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Jack Bergman visits Houghton, fields questions on voting record

U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, speaks at a question-and-answer session hosted by the Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce in Houghton Saturday.(Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman fielded questions from constituents for close to an hour on topics ranging from impeachment to climate change during a question-and-answer session Saturday hosted by the Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce.

Bergman, R-Watersmeet, was asked about several votes, including one against a bill that would give Medicare the ability to negotiate drug prices. That bill passed in December on a largely party-line vote, with two Republicans crossing over.

Bergman said he had been motivated by cost overruns he had seen in dealing with the Department of Defense.

“I have no confidence in the government’s ability to negotiate, whether it be drug prices, or most other things that matter,” Bergman said.

Residents also questioned Bergman signing onto a brief asking the court to revisit its rulings on Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which found an “undue burden” on pregnant women seeking an abortion to be unconstitutional. The amicus brief was in a Louisiana case that would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the procedure site.

Bergman was one of 207 lawmakers — 168 House members and 39 Senators, including two Democrats — to sign the brief.

Pivoting off a previous answer where Bergman mentioned contraception as a factor in reducing the percentage of children living in poverty, the resident asked him if he thought overturning Roe v. Wade would be in the best interests of Michigan residents.

“If someone presents me an issue, my first thought is ‘Does the federal government have a role to play in this?’ … I don’t believe that’s the role of federal government,” Bergman said.

Asked what he would do to ensure the U.S. would combat climate change, Bergman pointed to the decline in U.S. carbon emissions. U.S. emissions levels dropped 11% from 2005 to 2018, though they rose 3.4% from 2017 to 2018.

Bergman criticized what he saw as climate alarmism, saying “You don’t gain anything by scaring kids.”

Michigan Technological University professor Sarah Green called that “disingenuous.”

“Children have become scared recently because they have realized nothing has been done to significantly slow the rate of climate change,” she said.

Bergman was also asked to defend President Trump’s conduct. Bergman voted against the two articles of impeachment passed by the House. Asked if he agreed with Trump’s actions regarding the Ukraine and if it would be beneficial to the U.S., Bergman laid out the reasoning for his vote.

The first article, dealing with abuse of power, did not rise to the level of impeachment, Bergman said. He called the second article — obstruction of Congress —“almost laughable”; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had been responsible for more inaction, he said, calling her the culprit behind his IMPROVE Well-Being for Veterans Act not being voted out of committee. The bill, which Bergman introduced with Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Crissy Houlahan, would enhance coordinating and planning for veteran mental health and suicide prevention services.

“We have spent three years trying to delegitimize a duly elected president, regardless of who it is,” he said. “And you know what, that’s not who we are as a country.”

One resident identified a different chokepoint for legislation: the Senate, where more than 250 bills passed by the House had stalled as of November. Bergman said all he could do was encourage his colleagues in the Senate.

First elected in 2016, Bergman said he hoped to serve at least three more terms. He hopes to become chairman of the Veteran Affairs Committee.

“So with a seat at the leadership table. I get then to talk about things like education and workforce, financial services, natural resources, all the things outside that we deal with that affects your daily life,” he said.

He also said he would like to see House terms become longer than two years. As it is, he said, members spend most of their term’s final year on their campaign, cutting into the amount of legislative work they can do.

“I guarantee you, what we will get done between now and November, under the current House leadership, is pretty much next to zero,” he said. “Everybody is focused, rightly or wrongly so, on the election in November 2020.”