By Michelle Price
Special to the UCBJ
COOKEVILLE – Local businessman and attorney John Rose was reelected Tuesday to his second term as the Congressman representing the Sixth District of Tennessee. Rose is the first Cookeville resident to represent the region on a national level.
With questions surrounding the presidential election still swirling, UCBJ sat down with Rose to discuss where he saw Congress going in the next session, his personal goals for the two-year term ahead, and even his thoughts as an attorney on the election and the state of our federal government.
What is the state of the House of Representatives following the election?
Quite opposite to what the national media and Democrats were claiming, this was not a wave election. We are going to see the Republicans pick up between five and 12 seats in the House. We’re waiting for the outcome of those elections, as well. Many of them in California because they are still letting ballots come in the door.
The Democrats will maintain control of the House, so what will change?
The Democrats will have a very thin majority in the House of Representatives, perhaps only 5-10 seat majority, so that means every vote will count on either side.
It also probably means a leadership struggle in the Democratic side. Most of the moderate Democrats were defeated, so (Nancy) Pelosi will face a further left influence in the House and may have trouble retaining the Speaker position, but
Kevin McCarthy will be reelected as the minority leader.
On the legislative front, we’ll still be in the minority in the likelihood, and the majority controls the House, so that means that I can’t force a vote on anything. I can’t, or the Republican party as a whole can’t, schedule a vote. We can’t decide which issues come forward unless we persuade the Democrats to let it happen.
So, that will limit legislatively what I’m able to do but I will search for partners on the other side and commonsense approaches to what we can get done, both for the national landscape and for us here in Tennessee.
What impact do you think the next Congressional session will have on business?
Decisions that Congress makes that could be led by the agenda that the former Vice-President (Joe Biden) has laid out could be disastrous.
We have to keep in mind that as we came into the pandemic at the first of the year, we had the best economy, frankly, I believe in the history of the country, but certainly the best economy in 50 years in this country, the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years – in my lifetime, the lowest unemployment rate for women, minorities and youth in recorded history, and we see how a state that’s well run like Tennessee has bounced back. We’re not completely back, but, frankly, we’ve come a long ways back. We’re well ahead of the national pace. I believe that the economy could robustly recover.
What are your personal goals for your two-year term?
My goal is to make sure that in the way that I vote and in the way that I advance issues that I am reflecting the values of the voters of the Sixth District of Tennessee. I am going to continue to do that every day.
I’ll continue to visit with the folks of Sixth District on a regular basis and keep in touch with them, so I know what is on their minds, and what they’d like to see me do.
Obviously, a big part of my job is to vote, and I pledge to the folks here that I’ll continue to vote the conservative values that they sent me to Washington to reflect.
I’ll be fighting to maintain the least regulatory burden on the American people and on American business, and just try to make sure that Tennessee values are reflected in federal policy and try to bring to the whole country the kind of prosperity we’ve been experiencing here in the Upper Cumberland.
A big part of my job is to help the people of the Sixth District as they interface with government, with the regulatory and administrative arm of the government. We have a great team in place led by Van Hilleary as our chief of staff; and of course, right here in Putnam County, we have Rebecca Foster, who is our district director; and Bonnie Warren, who most people know. So, if you are having an issue with the government, we try to help you navigate that.
What are your legislative goals for your two-year term?
I’m very interested in infrastructure and hope that the Democrats will relent and now let an infrastructure program of some sort go forward.
We badly need to invest in our infrastructure nationally, and, by that, I mean not just surface transportation, but certainly our highways, roads and bridges need lots of work here in Tennessee. That’s very true in the Sixth District where we have growing industry and business and growing population. We are well behind, and we need to make sure we catch up. Anybody that has driven down the interstate and been trapped in heavy traffic understands that. We have a lot of work to do in that arena.
The pandemic has highlighted, in very crystal terms, that we need to make sure that we have Broadband access – cutting-edge, high-speed access available to the population at large. We need to do some work there.
Of course, we have other infrastructure…our water, sewer and cellular service; things that are important to business and industry succeeding.
I think there are opportunities for bipartisan efforts there. They wouldn’t be exactly what we’d do in Tennessee but maybe we can find middle ground and get those things done.
Those are great goals, but what are your priorities?
A few issues that I consider to be high priorities:
1. Fitzgerald Glider Kits – We have continued to work every day to try to resolve the issue with Fitzgerald in Pickett County. It’s a shameful situation that the Obama-Biden Administration put into place a regulation that really picked winners and losers. In this case, it picked Fitzgerald as a loser in favor of the new truck industry that is not as prevalent in our district and put that business in a very bad situation.
It cost that business (Fitzgerald) hundreds of jobs here in the district, and I’ve been working and will continue to work to resolve that. It’s a real case example of how the regulatory burden of the government can kill the economy. And frankly, Biden himself touted that they would put in place a lot of the regulations that President Trump has been able to roll back. So, that will be an uphill fight. It has been, even with the Republican Administration because of the deep state actors that are still at the Environmental Protection Agency and are standing in the way of the correct resolution for that issue.
2. Independent Pharmacies – A priority issue that has affected some of our small businesspeople right here in the Upper Cumberland, but also affects us all as consumers, is a problem in the health care industry as it relates to our independent pharmacies and pharmacists here in the Sixth District.
The big pharmaceutical companies and the big Medicare advantage insurance companies have conspired to put our independent pharmacies in a difficult spot, so I’ve been working to try to answer that issue – on a bipartisan basis I might add. So, I’m hopeful that may be an issue we can move forward in the next Congress. Many of our independent pharmacists have been going out of business or selling out to the big chain pharmacies that have taken advantage of the federal rules and bureaucracy to gain an unfair competitive advantage over independent pharmacies in the district.
