Chattanooga Times Free Press: Corker tours region to survey drought damage

Jul 17, 2007

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said during a town hall meeting here Monday that he wants to improve the working relationship between Congress and the president.

"It's like we're talking at each other instead of with each other," Sen. Corker said during the meeting in the Bledsoe County Courthouse.

The assembly came during a tour of five counties designed in part to assess the damage to farmers from April's freeze and the ongoing drought. The swing, which included Sequatchie, Warren, Van Buren, Bledsoe and Rhea counties, gave Sen. Corker an opportunity to reconnect with area constituents and listen to their concerns.

"In the Senate, if you're not disciplined about making sure that you stay in touch, you can lose sight of the very thing that caused you to want to be in the Senate in the first place," he said. "These kind of meetings really keep you grounded, keep you in touch with the people you represent."

Sen. Corker opened the Bledsoe County meeting by personally greeting the more than 25 residents in attendance. He then prefaced a question-and-answer period with a 10-minute address, highlighting the early trials and successes of his congressional term.

In addressing issues including the war in Iraq, immigration, energy and health care, he stressed his desire to go beyond the political landscape of the moment and seek long-lasting solutions.

"I am really trying ... to do the right long-term thing," he said.

While attendees spoke to many themes -- health care, foreign relations and the rights of detainees in the war on terror, among them -- the relationship between Congress and the presidency frequently rose to the fore of the discussion.

Derek Brown, who served in the Army in the early 1980s and whose daughter is in the U.S. Air Force Academy, questioned President Bush's use of signing statements when approving legislation.

"(President Bush) is legislating," he said. "You, as the Senate, need to fight back."

Later, Don Snow, who served with the Marine Corps between 1967 and 1970, defended President Bush's sole authority over the management of the war.

"I don't think that Congress ... has the right or the authority to tell the president or the armed forces how to run the war," he said.

Earlier Monday, Sen. Corker visited the Otis L. Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tenn., and Glenn Blevins' farm in Whitwell, Tenn., in an effort to see the damage caused by April's hard freeze and the year-long drought.

"It's encouraging, the fact (that) he was concerned enough to come," Mr. Blevins told The Associated Press after Sen. Corker toured the family-run farm, which has lost hundreds of acres of corn to drought since the freeze destroyed much of his wheat.

The visit came four days after Sen. Corker, along with other members of the Tennessee congressional delegation, sent a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns urging him to approve Gov. Phil Bredesen's request for an agricultural disaster declaration.

The move would allow eligible farmers to apply for low-interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency.


A look at Sen. Bob Corker's Monday schedule (all times CDT unless otherwise noted):


* 8:30 a.m. -- Tour of Blevins Farm in Whitwell, Tenn.

* 11:15 a.m. -- Tour of Otis L. Floyd Nursery Research in McMinnville, Tenn.

* 12:30 p.m. -- Lunchtime meet and greet at Old Times Cafe in Spencer, Tenn.

* 2:30 p.m. -- Town hall meeting in Bledsoe County Courthouse in Pikeville, Tenn.

* 5:30 p.m. EDT -- Town hall meeting in Centennial Park in Dayton, Tenn.


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