By Nick Wooten
February 20, 2021
U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-West Point) told the Ledger-Enquirer Friday that he plans to run for re-election to Congress in 2022.
Ferguson, who has served Georgia’s 3rd Congressional District since 2017, revealed his plans during a 20-minute interview that covered his legislative priorities for the new session, the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package touted by President Joe Biden and what lessons the GOP learned in 2020 that they can use in Georgia’s next statewide elections.
“As I traveled the 3rd Congressional District, (residents) want a job that means something to them,” Ferguson said. “They want an opportunity to work and to provide for their families. They want to come home at night to a decent, safe place to live. They want a say in their kid’s education. And at the end of the day, they want to be left alone to be who they want to be in this great country. …It’s important that we continue to focus on what Georgians want right now.”
WHAT IS FERGUSON WORKING ON?
Ferguson’s top legislative priorities in the new Congress include efforts to expand rural broadband and healthcare.
Ferguson introduced the Connect America Now Act last year, a piece of legislation that would provide rural-focused internet service providers with tax incentives that would allow them to buy underinvested networks and expand their capacity. Partners for broadband expansion could include electric membership cooperatives, power companies and local telephone exchanges.
The bill will be pushed out again this session, and Ferguson said he plans to work with Democrats on legislation. It comes after Gov. Brian Kemp announced a partnership that will bring high-speed internet to 80,000 homes and businesses in 18 Middle Georgia counties.
Broadband access, Ferguson said, is not a Republican or Democrat issue. Its importance was highlighted throughout the pandemic.
“If a community or family doesn’t have access to broadband, it’s really hard for them to participate in the 21st-century economy to get education and to get healthcare they need,” he said. “This is a lifeline for them, and it’ll give them an opportunity to thrive in the future.”
Ferguson also said he wants to push for innovation within the Food and Drug Administration by speeding up the drug approval process while mitigating risks, citing Operation Warp Speed’s COVID-19 vaccine work.
The congressman also mentioned the Behavioral Intervention Guidelines Act passed by the U.S. House last year that would address early crisis intervention for mental health issues. The COVID-19 pandemic has made those resources all the more important, he said.
“The mental health crisis among our youth is real, and we better recognize it and direct resources there,” he said.
Ferguson called the budget reconciliation process used to fast-track Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package a “partisan exercise.” Reconciliation allows Senate Democrats to bypass the filibuster and pass legislation with a simple majority.
“I think Americans don’t want a check. I think they want a job,” he said. “We don’t think that’s the right approach to take. We think of a very targeted relief package targeting our most vulnerable … and being reasonable in who those checks go to is a much better approach than sending checks to people who have not lost their jobs during the pandemic.”
Georgia voters handed Republicans three defeats from November to January, selecting Biden as president and flipping the Senate blue with Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
However, Republicans performed better in down-ballot races and continue to control the state legislature.
The biggest takeaway from 2020 is that Republicans in 2022 have to tell voters what policies and programs they support, not just what they’re against. Getting their message out creatively will be key, Ferguson said.
“We’re in a transformative part of the party right now,” he said. “I think we’ve got to recognize that if you don’t address the discrepancies between rural Georgia and metro Atlanta that we’re going to have way too many folks living below their potential and their promise and that’s not right.”