“I’m the only one who has worked on the Savannah Harbor Expansion since the very beginning…Savannah is the gateway for Georgia businesses to sell their goods overseas.”
Jack Kingston is running for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat, vacated by retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss. He has represented Georgia’s 1st District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1993, serving on multiple committees. He is also a UGA alumnus — a member of the Demosthenian Literary Society and resident of Hill, Myers and Payne Halls during his time here.
THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE‘s Tucker Boyce talked with Mr. Kingston about his experience in D.C., the Senate race and issues facing Congress. Kingston defends his time in Congress, arguing that his political experience gives him an edge over self-billed “outsiders” Karen Handel and David Perdue. This is the first part of a two-part interview.
THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE: There is a lot of rhetoric in the Republican Party from all the Senate candidates about the importance of repealing Obamacare — what is the best short-term step to take before Obama leaves office? Because obviously he would veto a full repeal.
Kingston: We do not need to back off the debate on repealing. While your question is a good one, let me tell you why the wrong answer would be to take a step back from de-funding it. Obamacare has been such a miserable failure that we need to make sure that Democrats in this year’s election have the opportunity to vote to repeal it or to have to side with it. To give you an example, in the recent Florida election, Obamacare was an issue, and in a very split constituency a Republican won. This was because the Republican was against Obamacare and the Democrat was for it. We need to keep as much pressure as possible on Democrats to make them be on record as for or against it. We should not back off on this fight at all, even for a short-term truce.
TAC: There have been a lot of symbolic votes that have said who supports [Obamacare] and who doesn’t — do those symbolic votes trade off with other priorities in the House?
Kingston: I don’t know that they’re symbolic, because there have been votes that that do outright repeal Obamacare.
TAC: Well yes, they do pass the House.
Kingston: Some of them pluck the bird feather by feather, which is what I’ve been saying — like relieving individuals of the mandate the same way the President has with large corporations. We’ve given small businesses relief from the mandate which the President eventually [allowed], and that was a House Initiative. I think [feather by feather] is a good strategy, but it should be accompanied by other really strong repeal votes. If you’re a Democrat and you’re looking at that Florida race and you’re up for re-election, suddenly you might decide that Obamacare is not worth falling on your sword for. The closer we get to November the more [the Democrats] are gonna release that they don’t want to be on a sinking ship called Obamacare. It’s not just a political exercise — this is one-sixth of the economy and it’s worth fighting over.
TAC: With immigration reform, do you think that a piecemeal approach is important, or do you think we need to have a broader immigration package?
Mr. Kingston: I think we need to have incremental [reform]. It should be securing the border, no amnesty, no welfare for illegal immigrants and cracking down on employers who knowingly hire illegals.
TAC: There are ten to eleven million estimated illegal immigrants in the country. How can we deal with those who are in the country illegally?
Kingston: We need to improve things like electronic verification with Social Security numbers, which I have sponsored and passed in certain sectors. That’s going to take a lot of the problem away, but we have to move to the border security first. Because it is incremental, we don’t have to do everything at once. It’s not going to be this package that everyone’s going to live with.
TAC: Do you think that visa [reform] in any form is important? A lot of Democrats and some Republicans have pushed for the extension of high-skilled visas or agricultural worker visas. Do you think that these should be added to those incremental steps?
Kingston: If we do those first four things (amnesty, illegal hiring, no welfare, and border security). Once we do that, then we can worry about the other things.
TAC: Is there anything else you wanted to mention?
Kingston: I’m the only one who has worked on the Savannah Harbor Expansion since the very beginning, that was my bill. It is [worth] 352 thousand jobs. Savannah is the gateway for Georgia businesses to sell their goods overseas. It’s a huge economic engine for the state of Georgia, and an issue that I have championed. The other [candidates] simply have not been involved in it.
TAC: Does that include port dredging? Because I know that the upcoming expansion of the Panama Canal is what creates the problems for certain ships to be able to enter ports.
Kingston: It pushes to [deepen the waterway] from 42 feet to 47 feet, so it is a dredging bill. We’ve been fighting the bureaucracy with the Army Corps of Engineers and this [presidential] administration. The [candidates] who have claimed to be outsiders have not been there. It’s a big driver for Georgia.
THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE would like to thank Representative Kingston for taking time to conduct this interview.
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