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Rep. Edwards announces new Franklin office, shares budget priorities

U.S. Rep. Chuck Edwards (R) poses with his staff and Southwestern Community College President Dr. Don Thomas in Sylva. (Left to Right: Chief of Staff Bronwyn Lance, Edwards, Western Regional Representative Brittney Lofthouse, District Director Chris Burns and Thomas.)
Tyler Goode/SCC
U.S. Rep. Chuck Edwards (R) poses with his staff and Southwestern Community College President Dr. Don Thomas in Sylva. (Left to Right: Chief of Staff Bronwyn Lance, Edwards, Western Regional Representative Brittney Lofthouse, District Director Chris Burns and Thomas.)

Freshman Republican U.S. Representative Chuck Edwards is mid-way through a tour of the 15 counties of North Carolina’s 11th District.

Edwards took office in the midst of a historic five-day battle for Speaker of the House of Representatives. Representative Kevin McCarthy was ultimately elected after 15 votes, more than any Speaker in the last 160 years. Edwards disagrees with any characterization of the 15 votes as “chaos.”

“My interpretation is that we had democracy at work. Where yes, we had some differing opinions, but we were having productive debate,” he said. “Sometimes it was lively but it was productive debate.”

Changes to the House rules that were put into place will benefit the region, he said.

“Because of that debate and because of us taking so much more time to make a decision, we ended up in a far better place - a place where rank and fall members like me, have a far better chance of representing the people back here at home because we effectively changed the rules and decentralized the power in Washington D.C. so that I could have more of a voice for the people back at home,” Edwards said.

The new House rules, including the ability of one representative to call a vote to remove the house speaker, will be put to the test very soon as Congress heads into negotiations about the federal budget and the debt ceiling. On Thursday, the Treasury Department announced it has started taking “extraordinary measures” to cover U.S. government’s debts and it meets the approximately $31 trillion debt ceiling.

Republican representatives plan to leverage the debt ceiling issue to advance other legislation like cuts to social safety nets. The White House said the debt ceiling must be raised without conditions. A default could cause catastrophic results for the economy and stock market. The Treasury has enough funding to last, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.

Edwards favors cutting what he calls inefficient government spending that is “waste, fraud and abuse.”

“I've said all along that I believe we need to eliminate the Department of Education. It's just a bureaucracy that imposes requirements on the states that simply should not be there. That's the low hanging fruit. That's where I would start,” he said.

Spending is one of Edwards’ top priorities in office, and one he will focus on in his new committee assignment.

“I’m excited. I learned just yesterday that I have been appointed to the House budget committee – one that I’m particularly built for and fits my skillset as a businessman,” Edwards said.

Edwards’ runs six McDonald’s restaurants including his first based in Hendersonville. Edwards served three terms as state Senator for district 48 - which includes Henderson County.

Western North Carolinians are concerned about inflation and the economy, he said.

“That starts with the budget and the money supply from the federal government in dumping trillions and trillions of dollars on an economy that was already operating well under the Trump administration. And so we've got to stop that spending first,” Edwards said.

Pinning the current economic situation on President Joe Biden was a consistent Republican talking point during the midterm election. A recession is “extremely likely,” according to economists this week at the World Economic Forum. Earlier this month, the World Bank announced that it has downgraded its forecasts for growth across the globe.

In addition to dealing with federal policy issues, Edwards said he is committed to constituent services in Western North Carolina. He shared exclusively with BPR that he will be opening a field office in Franklin at the Macon County Courthouse to be staffed by newly appointed Western Regional Representative Brittney Lofthouse.

“We're really fortunate that Britney Lofthouse of Macon County, who is so well known and such a passionate person about serving the public has agreed to come to work with our district office,” he said.

Lofthouse previously held positions as a reporter for the Macon County News, Western Region Education Coordinator for Care for Carolina and founder of the Southern Scoop blog in 2020. In her new role, she will be responsible for Edwards’ work in the six westernmost counties in the region.

Earlier this month, Edwards put out a call for unfinished business with former Representative Madison Cawthorn’s office. In a statement, Edwards explained that his office did not receive any information from the outgoing Congressman. He says that constituents are already reaching out.

“We've heard from folks almost every single day of situations where we know that we can help out,” Edwards said.

To cap his listening tour Edwards will host an open house at his Henderson County office on Monday January 30. The open house from 8:30am to 12:30 p.m. with a “Chat with Chuck” from 9:30a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The address is 200 N. Grove St., Suite 121, Hendersonville.

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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