TORONTO - U.S. Rep Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, was the guest speaker during the city chamber's Thursday luncheon meeting at the North River Avenue Christian Church.
Johnson began by briefly discussing his upbringing on a farm in the South and stint in the U.S. Air Force right out of high school.
"I'm a product of a public education," said Johnson, adding he moved from Tampa, Fla., to the area. "I love it here. This is home to me."
VISIT — Bill Lucas, left, vice president of the Toronto Chamber of Commerce, introduced U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, during the chamber’s Thursday luncheon meeting at the North River Avenue Christian Church. -- Mark Miller
Johnson said it takes six and one-half hours to drive his district in Ohio from one end to the other, and that "God was his pilot" in his rise to becoming a congressman.
Johnson said although the Syrian situation is serious and President Barack Obama did the right thing in consulting Congress on the issue, he wasn't convinced America's national security is at risk due to the Assad regime using chemical weapons in the country's civil war.
"The decision isn't easy," he said. "It can't be made without consideration. I'm glad (the president) consulted Congress. Like you, I was shocked and dismayed (by the chemical attacks), but I was disappointed (during the congressional briefing by the Obama administration). A lot of questions weren't answered. If America gets itself involved in every conflict, where will it stop?"
Johnson said he believed the decision to get involved in Syria didn't have the support of the American public, and "I left that briefing with more questions than answers. The president hasn't convinced me to vote for that resolution."
Johnson also discussed energy independence, and said if the nation had the same attitude toward becoming energy independent as it did for landing a man on the moon, the country could become energy independent by 2020. He said the country had enough coal, gas, oil nuclear and other energy sources to become independent.
"We need to look at all of them," he said.
Johnson said while he wasn't anti-regulation, he believed federal regulators had gone too far and were "stepping on the backs and necks" of private enterprise with mandates and regulations. He added the current tax code was too large, too complex and needed reform.
Johnson also said he expects to see unprecedented growth in shale exploitation in the Appalachian areas of Ohio in a very short time, which will lead to more jobs and growth. He said investors already had poured $10 billion into the region to help construct an infrastructure for oil and shale drilling regionally, and "All we have to do is not let Washington mess it up. The resources we have under our feet is going to change Appalachian Ohio."
Johnson said workers from outside the area are doing the preliminary work, but the jobs for locals will come.
"We need to get help, but we'll get there," he said. "It's going to happen, and it's going to come from the private sector."
The congressman also briefly discussed terrorism, noting that, "There is an element that doesn't want America to be that shining city on the hill. We really only have one choice. But we can choose where we want to fight."
Johnson said although he was one of the few Republicans in Congress to vote to restrict the National Security Agency on constitutional grounds, and that although the country needs intelligence, "officials have sworn an oath to protect the Constitution of the U.S."