By Dave Gossett
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, said Thursday the domestic steel industry is under attack by the Obama administration.
The first term congressman spoke Thursday afternoon at Eastern Gateway Community College during a discussion on health care arranged by Charity Hospice.
In response to questions from retired steelworker Joseph "Slugs" Smarrella, Johnson blamed "policies coming out of Washington for putting a stranglehold on businesses."
"The business community doesn't know what is coming next. There is an attack on the steel industry like the attack on the coal industry. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency doesn't want manganese ferro alloy to be made in this country. That material is essential to making steel. So if we can't have it here in America we will have to get it from other countries and some of them don't like us," Johnson told a small audience in a college lecture hall.
"The administration is attacking this industry like their attack on the coal industry. It will be a shame to not start that steel mill in Mingo Junction back up. We need steel in America. We need steel manufacturing. When I found out RG Steel had declared bankruptcy I called the judge in Maryland and asked him to allow time so the local business community could shop the mill around for a buyer who might want to start the facility back up," related Johnson.
"But the bankruptcy judge said his role was to make sure the law was followed, protect the creditors and to do what the company owners wanted to do to get out of this mess. I also contacted JobsOhio and discussed this issue and they had people in New York working with potential bidders for the mill," noted Johnson.
"I still believe a steel industry will come back in this country. It may not come back in the same way it once was. But when you see what is happening with Marcellus shale, we need steel. We have the heart of America right here along the Ohio River. I can and will act to make sure people know this is where they want to do business," stated Johnson.
"I know it is going to happen here in Jefferson County. Chesapeake Energy is building a billion dollar facility in Columbiana County. MarkWest is building a half billion dollar facility in Harrison County. We are sitting on the world's largest deposit of natural gas," Johnson said.
He also accused the Obama Administration of ignoring forecasts that say Medicare will be bankrupt by 2024.
"From the time you wake up in the morning to the time you go to bed 10,000 people will sign up for Medicare. That is 10,000 people every day. Americans are living 20 years longer these days than they were when Medicare was created. But the formula was never designed to handle this many people for this long period of time. And the federal health care law cut $700 billion out of Medicare. We have a system that is collapsing," he said.
"The plan I support is designed to make sure seniors 55 years or older do not see a decrease in their Medicare benefits. And those people who are 54 years or younger will have the same choice of health care coverage as a member of Congress. It will not be one size fits all. The poor and the high risk will get more support while the wealthy will get less support. But if we do nothing, Medicare will not survive past 2024," stated Johnson.
Steve Seminara of Charity Hospice told Johnson his business is a faith-based organization.
"What concerns us is the health care law and what is in the works for faith-based organizations. What if our employer says they don't believe in the government's insurance. If we face penalties because of our faith it isn't fair," said Seminara.
Johnson noted the presence of a videographer in the audience from the Charlie Wilson for Congress campaign.
"He follows us to all our events and tapes everything we say," said Johnson.
Johnson also toured the Jefferson County Fourth Street Health Clinic in Steubenville earlier in the day.