ROCKINGHAM — While on a tour of the newly formed District 9, U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger swung through Richmond County on Tuesday.
While in town, Pittenger introduced Graham Long, a congressional staffer who will have office hours at the Rockingham City Hall from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays.
“We’re going to start off with that,” the Republican Congressman from Charlotte said. “If we need to be here more, we’ll be here more.”
Pittenger is currently in the process of setting up office hours in every county in the district, much of which was represented by Richard Hudson, R-Concord, before the N.C. General Assembly redrew maps last February.
Long will finish up his Wednesdays in Wadesboro and spend Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at Pittenger’s regional office in Monroe and Fridays in Charlotte. Another office is set up to be open five days a week in Fayetteville.
Long has been on Pittenger’s congressional staff since 2013 and handles Medicare and Social Security casework, in addition to assisting in expediting passports.
“People get log-jammed with bureaucracy,” Pittenger said. “We can facilitate with much greater ease…and get a response quicker.”
According to Jamie Bowers, Pittenger’s communications director, the Congressman’s office has dealt with nearly 3,000 constituent cases during his first four years in office.
Pittenger spoke highly of his team, including Bob Becker, his veterans director.
“He’ll have 600 to 700 veteran’s cases on his desk at any time,” Pittenger said.
In addition to talking about his constituent services, Pittenger also brought up several things going on at Capitol Hill.
The first thing he discussed was the recently introduced Credit Access and Inclusion Act, which was written in partnership with Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison.
According to Pittenger, the legislation is “designed to give hardworking American families better access to affordable credit and enable them to build their credit score on their own merit, without federal funds or another layer of Washington bureaucracy.”
“Unfortunately, many hardworking Americans have been shut out from affordable credit,” he wrote in his weekly column. “This could be due to bad decisions made years earlier, inadequate access to financial institutions, or income levels which make it difficult to build credit via traditional means. These hardworking Americans are then considered ‘high risk’ and can be rejected when applying for a loan and are often charged higher rates for insurance.”
Pittenger said the bipartisan bill would enable nearly 50 million Americans to establish the credit they need by allowing them to opt-in to having their on-time payments to utilities, telecom companies, and landlords reported to credit agencies.
He also talked about the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, saying the outgoing president’s hallmark policy is responsible for an increase in insurance premiums.
“What’s needed is an open competitive market,” he said. “Competition is what brings prices down.”
As chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, Vice Chairman of the Financial Services Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing, Pittenger also spoke about the threat of ISIS.
He said the focus of the task forces is to take out the Islamic state’s structures in 35 countries and intercept its funding.
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_toler.