"Informative" is how 3rd District Congressman Tom MacArthur (R) described his recent trip with other members of the U.S. Armed Services Committee to Eastern Europe, during Townsquare Media's monthly "Ask the Congressman," program. 

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R) with Tom Mongelli (Dan Alexander, Townsquare Media NJ)

MacArthur said they met with the heads of state from five countries near Russia and heard concerns about the aggression in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.

"Certainly, I gained an appreciation for how much the American presence is wanted," said MacArthur about the discussions with officials from Romania, Ukraine, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. "They want the security of American troop presence and they're very concerned about the growing hyper-aggressive Russia."

The countries are committed to Democracy and taking steps to creating a freer, open society, according to MacArthur. "And their eyes are pointed west, not east. They want to be part of Europe. They want to create deeper trade relations with the United States and it matters to us," he said, noting the United States has been so focused on the Middle East, but can't let other parts of the World go into chaos.

MacArthur said the United States needs to be clear on not relaxing sanctions against Russia. "Because they are hurting. I think their ability to export their aggression gets limited when they are being squeezed," he said.

MacArthur pointed out what was very clear during his trip was the issue of energy-independence. "The nations that are tied up with Russia on oil, or natural gas primarily, are in a much less free position to respond as they will. The nations like Poland for example, that have not only embraced Democracy, but have broken those ties and don't overly rely on Russia for their energy, are in a much freer position to push back and do what they think is necessary to protect themselves," he said.

MacArthur said he was reminded more than once of how important that is for the United States. "We have to become self-sufficient when it comes to energy, more than we are today, because when you're not, it constrains you when you deal with other nations," he said.

MacArthur blasted President Barack Obama vetoing a bill to allow the creation of the Keystone XL oil pipeline that he said would create economic activity that would be good for the United States.

When it comes to the issue of whether to allow off-shore oil drilling exploration, MacArthur said states such as Virginia, should have the right to do it in light of his stance that he'd like to see the United States become more energy-independent.
"I want to be clear though, I do and have opposed drilling off the Jersey Shore," said MacArthur. He explained exploration and drilling should be allowed where there are known reserves and in areas that are not environmentally-sensitive in the event of a spill.

"We've got tens of millions of people in close proximity to the Jersey Shore, between New Jersey, between New York, and going further south, so I don't see this as a candidate, based on my criteria. Virginia in my judgement is far enough away, that if the people in Virginia embrace that, then I'm okay with that," added MacArthur.

MacArthur answered calls from listeners about immigration and a planned solar farm at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson. A Toms River woman asked whether non-citizens should have the right to vote.

"No, a non-citizen does not have the right to vote and my concern is that, that's exactly is what's being set up," said MacArthur, also noting he voted against anything to fund President's Obama's illegal amnesty and is confident the court will continue to uphold a decision that Congress, as stated in the Constitution, creates laws of naturalization, not the President.

MacArthur was not familiar with the Six Flags solar farm plan, but commented on solar power.

"New Jersey has been one of the great solar project states around the country, and that market has existed solely because of taxpayer funding," he said. MacArthur added he supports government funding for alternate sources of energy during a ramp-up phase or research and development phase, if there is a commercial future. "But, there is no commercial future that I'm aware of for solar in this state. It is profitable for companies only because of taxpayer-funded subsidies."

MacArthur discussed pending legislation related to Superstorm Sandy and Mental Health Care for veterans.

He said elements of a bill he sponsored placing limitations on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Recoupment abilities might be included in a larger package still being drafted. His measure had proposed placing a three-year limitation, where as FEMA currently can take back grant money it approved for disaster victims as far as 15 years later.

He also noted he is very concerned about how FEMA got into the position of now having to go back and review and re-adjust Sandy claims in the wake of allegations of insurance fraud and false engineering reports that led to claims being denied in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). MacArthur said a New Jersey delegation is seeking hearings by the Government Oversight Committee to get to the bottom of who knew what and looked the other way.

Referring to a statistic that on average 22 veterans commit suicide every day, MacArthur said what really startled him during a recent meeting in Toms River on mental health care for veterans, was that 17 of them have never accessed the Veterans Health Administration's Health Care System.

MacArthur said he's co-sponsoring a bill with a Democrat to extend the rule to allow health care from anywhere for veterans needing mental health care.

"That bill is now working its way through the House as well," he added.

Townsquare Media New Jersey presented the monthly program "Ask The Congressman" with new 3rd District representative Tom McArthur (R) hosted by Tom Mongelli.

The show was heard on News Tallk Radio 1160 and 1310 WOBM AM; and watched the program on WOBM.com, WOBMAM.com and WPG1450.com

Read More: Ask the Congressman with Rep. Tom MacArthur – April, 2015 | http://wobm.com/ask-the-congressman-with-rep-tom-macarthur-april-2015/?trackback=tsmclip