Bergman discusses local, national topics

MARQUETTE — In an exclusive interview Friday, Republican U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman talked about the Soo Locks, national security and debt, working across party lines and other topics.

“Every day, people work together across party lines to solve complex issues,” Bergman said. “The reality is we’re going to come at it from different perspectives. That’s what’s supposed to happen.”

Recently leaders in the House and Senate released the American’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, a bipartisan bill to fund America’s water resources and infrastructure.

The legislation authorizes the construction of a second 1,200-foot lock at the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie in support of the aging Poe Lock. The Army Corps of Engineers estimates the new lock will cost nearly $1 billion and take over 10 years to build.

“It has been my number one infrastructure priority since I was literally on the campaign trail three years ago, that hasn’t changed,” Bergman said. “What’s changed is … we’ve made progress. We just got $32 million in the Army Corps’ work plan for 2019. Michigan put in $52 million — Gov. (Rick) Snyder announced that last May.”

Funding of the new lock garnered the support of President Donald Trump, who backed the project during a visit to Michigan in April.

“I’m pretty much the leader in the Michigan delegation on this for obvious reasons — it’s in the 1st District,” Bergman said. “So, my oversight of it means I’ve got my staff, I’m working with the Army Corps, Office of Management and Budget Appropriations to make sure that the next steps continue.

“The end game here is to have the rest of that money appropriated, which means the money goes into the bank.”

A $20 million federal grant was recently also secured for repairing the Carbide Dock, Bergman said.

“The Soo Locks represent not only economic stability for our country, it’s also national security because it sits on a border,” he said of its overall importance.

In regards to around $21 trillion in national debt and the federal deficit of over $204 billion, Bergman, who’s a freshman member of the House Budget Committee, said the country doesn’t have a revenue problem, but a spending problem.

“Every year the federal government pays out roughly $150 billion a year in improper payments,” he said. “What does that mean? It means somebody was getting a Social Security check, then they passed away two years ago and the check still comes. Somebody’s getting a check for $1,000 that should have been $100, a clerical error. No theft, no fraud — just waste because you have too many entities just sending out money that aren’t being held accountable to what they’re doing.

“You reduce the debt two ways. Number one, you slow your spending, but number two, every time you have a dollar that comes in, you use that to pay down your debt. You don’t create another program just because you have another dollar.”

Although President Trump has said he’s going to make Mexico pay for a wall along the Mexico-U.S. border for security purposes, Trump has asked Congress for $5 billion for the proposed plan.

“My stance is that the U.S. has to pay and should pay for securing its borders,” Bergman said. “It’s our responsibility to secure our borders.

“If you go down to Texas and look at the Rio Grande (River) and the cliffs, you’ll see you don’t need a wall there. You need a monitoring system, but there are certain parts that a wall is best served. The goal is to secure the border and that is our responsibility because we have the responsibility to know who’s coming or who’s trying to come into and leave our country.”

There are a several ways to fund the wall, Bergman said, but both the House and Senate will have to agree on the process.

When asked about Michael Cohen, the president’s former lawyer who will serve three years in prison for lying to Congress, Bergman said the legal system is what drives the country.

“You don’t play it out in the media and you don’t play it out in committee hearings. We have a court system — that’s what they’re there for,” he said.

One of the biggest challenges on the local level, Bergman said, is retaining health care providers to live in the Upper Peninsula due to its climate and rural location.

“We are blessed to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, but it’s not for everybody,” he said.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is jdepew@miningjournal.net.