Congressman Paul Gosar delivered a sharp attack on the federal government and Democrats before a special joint meeting of the Payson and Star Valley town councils on Thursday, but mostly found himself “preaching to the choir.”
On the one hand, the freshman congressman who represents the Rim Country said “you have to acknowledge you have a problem before you can solve the problem” and said elected officials must take “personal responsibility” to forge a solution.
He said House Republicans have “done their job” and blamed the difficulties that have arisen as a result of chronic unemployment, the debt ceiling debate and the budget deficit on Senate Democrats and on President Barack Obama.
“All of us have to realize we’re part of the problem,” said Gosar, although throughout the rest of the hour-long session he criticized only Democrats.
Gosar delivered essentially the same speech an hour later during a two-hour town hall session hosted by the Payson Tea Party. Some 200 people crowded into Tiny’s Restaurant for that session.
During the joint council session, Gosar barely touched on local issues, although delays caused by the Forest Service have caused big problems for the Blue Ridge pipeline, the plan to build a four-year college in Payson and efforts to protect Rim Country communities from wildfires.
The council members asked only a handful of questions. If anything, the comments from the council members made it sound like the workaholic Tea Party-supported Flagstaff dentist, who lives in his office and said he gets four hours of sleep a night, hasn’t been conservative enough.
Star Valley Mayor Bill Rappaport complained that the Tonto National Forest has lagged nearly a year behind its contracted schedule to approve an environmental assessment.
“The Forest Service is dragging its feet on the pipeline,” said Rappaport. “Isn’t there anything the government can do? There’s a tremendous amount of local money tied up here and if this isn’t resolved, it’s all going to go away.”
Star Valley councilor George Binney said congressmen simply weren’t accountable.
But Gosar protested that voters do hold him accountable. “I’m being burned on every side for a vote on the debt ceiling that they haven’t understood until now.”
Gosar voted for a balanced budget bill that would have required deep cuts in government programs to permanently reduce the share of the national economy the government spends. He also supported a plan to convert Medicare into a private insurance voucher for people younger than 55. He ultimately supported a plan to raise the debt ceiling in return for a $2.7 trillion reduction in spending over 10 years, with most of the specific cuts undefined and put off into future years.
But Binney retorted that “As individuals, (congressmen) are great people. As a group, you suck.”
“I agree,” said Gosar. “You should direct that at the Senate.”
Rappaport said he couldn’t understand the bitter, deadlock standoff between Democrats and Republicans, with the economy in such dire straits. He noted that Payson and Star Valley had once been bitterly divided by disagreements about water, but had finally worked out a real partnership.