U.S. Rep. Joe Barton has been, is and will continue to be a staunch supporter of the war on terrorism.
Speaking at the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon on Wednesday, Barton, R-Ennis, said he was in back home to speak on international and domestic issues during the summer recess.
“International issues are the war and terrorism and I see people nodding their heads and saying ‘I knew you were going to talk about that,’ ” Barton said. “But as long as we are sending young men and women to Iraq and Afghanistan where they could be killed it needs to be an important issue and one that is discussed.”
Barton said 11 military personnel were killed in a single helicopter crash this week. It was a helicopter crash in January 2005 that killed Marine Corps Capt. Lyle Gordon of Midlothian and 31 other military personnel.
Barton said people needs to realize the war on terrorism is real and must be fought in Iraq and Afghanistan or in America.
“This war is a real war and the terrorists don’t like us,” Barton said. “I want to remind people that 9/11 did happen and we lost more people at the Twin Towers and Pentagon than were lost at Pearl Harbor.
“Some people think terrorists can be negotiated with,” he added. “On the other side of the aisle there are people saying we need to get out and everything will be OK.
“How can you negotiate in a diplomatic fashion with those who slit people’s throats for the television cameras?” Barton asked. “How can we negotiate with people who fill a garbage truck up with gravel and explosives and then drive into a market to kill as many civilians as they can?”
Barton said he felt the war was going much better than it was being portrayed in the media and by Democrats.
“We are doing a much better job on the ground and the House majority whip is reported as saying that success in Iraq will present a political problem in November,” Barton said. “I hope to make another trip to Iraq and take a look at the 15 milestones presented by Gen. (David) Petraeus as goals he is attempting to meet.”
Barton said he does not support unilateral withdrawal or a hard and fast timeline for ending the war.
“If we pull back the horses they will attempt another terrorist attack on our shores,” Barton said. “Like I said, this is a real war. It may not seem like a real war in Midlothian and I hope it never comes to Midlothian. I think we can win and I will vote to support it.”
On the domestic front, Barton said he was disappointed in the way federal legislation was handled to provide insurance to children during the most recent session.
Barton and Nathan Deal, R-Georgia, introduced the Guaranteed Access for SCHIP’s Target Population Act of 2007 early in the session. The bill’s aim was to address the funding shortfalls in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
“This bill was designed to help the working poor, not those covered by Medicaid or children whose parents had insurance,” Barton said. “I didn’t think any party in Washington would be against that.”
But Barton said political maneuverings in the House didn’t bring SCHIP before committee until the last two weeks of the session. Barton said the actual bill was not made public until the day it was supposed to be debated by or “marked up” by lawmakers.
Barton said he felt it was good law and was saddened that Washington politics hindered good legislation that could have helped children who need it.
“Unlike the Democrats’ bill, my proposal would prohibit federal SCHIP dollars from going to adults, as well as those families with far more income than the program was designed to serve,” Barton said. “Another key provision in my bill was the requirement that SCHIP dollars be provided to U.S. citizens only.
“Should a state decide that it wants to extend its SCHIP program to adults or illegal immigrants or those with incomes of $200,000 or more, the state has every right to do so, but it must do so with its own money,” Barton said. “My bill would simply ensure that hard-earned taxpayer dollars at the federal level go solely to the low-income children who need them rather than to extraneous groups.”
Barton said the debate over SCHIP will continue this fall.
Barton also took questions from the crowd and drew a chuckle when asked how he felt about illegal immigration and strengthening the U.S./Mexico border.
“I’m for strong borders and against illegal immigration,” the 12-term congressman said. “We passed major legislation that will add 2,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents and spend $8 billion building fences and providing security and surveillance for our borders.
“I used to be against building fences but I have changed my mind,” Barton added.
Questioned about the real estate and lending market, Barton said Texas is not suffering like other parts of the country.
“Things didn’t get wild in Texas with housing prices and lending like they did in California, the northeast and other places,” Barton said. “I was around during the savings and loan crisis during the ’80s and this is nothing like that. From everything I see this appears to be something that is bearable by the market.”
Barton was also asked point-blank whom he felt would make the best president: former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani.
“I know all three and haven’t endorsed any of them,” said Barton, a comment that also brought a chuckle from the crowd.
“If I had to pick one it would probably be Huckabee because on substance he is on top of issues,” Barton said. “Guiliani is very charismatic and a true leader. Romney I don’t know as well, but he looks the most presidential of the three.”
Barton was first elected to serve the Sixth District of Texas in 1984. He has served 12, two-year terms in Washington.
His district includes portions of Tarrant, Limestone and Trinity counties, and the entirety of Ellis, Navarro, Freestone, Leon and Houston counties.
In 2004, he was selected by his colleagues to be the chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The Energy and Commerce Committee has arguably the broadest non tax-oriented jurisdiction of any congressional committee, with principal House responsibility over matters relating to commerce, public health and marketplace interests.
He serves as ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, making him leader of the Republicans serving on that committee.
Barton was born Sept. 15, 1949, in Waco. He earned a four-year Gifford-Hill Opportunity Award scholarship to Texas A&M University, where he was the outstanding industrial engineering student for the class of 1972.
After earning a master’s of science degree in industrial administration from Purdue University, he joined Ennis Business Forms, where he rose to the position of assistant to the vice president.
In 1981, he was selected for the prestigious White House Fellows Program, and served as an aide to then-Energy Secretary James B. Edwards. He returned to Texas in 1982 as a natural gas decontrol consultant for Atlantic Richfield Oil and Gas Company before being elected to Congress.
Barton and his wife, Terri, have homes in Ennis and Arlington.
He has four children, two stepchildren and three grandchildren.