U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) gets hammered by progressive activists

04/16/14 Janelle Irwin
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Tags: immigration reform, minimum wage, military spending, taxes, Dennis Ross


U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross takes questions from constituents in New Tampa.

photo by Janelle Irwin

A Republican member of congress took a verbal lashing from progressive activists during a town hall meeting in New Tampa last night. Dennis Ross was met with a clamor of dissent when he told a young woman working part time at a fast food restaurant that he would not support raising the federal minimum wage.

“Markets do work and I’m not suggesting that we do away with the minimum wage, that’s not it at all. But the minimum wage is not a career wage. It’s a wage that’s paid to make sure that workers aren’t taken advantage of by business owners. But if we’re going to make it a living wage, who’s going to pay for it? I’m going to pay for it at the counter.”

“I will. I’ll pay $0.20 extra for a hamburger.”

“That’s admirable, especially on tax day. Send in some more today.”

Ross frequently hosts town hall meetings in his hometown where many voters lean conservative. But this time nearly half of the 35 people there came looking for Ross to answer to his rejection of some liberal issues. That includes immigration reform. Ross said he doesn’t support the Senate version of a bill that provides a pathway to citizenship.

“The Senate bill allows for citizenship after 13 years. This doesn’t address citizenship. It allows for an opportunity to defer any status with regard to citizenship until you earn it under our current pass, but it allows you to be recognized with a legal status in the U.S.”

One immigration supporter, Christian Cintora who is undocumented, was irked by Ross’s response, saying he thinks people like Ross just want immigrants to stick around to do dirty jobs like lawn work and cleaning hotel rooms.

“I just feel like we’re going to be stuck here working because, you know, no path to citizenship.”

And Ross said he wants to allow millions of undocumented people to continue working in labor industries and ensure they are paying taxes. But he thinks those taxes are too high. In a press release from Ross’s campaign on Tax Day he wrote that President Obama wants them to be even higher. Ross said he stands by his statement.

“I think allowing me to spend my dollars the way I see fit is much more powerful than giving that money to the federal government and letting them spend it the way that they feel fit.”

Not everyone at the town hall was there opposing Ross’s policies. A few offered support over the Congress member’s handling of military and veteran’s affairs. Ross issued written testimony yesterday to a committee in Congress highlighting the dangers of military spending cuts proposed by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

“That was his plan that came out – to reduce us to the size of a military that was pre-WWII levels. That’s not going to happen. It will not happen. I think that you’ll see, especially with what’s going on in Ukraine, especially with the continued Mid East unrest, we’re going to make an investment in ourmilitary and continue to uphold that.”

Another hot topic during the hour-long forum with constituents was campaign finance laws and court rulings like Citizens United that allow wealthy individuals to contribute unlimited amounts of money into Super PACs. Ross said those are First Amendment issues and supports them.

“I thik that the most important thing in campaign finance is transparency and disclosure. Let the voters make up their mind by knowing exactly where the money came from, where it went to and be transparent in the reporting processes and disclose everything. I think the voters can make up their mind much easier than saying, ‘if you buy me a cup of coffee you’re going to go to jail because he’s easily influenced.”

When asked how a middle class American can compete with such deep pockets, Ross suggested that more people should vote.

Congress returns to session on April 28.

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