With Washington, D.C., often feeling a world away from Eastern Kentucky, it’s easy for local residents to assume their voices aren’t being heard in the nation’s capitol.
But, according to U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Vanceburg, that’s not the case.
On Friday, Massie had two listening sessions in Greenup while taking a routine trip through his district.
During the first session at Maynard’s Hardware, Soc Clay thanked the congressman for taking time to interact with constituents, saying they frequently talk about issues among themselves, but don’t get the chance to share their insight with elected representatives.
Following Clay’s comment, Massie took the opportunity to urge members of the small crowd to “take the time to pick up the phone and call me.”
“We keep track of how many phone calls we get each day and consider that when we go up to vote,” he said.
In fact, he said, constituent phone calls can be influential enough to completely deter a vote.
At his next stop at Gerber’s Restaurant, he explained he typically gets only three to 20 constituent calls per day, but when Syrian involvement was being considered, he received up to 100 phone calls a day.
“When some representatives are on the fence about voting, I seriously have some who lean over and go, ‘How many phone calls did you get about this?’ They wonder what people in my district think about it. That’s how voting goes in Washington,” he said.
At Maynard’s, Clay brought up the issue of acquiring funds to help update the aging Greenup Locks and Dam. The facility is facing problems with functionality, especially with its miter gates.
Much of Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District is situated along the Ohio River, which is why Massie said he chose to sit on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“I have a very diverse district, but the river kind of ties us all together,” he said.
The Greenup Locks and Dam needs more funding, but Massie said he can only do so much with his Congressional power.
“I have the Markland Dam, the Meldahl Dam and the Greenup Dam. I can’t just ask for funding for Greenup and not the others,” he said.
But, he said he had been actively working on legislation to help guide funds in the right direction.
Massie recently spearheaded the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which passed with large bipartisan support and offered funding for locks and dams and river dredging.
He explained Congress cannot dictate how the Army Corps of Engineers spends money given to it by the government, but he said he can emphasize where the funding is needed. He also said he was confident the Greenup Locks and Dam will see increased funding in the near future.
“I actually anticipated that question coming up when I planned my visit here and met with the Army Corps of Engineers,” he said, explaining that he is already focusing attention on the Greenup issue.
From the looming Feb. 7 debt ceiling deadline to unemployment benefits, Massie and community members tried to cover as much ground as possible during the short hour allotted, but the representative was surprised the Affordable Care Act was not at the forefront of discussion.
Representatives recently had two meetings to address security concerns involving the ACA website, Massie said. He said there had not yet been breach compromising sensitive information, but security still needed to be strengthened.
“It’s a hacker’s dream right now,” he said.
Also, he said some signing up for the ACA will be rudely awakened when they find out the doctor they have been routinely visiting may not be covered under the new insurance policy.
“Especially when you have a personal issue that you don’t want getting out or when you’ve built up trust over the years with a certain doctor, it will be bad when they find out they can’t see their doctor anymore,” he said.
LANA BELLAMY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2653.