GREENFIELD — Three weeks of being a U.S. Congressman has Luke Messer fired up about federal spending, national security, gun control and more.
The Shelbyville Republican elected in November to serve Indiana’s 6th District, which includes Hancock County, stopped at Greenfield’s Jim Dandy restaurant Thursday afternoon. Called “Coffee with the Congressman,” the event attracted a crowd of about 30 to hear Messer speak about what he’s been facing so far and plans for the near future.
But even with his conservative ideals, Messer acknowledges that with a Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate and presidential administration he will have an uphill battle to make the kind of cuts he’d like to see in federal spending.
Messer said spending is one of the main concerns he hears from constituents, and it will be a major topic of discussion on Capitol Hill in the coming weeks.
“There are no sacred cows. We all have to share in this effort to turn our country around,” Messer said.
When pressed by one member of the crowd to specifically name departments or areas for reductions, Messer said he’d support across-the-board cuts and admitted the conversations will be hard.
He likened the situation to family finances, and said spouses don’t always agree when hard decisions have to be made on spending.
“You may not agree with every single decision I make… but we can all agree we want this country strong,” he said.
The afternoon visit was the sixth event Messer attended Thursday, and he’ll hold four more similar events across the district today.
He said afterward that he’s enjoying the work, and even though he worked in Washington before he never realized the busy schedule a congressman has.
“Sometimes it feels like life is a freight train, (running) in 15-minute intervals,” he said.
Messer is on the review board that heard Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speak emotionally Wednesday on U.S. security and the deadly Sept. 11 raid in Benghazi, Libya. A U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in the attack, and Clinton said Wednesday the state department is moving swiftly and aggressively to strengthen security.
“I think she gives a good speech and puts on a good show, but quite frankly, I think her answers were unsatisfactory,” Messer said.
Messer still questions why it took weeks for the administration to realize it was a terrorist attack, and likened the situation to “a Jedi mind trick.” He said the Democratic administration shifted explanations of the assault at the time.
Messer also answered questions ranging from environmental policy to immigration to the 2008 federal stimulus package.
Gun control, he said, is an issue Hoosiers are concerned about. While he acknowledged the school shootings last month in Connecticut as a national tragedy, Messer said tighter rules on who can obtain a gun only limits rights of law-abiding citizens.
“We cannot allow these tragedies to become an excuse to undermine the Second Amendment,” Messer said.
The crowd was a mix of Republican Party officials, tea partiers and other interested citizens. For New Palestine resident Michael Parker, Messer’s concern about protecting Second Amendment rights and a balanced budget was music to his ears.
“I said four years ago we need to quit spending so much money,” Parker said. “The government is way too big and has been for years.”
Hancock County Republican Party Chairwoman Janice Silvey acknowledged that it may be difficult for conservative ideals to prevail, but she hopes the GOP-controlled House can stick together.
“You always have to have hope,” Silvey said.
County Auditor Robin Lowder said she appreciates how Messer is sincere, and is hopeful he can hold his own with his fiscally conservative beliefs.
“I think it’s going to be difficult, but he needs to stand his ground and do the best he can,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.