Nearing completion of his 56-county tour of the state, U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., traveled through Flathead County this week to discuss trade issues with the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce and tour North Valley Hospital in Whitefish.
Rehberg announced last week his intention to seek a fifth term as Montana’s only U.S. representative, and swung by the Beacon office for a chat Tuesday morning, where he held forth on his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement, a four-part approach to energy development, and defended U.S. health care in the face of calls by Democratic presidential candidates to implement a universal health care system.
Criticizing a recent news report on his reelection announcement, Rehberg clarified that he is not an advocate for the status quo, but that “I hope God gives me the wisdom to recognize when change is not necessarily a good thing.”
One area in which Rehberg did call for change was trade, asserting his opposition to NAFTA, “I would not have voted for it,” adding that he opposed the Central American Free Trade Agreement and a free trade agreement with Australia. A “NAFTA-like trade agreement” is necessary, Rehberg said, but it should give the U.S. greater control when trade violations occur to expedite the movement of goods, particularly if those goods are perishable.
Concerned that heightened security and passport restrictions are impeding trade between the U.S. and Canada, he added that there needs to be “a melding of laws between Canada and ourselves” regarding border crossings.
He went on to describe the U.S. health care system as “the best in the world,” noting the advances made in the areas of research and technology, as well as patients’ ability to choose their medical provider. The problem, Rehberg acknowledged, is “it’s getting harder and harder for people to afford.”
Rehberg suggested modifying existing government health care programs, like Medicare, to create tax incentives rewarding healthy habits and preventative treatment. He also called for measures to allow physicians to reduce onerous, duplicative paperwork.
On energy development, Rehberg described a four-part approach that includes: the development of fossil fuels with research into carbon-capturing methods; as well as wind, solar and geothermal energy development; conservation; and grants and loans to encourage research and innovation.
Rehberg will finish his tour in Libby this week, and made no mention of his potential opponents, of which there are four as of the March 20 filing deadline: Helena attorney and Democrat Jim Hunt, Democrat Robert Candee of Richey, Democrat John Driscoll of Helena and Libertarian Mike Fellows of Missoula.
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