We may not always see eye to eye with U.S. Congressman Michael Burgess, but we respect his dedication to the people who elected him. He’s an old-school guy who’s accessible and willing to sit down, answer questions and share ideas.
Burgess, 63, who was first elected to Congress in 2002 to represent the 26th District, visited with members of the Denton Record-Chronicle editorial board on Thursday, following up on recent town hall meetings in Frisco and Trophy Club.
The congressman seemed relaxed and confident during our visit. After facing opposition in the Republican primary last spring, he can breathe easy because he doesn’t have a Democrat opponent snapping at his heels this election cycle.
Burgess reiterated his opposition to marijuana legalization. He would not vote to remove it from the same category of illegal drugs that includes heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.
“I would not be in favor of it,” Burgess said of changing the legal status of marijuana. “My own opinion is that marijuana is a gateway drug.”
He does not advocate impeachment of President Obama for overstepping his executive powers. He tells his constituents it would be a fruitless exercise. A sly sense of humor crept into his rhetoric when he noted that impeaching the president and removing him from office would lead to a President Joe Biden administration.
“Where’s the improvement?” Burgess asked.
Two Texans are assessing their chances to become president in 2016 — Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. Although he did not come right out with an endorsement, Burgess said, “A governor gets my attention better than a senator. Gov. Perry has moved up in my estimation.”
Burgess addressed the Affordable Care Act briefly, saying that the situation has changed in recent months because the act has begun to affect people either positively or negatively.
The congressman said he recently got some first-hand experience about the complications and frustrations of signing up for health care via the government website and remains committed to helping his constituents deal with the issues, which include deductibles that can be so high that they “leave people basically uninsured.”
“People are much more vulnerable than they thought they would be,” he said.
Among the hotly contested issues surrounding the Affordable Care Act is the so-called employer mandate that requires businesses of a certain size to provide coverage for workers. The Obama administration has twice put off penalties attached to this section, citing enforcement difficulties.
House Republicans have threatened to sue the president, saying that he has broken the law by failing to enforce the requirement, which they oppose.
“I don’t think they’ll ever be able to institute the employer mandate,” Burgess said.
Burgess said he does not favor proposed federal legislation that would require colleges and universities to conduct anonymous interviews of students about their experience with sexual violence on campus and publish the results online. Texas Woman’s University, the University of North Texas and other colleges are responsible for taking care of students and don’t need additional federal regulation, he said.
In an era when studies show that many elected officials — especially those who hold national offices — are slipping in the opinion polls because of their disregard for constituents’ needs and opinions, it’s good to see that Congressman Burgess is still focused on the people of Denton County.
That’s the way it should be.