Don Young shakes hands with members of the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce during a luncheon at the Kenai Visitors Center in Kenai, Alaska on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Don Young shakes hands with members of the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce during a luncheon at the Kenai Visitors Center in Kenai, Alaska on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Rep. Don Young gives update on DC

Young took questions on national issues including immigration, impeachment and the Mueller Report.

Alaska’s longest-serving congressman, U.S. Rep. Don Young, visited the Kenai Peninsula on Tuesday to give members of the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce an update on what’s happening in Washington, D.C.

Young spoke about changes in Congress as well as issues he has been fighting for that directly affect Alaskans. Young also took questions from the audience about national issues including immigration, impeachment and the Mueller Report.

Young began his speech by commenting on the freshman members of Congress and the changing makeup of the Legislature.

“I have served with 2,215 members of Congress that are no longer there … And this is the strangest group I’ve ever seen elected,” Young said. “I have to remind you, and myself, that the people elected them. I respect that. I just really don’t know where they’re coming from and it concerns me as far as this nation goes.”

Young went on to say that he was worried in particular about what he sees as an infusion of socialist ideas into the governing body.

“There are people talking about free education, free medical care … that is not progress, that is regression.”

He said he sees divisions in the Democratic Party between the moderate democrats and those who identify as further on left, sometimes calling themselves “democratic socialists” or “social democrats.”

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was receiving criticism from some in her party, Young said he called her up to offer his support and say that he would vote for her for Speaker if necessary.

“There was dead silence on the other line and I said, ‘Before you get too excited, Nancy, I’d rather deal with the devil I know than the devil I don’t know,” he said.

On his assessment of President Donald Trump’s performance and the criticisms that the president receives from his opponents, Young said that while Trump was not his preferred presidential candidate, he believes the president has done a good job while in office. In particular, he cited the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling and the rollback of regulations as successes. Young also said that he believes Trump has been unfairly attacked by his opponents.

“He could be Jesus Christ and they’d blame him for cutting down a tree for the cross,” Young said.

He warned, however, about the dangers of division and partisanship and how he felt it could lead to consolidated power in the executive branch — which he said would be bad regardless of the administration.

On energy production, Young said that while development of renewable energy like solar, wind and hydroelectricity is important, he also argued that oil is an essential component of the energy infrastructure. Young said that “energy is the key to a free society,” but emphasized that the energy has to be affordable.

Young briefly mentioned a book he is writing, “86 Years of Lost Freedom,” in which he compares the state of America in his father’s time to the country’s current state.

“I doubt any of you will read it, but I’m writing it anyway,” Young said.

On the topic of his retirement, Young said that he plans to run again.

“Some people say, ‘It’s time for you to retire,’ and I understand that. But I also say if I can do the job and want to do the job and I’m good at it, then I should be re-elected. Mainly because I want to keep us free.”

Young then took questions from the audience.

The first question involved the plans to construct a road to King Cove that would connect it to the nearby Cold Bay Airport. A recent federal court decision ruled against the U.S. Department of the Interior’s attempts to exchange the federal land on which the road would be built with the King Cove Native Corporation. Young said that he expects a go-ahead to build the road within the next couple of months, and was upset at efforts to block its construction.

“They’d rather save the Brant Goose than the human beings,” he said.

One audience member asked about Young’s stance on immigration, and whether or not he supports a wall along the U.S. southern border.

“I never did envision a wall, but we’ve got to do something,” Young said, before suggesting tightening the eligibility requirements for asylum seekers and an increasing the focus on apprehending those who have crossed the border illegally.

Young also commented on the Alaska Chamber of Commerce’s efforts to create an Associated Health Plan for its members. Those efforts were halted by a recent federal court decision that ruled that associated health plans did not meet the coverage requirements laid out by the Affordable Care Act. Young said that he supports the efforts to appeal this decision and added that he and his colleagues are working on a legislative solution to this issue.

When it comes to addressing the overall state of health care in the U.S., Young asserted that while other industrial nations have universal health care, their quality of care is lower than that of the U.S. and said that thousands from Canada and the UK come to the U.S. each year for treatment.

A 2015 study by the Fraser institute estimated that more than 52,000 Canadians received non-emergency medical treatment outside Canada. A 2017 study from the Commonwealth Fund, however, found that the U.S. health care system has the widest gap in quality of care between people with higher and lower incomes, ranking last among 11 nations included in the study.

Young also commented on the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which he introduced alongside Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii. The bill seeks to remove marijuana from the federal controlled substances list. Young said that now that a number of states, including Alaska, have legalized marijuana, the threat of legal action on the federal level should not infringe on the business practices of marijuana cultivators, retailers and manufacturers in those states. Young is optimistic the bill will pass the House and said that he was confident he could garner support for the bill from his republican colleagues.

On the time frame for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Young said that the lease sale is currently being expedited and added that he believes it will likely take place before the next presidential election.

He also shared his thoughts on the possibility of impeaching Trump over information revealed in the Mueller Report. He said he believes that the report reveals no impeachable actions or crimes on the part of the president and called the threats of impeachment by some members of the Democratic Party “a political vendetta.”

Finally, Young was asked whether he would consider stepping down and letting someone younger take his place. He said that he has never quit anything in his life and is not about to start now. He added that anyone looking to take his place should be ready to commit to “at least 25 years” in office, arguing that with only one representative for Alaska in the House, the strength of the office comes from longevity.

Young ended Tuesday’s presentation by admitting it would not be the end of the world if someone replaced him.

“If I get voted out of office, I’ll be mad for about 35 minutes. And then I’m gonna buy an airplane.”

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