Rothfus: Wall is only part of border solution
By Dave Sutor
A direct connection often exists between violence committed by drug cartels in Mexico and the act of an addict shooting up heroin in the bathroom of some Johnstown gas station.
Most of the United States’ supply of the drug comes across the nation’s southern border.
In response, U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, from the 12th Congressional District, recently introduced the Border Protection Fund Act. It calls for using money seized from drug cartels and traffickers through federal civil asset forfeiture for border security and programs to combat the United States’ opioid epidemic.
“We need to be doing everything we can to interdict the transfer of those drugs coming in,” Rothfus said during an interview at The Tribune-Democrat on Thursday. “At the same time, we have to understand that there are problems not only on this side of the border, but on the southern side of the border.”
When discussing how across-the-border drug trafficking affects both nations, Rothfus said, “If there was ever an issue that the two countries – the United States and Mexico – needed to be working together on, this is it.”
He also co-sponsored the Secure Miles with All Resources and Technology Act that would develop a “Smart Wall,” using sensors, radar, fiber optics, drones, cameras and other tools.
“There’s lots of talk about a ‘wall,’ ” Rothfus said. “There are areas of the border where a physical barrier is needed and practical. There are areas where a wall just isn’t going to work.
“You have a Rio Grande (River) watershed, for example, that you get a very good picture of as you fly over the Rio Grande, where it’s impractical – if not impossible – to have an actual physical barrier. What is needed is multiple layers of defenses to make sure that we know who and what is coming into this country.”
Republican attempts to repeal and/or replace the Affordable Care Act flamed out when no proposal received enough votes to be approved by the Senate earlier this summer.
The failure came after GOP elected officials and candidates spent years demonizing the law, known as Obamacare, and repeatedly suggested it would be replaced as soon as the party controlled both chambers of Congress, along with the presidency, as it now does.
Rothfus thinks if not for Senate procedures, including a rule that requires a two-thirds vote to end a filibuster, a bill could pass.
“If it weren’t for that 60-vote rule, we could be doing all of our health care reform legislation in one piece of legislation, including empowering folks to build individual pools,” Rothfus said.
He further criticized the upper chamber, saying, “The Senate’s dysfunctional. It’s dysfunctional. The filibuster rule that they have there, which is not part of our Constitution – it is a Senate rule and a Senate tradition, has been abused, I contend.”
The House previously passed its own health care proposal.
“Our reform bill that we put through is designed to move away some of these Washington mandates and introduce more flexibility and choice so that people can get an affordable plan,” Rothfus said. “I, myself, happen to be in the individual market. I don’t participate in the plan that was available to members of Congress because I had concerns about the nature of the subsidy that members of Congress were receiving. So I’m feeling the pain that people in the individual market are feeling as they see their premiums skyrocket.”
‘Taxes on a postcard’
Rothfus decried the United States’ tax code for, in his opinion, being “one of the most uncompetitive” in the world.
He thinks the issue will be discussed when Congress soon returns to session. The congressman would like to see a reduction in the number of tax brackets, an increase in the personal exemption, and a rollback of corporate tax rates.
“We also want simplification,” Rothfus said. “We want people to be able to do their taxes on a postcard if they choose, and that’s the proposal that’s out there.”
The North American Free Trade Agreement’s future is in doubt.
President Donald Trump recently said the United States will “probably end up terminating NAFTA at some point” when talking about the pact that has existed with Canada and Mexico since Jan. 1, 1994.
“You want to make sure that the trade agreements we enter are going to be beneficial to the American worker, to the American economy,” Rothfus said.
“That should be the starting premise. And, as you start to peel back the layers of the onion of what NAFTA has done or not done over the last 20 to 25 years, you start with that premise.”