3. Rural Highways – I’m going to be working hard to get infrastructure programs in place to solve some of our problems in Tennessee, the Upper Cumberland in specific.
I’ll mention this as an example – we need a four-lane highway to Jamestown, in Fentress County, for a whole variety of reasons. It’s good for the economy. It’s good for the people of that region to open that region up and get them good transportation in and out of the region, so that they can get goods and services in, and so that they can get to jobs that they may have outside of the area.
We need that to every county in the district, and I would argue in the state. We need a good divided four-lane highway to serve all of our rural areas to facilitate good rural transportation across the district. So, I’m going to work hard for that project specifically and on similar situations across the district to try to make sure we have that transportation infrastructure. Part of that is a state issue, but there is a federal role as well, and I’m going to try hard to make sure we do that.
What pressing issues do you see for the next session in Congress?
Election process and Big Tech/Big Media.
Are the election issues a result of this year’s election?
Certainly because of the way this election has unfolded, I think there’s going to be serious questions about the election process in our country and the democratic principles. Those are going to be on the top of everyone’s minds.
The House in the last Congress tried twice to nationalize the elections and change policies to ones like the ones dragging out this election.
Tennessee didn’t experience any issues these other states are experiencing?
It’s a real testament to our county election officials in Tennessee and our secretary of state and the state election officials, that we have a system that gives us a trusted verifiable outcome early on election night. If we can do it in Tennessee, there’s no reason that it can’t be done in every state in the union.
What about national media and big Tech’s influence on the election?
Because of the misbehavior of the national media and Big Tech, you are going to see a lot of attention paid to the media organizations.
Never before in the history of this nation have we had a president elected who has been less vetted than Joe Biden. There are legitimate, serious questions about the mental acuity of the man that may be the next President of the United States, and the press owe us an obligation to find that out.
(Rose pointed out that he didn’t mean to sound unkind in questioning this, because he had two parents that passed away from dementia and Alzheimer’s.)
Our Constitution affords extraordinary protections to the press, and I’m not advocating that we take those protections away, but with those protections come extraordinary responsibilities. And we’ve seen the national media – I regret to say – we’ve seen them abdicate those responsibilities.
He (Biden) mostly didn’t make himself available and when he did, the media did not force him to answer the tough questions. So, we have both a president and vice president who have not been vetted by the national media, and that’s a very big problem.
It means we may need some systemic changes in how we regulate and oversee and follow what the media is doing. Probably that means that the big media conglomerates need to be broken up. I think the same is true for Big Tech.
I say this as a Republican who generally favors letting the marketplace guide these things – I believe strongly in that – but Facebook, Twitter and Google, and to a lesser extent, but significantly as well, Apple and Microsoft have overstepped their bounds.
Especially the information aggregators Facebook, Twitter and Google have put their fingers on the scale.
The very idea that you would sensor news stories because you don’t think they are credible – that’s something we let the free press decide. Additionally, the free press has colluded with Big Tech to suppress news stories.
Perhaps for the first time in modern history, we have an election that I think may have been absolutely determined by censorship and by Big Tech companies that are behaving in the way that Big Brother in the famous novel 1984 by George Orwell behaved, controlling and manipulating the information that the American public has available to make decisions, and that’s a real corrosive condition on the democratic process.
As an attorney, what are your insights on this election?
In the zeal that some have had on the other side to win this election, no matter what, they have created a situation that undercuts the process and undercuts the legitimacy and the governing authority of those who are going to be elected by this process.
At this point no matter who wins, whether it was the president being reelected or Joe Biden being elected, the other side is not going to accept the validity of that outcome. One of the things that our elections is supposed to achieve is not just to determine a winner, but to determine a winner in such a way that the losers and their supporters, no matter how sadly or regretfully, accept the outcome and that’s not where we are.
Any final words for our readers?
Everyone should understand that the Founding Fathers distrusted government, and we perhaps see on display here in recent days why they distrusted government. So, they made it very difficult for the Federal government to get things done by creating an intricate system of the balance of power between the three branches of government and then the two houses of Congress.
It’s not easy. I don’t say that as an excuse, but everyone should understand. They made it difficult. They wanted it to be difficult. They wanted the process of government to be fairly slow and deliberate. They got what they bargained for, and I experience that everyday first-hand. But I promise to work hard and be diligent and keep up the fight to move the ball forward every day.
This next two years is going to be challenging. The next four years may be challenging. We’ve been through tougher challenges as a country, and so those folks out there who are disheartened, I understand their frustrations, and I understand their fears about where the country is and where it’s headed, but no one promised us – certainly not our Founding Fathers – promised us this would be easy. Democratic institutions are hard to maintain, and we have to fight for that. This is a time to stand up and fight.
It’s a state and local issue in my opinion, but we need to make sure our schools are teaching our young people about civics, so that they understand the concept of democracy and the concepts that undergird our republic and the federalist system that we have; why our Founding Fathers chose the system of government; and why it’s worth fighting for.
While we may be disappointed and even have times when those institutions fail us, on the whole, they have served us well for the last 231 years, the Constitution has. I think it’s worth fighting to maintain, so we just have to roll up our shirt sleeves and recommit ourselves to ensuring that this great experiment in democracy continues.
U.S. Rep. John Rose represents Tennessee’s Sixth Congressional District and resides in Cookeville with his wife, Chelsea, and their son, Guy. The Sixth District includes Cannon, Clay, Coffee, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Robertson, Smith, Sumner, Trousdale, White and Wilson counties as well as portions of Cheatham and Van Buren counties.