WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Congressman David Rouzer (R-NC7) has responded to criticism of the recent opioid symposium he hosted in Wilmington that his opponent called "a political ploy.'
The symposium happened July 30 at the Coastline Convention Center and featured people recovering from opioid addiction, followed by a panel discussion involving Kenny House, an addiction specialist and clinical supervisor at Coastal Horizons Center, Mark Allen, the addictions pastor at Port City Community Church, and Dr. Philip Brown, the chief physician at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.
Kyle Horton, the Democratic nominee for the seventh Congressional district race, posted on her Twitter page two days later, "In Rouzer's first public event in the district, he used opioid addiction as a political ploy. He refused to answer any questions from constituents."
Rouzer says he had a planning committee working on the event for nearly a year, and it was not his intention to take questions during the symposium.
"No. 1, it's not about me," he said when asked to respond to Horton's criticism. "I just used my platform. I used my capability as a United States Congressman to pull together the right people to make it happen.
"No. 2, and a much stronger point, this had been a work in progress for a much longer time, which is why I felt it came across really excellent. You will notice, and anyone will notice who watched it, I was not front and center in it at all. I made brief opening comments and then I turned it over to the experts. I thought they pulled together a fantastic symposium. I continue to hear every week results from that where people were really moved by it. They've seen it online, and we were very grateful to have the participation by all those that agreed to participate and really advance the cause."
Rouzer will head back to Washington, D.C., in early September to work on the 2018 Farm Bill. The current bill expires next month, and Rouzer is one of the conferees who will work to hammer out a compromise between the bills passed by the House and Senate.
The main sticking point, he says, is the work requirement the House includes for anyone receiving SNAP, or food stamps, benefits.
"Our goal with this legislation is, OK, we understand you are on food stamps for whatever reason may be," Rouzer said when explaining the requirement. "Here is a pathway to get a job of your choice that hopefully will lead into a career of your choice, hence the 20-hour (work) requirement to continue to receive the benefit. We're not taking anything away from anybody. We're basically saying, if you're able bodied, 18 years old to 59 years old — which the workforce really needs by the way — then you can continue to receive that benefit as long as you work 20 hours a week. A lot of work is being done right now on the staff level during the month of August, and when we return in September we will negotiate member to member and see where we are."