T08:00:00Z Fortenberry speaks on health care, immigrationBy Julie Blum / Columbus Telegram

COLUMBUS — Fielding questions at a town hall meeting, U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry admitted efforts by the Republican Party to repeal health care reform have been a bit of a show.

The House of Representatives has voted 40 times to dismantle Obamacare.

“Some people are beginning to ridicule us for that. To be honest, some of it is theatrics. You keep doing this over and over and over again and it doesn’t get anywhere. It is theatrics,” Fortenberry said Wednesday during a stop in Columbus.

The effort might be for naught anyway, as he said President Barack Obama would never sign a bill that gets rid of his signature piece of legislation.

Fortenberry, who represents the 1st District, said he has always opposed the health care overhaul, with the exception of some pieces such as removing caps on insurance and keeping children on a plan until they are 26 years old.

 “We do need the right kind of health care reform, but not one that shifts more and more spending, unsustainable spending, to the federal government, and not one that will erode health care,” he said.

Fortenberry spoke to a full crowd inside the Columbus City Council Chambers. The questions ranged from Benghazi to voter rights. But the majority of the approximately hourlong meeting focused on inquiries about health care and immigration.

Speaking on immigration, Fortenberry said America needs to continue to be a generous nation that welcomes with open arms people who want to make a good life and contribution and be good citizens.

“That ought to remain the hallmark of our immigration process," he said. "But when you have chaos at the border, rewards for illegal behavior and lack of interior enforcement, then you undermine the ability of the country to have a just and good and orderly and compassionate immigration system in the first place."

Those areas that create the disorder should be addressed. That is why Fortenberry suggests four priorities with immigration that include border security, interior enforcement, a streamlined legal process and foreign policy considerations.

He also said there needs to be consequences for those who overstay a visa.

One million people come to America each year legally, he said, but in 2011, 11.5 million came illegally. Of those here illegally, 40 percent overstayed their visas.

“There is no penalty for overstaying,” Fortenberry said.

The economy was also addressed. On federal spending, Fortenberry said it will exceed $3.45 trillion this fiscal year. That's double the amount from a decade ago. Such spending is not sustainable, he said.

“We have to do something and stagnation is not an answer. We have to figure out a constructive way to deal with this even if it’s not perfect and optimal,” he said.

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