By Mike Eads
Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-SC) visited The Journal offices Monday and held court on a wide range of issues, including energy exploration, taxes and healthcare reform.
Duncan promoted his Expand Act, which aims to increase offshore drilling for oil and natural gas, increase permitting for nuclear plants, continue renewable energy production and end subsidies for ethanol production.
Opening up the continental shelf, including the Gulf of Mexico and Arctic Sea, is a big part of the proposal. Duncan said the country has enough oil and refinery capacity to make Americans energy independent.
"We're only harvesting 2 percent of the available (oil) reserves. We have over 20 percent of the world's global supply here in this country. A lot of it is off the table; it's either under the continental shelf that's prohibited for exploration or production and the rest on federal lands," Duncan says.
Tapping into these resources would create stability in energy markets that would benefit American businesses, according to the first-term House member.
Duncan said business owners are asking themselves, "What are my utility rates going to be if I'm going to expand my physical plant? What is it going to cost me to run that plant or heat and cool that building?"
Not surprisingly for a conservative Republican, Duncan says the federal government needs to back off its regulatory role.
"Biggest thing we can do from the federal level to promote jobs in the economy is get the federal government the heck out of the way," he said. "We see thousands of pages of new regulations implemented, whether it's Obamacare or the (Environmental Protection Agency) if you were small business or large business owner who was looking to create a new business or expand your business and create jobs, you're thinking "What are those jobs going to cost me?'" with regard to heath insurance, payroll taxes and the like.
The congressman emphasized his support for closing federal tax loopholes and instituting a flat tax for people and businesses alike.
"I believe in keeping it simple," Duncan said.
Duncan has voted twice to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the actual name of what he and his Republican colleagues call "Obamacare," and he would not mind seeing the states back off health insurance providers, too.
"I will continue to vote to repeal it and replace with free market solutions, and thus allow insurance companies to offer plans in South Carolina that you could have bought in Florida that maybe aren't offered in South Carolina because of the insurance commission," Duncan said.
Duncan said he thinks leaving insurance companies alone would allow market-based solutions to health care availability to surface.
"That would allow us to drop those artificial state barriers and allow those companies to really, truly practice interstate commerce more choice mean more opportunities and means lower price for the consumers."
One of the reforms Duncan supports is having hospitals divert patients away from emergency room care into clinics set up to deal with less serious health risks, such as colds.
Duncan added that Medicaid should be kept in place for families that can't find affordable private insurance.