U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) held a one-hour question and answer session with government and macroeconomics students from Turlock High School yesterday , offering students a rare glimpse inside the life of a congressman.
Initially, Denham explained his time-consuming schedule to students, leaving Turlock for Washington D.C. each Monday morning at 4:30 a.m. and not returning until late Friday night. In between he is engaged in nearly constant daily meetings, floor votes and committee meetings. Denham serves on the Veteran’s Committee, the Ag Committee and the Transportation Committee.
“It is a very aggressive schedule, I’m often on the floor or in meetings until 8 or 9 p.m.,” said Denham.
One week a month, Denham stays in his district to handle business meetings and constituent issues locally.
Denham’s District Director Bob Rucker noted that, for THS students, it was a great opportunity to have an entire hour of Denham’s time. Rucker explained that in Washington D.C. Denham will hold scheduled two- or three-minute meetings while he is simply walking through the hallways of the capitol.
After explaining his schedule, Denham opened up the floor to questions from students.
“I love the opportunity to come to high schools and hear from soon-to-be voters,” he said.
Throughout the duration of the Q-and-A, Denham fielded questions about immigration reform. Denham explained that he supports strong borders, open arms, safer communities and a pathway to citizenship. He also noted that the immigration reform bill he supports would be an economic boost, accounting for $1 trillion in new revenues over the next 20 years.
Denham said he is eager to pass the House Democrat-sponsored immigration reform bill, though he has received criticism for supporting the bill as he is a Republican. Denham told the students he believes that the bill will pass in the next six weeks.
“We are a country of immigrants. This is not about Republican versus Democrat, it is what is best for our country,” said Denham. “I think this will be the biggest thing Congress has ever done for your generation.”
He also took questions on gun control, a hot topic in the national media for several years now.
“I believe in the constitution. A lot of the changes we need have more to do with mental health,” Denham said. “The Navy Yard shooter had known mental health problems and nothing was done. The government failed to act. We need to focus on mental health.”
Of particular importance was students' concern for employment after college.
“We need to expand the economy and create jobs. You should have recruiters coming to you when you graduate college. We need to bring back companies that have left the United States,” he said.
Denham also heard questions about his opinions on the national debt, energy independence, the future of the Republican party, dwindling natural resources, the use of genetically enhanced crops to feed a growing world population, the Syria conflict, Iran and high-speed rail.
Denham noted that the national debt is now $17 trillion dollars and that every man, woman and child in the nation would owe $60,000 to pay it off.
“18-to-25 year-olds are really concerned about this. They will be the first generation to inherit this kind of debt,” he said.
Denham noted that the U.S. dollar is the basis of the world economy. Right now China holds the largest percentage of the U.S. national debt and if the U.S. keeps building more debt to China, the Chinese Yuan will likely become the basis currency, he said.
Denham also expressed his belief in keeping natural resources in the United States when asked about energy independence and using oil exports to reduce national debt.
Following the Q-and-A, Denham commented on how impressed he was with the questions he fielded.
“They had a lot of really good questions. I think it is great they are so engaged,” he said.
As is usually the case for Denham, he immediately left the theater to head over to another event – this time at the Turlock Unified School District office. There, he awarded Welding Teacher and Chair of the THS Ag Department Chad Russell with a congressional proclamation in front of district officials, family and friends.