RINGGOLD, Ga. - U.S. Rep. Tom Graves spent most of Monday railing against federal spending, but he tried to encourage private outlays.
Graves pledged at a town hall-type meeting in Fort Oglethorpe and a Catoosa County Republican Party meeting to continue fighting federal spending, but he also promoted businesses in Ringgold, which still is recovering from the April 27 tornado.
"Ringgold is open for business," he said Monday.
Much of the discussion Monday was about the recent debate on the federal debt limit. Graves was an outspoken opponent of raising the limit and a supporter of a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget.
"Compromise is what got us in this mess, and it will not get us out," he said.
Monday evening Catoosa County Republicans thanked Graves for having the "courage" to vote against the debt deal. Graves said there was significant pressure on him and other opponents to go along with House Speaker John Boehner's plan, mentioning committee assignments and redistricting.
Graves compared voting against the party leadership to a space shuttle re-entering the atmosphere. He said hours before the debt vote, 36 house members said they would vote "no" but things got too hot for 14 lawmakers who changed their minds.
"All that stuff is being hammered on you," he said. "There were 22 of us that held together."
The crowd applauded some of Graves' statements on eliminating federal agencies, placing time limits on bureaucrats and repealing President Barack Obama's federal health care overhaul.
But while most of the crowd was supportive, a few at the town hall questioned Graves.
Rising Fawn, Ga., resident Ginnie Sams challenged the congressman on his statements that shrinking the federal government and its expenditures would create private sector jobs. Sams said that many companies rely on federal contracts and losing those deals would lead companies like Lockhead to lay off employees.
"[Cutting] affects the spending, but it also affects the businesses," Sams argued.
Graves replied that any money the government spends has to come from somewhere.
"Where they're taking it from is the job creators in the private sector," he said.
He drew applause when he reiterated his stance as a "free market capitalist."
Sams said General Motors became extremely profitable after its bailout but left the microphone to a murmur of boos and nos.
Graves toured downtown Ringgold, stopping at Cochran's Furniture and Price Pharmacy.
He spoke with Cindie Robinson, who runs Uniktings jewelry and gift shop on Nashville Street.
"How's business?" Graves asked, standing next to a display of bees wax lotions.
"Honestly?" Robinson asked hesitantly. "Terrible. I still get calls - people wanting to know if downtown Ringgold is open."
In a speech from the House floor last month that aired on C-SPAN, Graves encouraged lawmakers and others traveling Interstate 75 to visit the Catoosa County town to help the recovery.
Graves has a meeting scheduled today at 6 p.m. at the Dalton Depot and another at 6 p.m. on Aug. 16 at the Murray County Senior Center.
Contact Andy Johns at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6324.