U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Port Barre, said one of his biggest priorities is making sure the Calcasieu Ship Channel is dredged to its congressionally authorized depths so it can serve the megaprojects proposed for Southwest Louisiana that are relying on it.

Higgins told the American Press editorial board on Thursday that the ship channel “has gone undredged for decades.” He said the more than $100 billion in expansion projects planned and already under construction in the region need the channel dredged at its authorized dimensions of 40 feet deep by 400 feet wide.

“It’s an abysmal failure of our federal government,” he said. “There are parts of that channel where the only reason it’s 40 feet deep is because the boats themselves dredge a narrow spot.”

Higgins said the continued growth of federal government has taken the money generated by the Harbor Maintenance Tax away from its intended purpose. The tax was enacted in 1986 to help pay for maintenance dredging of waterways.

“It devoured that wealth,” he said. “All that money (is) a bunch of IOUs. Each IOU (is) worth less than the character of the politician that signed it.”

Another problem, Higgins said, is how Louisiana has been affected by the government and regulatory overreach.

“I don’t believe there’s any state that’s been more injured by the sort of purposeful attack out of the previous regime against the oil and gas industry and petrochemical industry,” he said.

Coastal Restoration

Higgins said there are plenty of challenges in restoring the Gulf Coast from erosion. He said the levee system along the Mississippi River has “halted the natural process of coastal restoration.”

He said Louisiana should get more money than other states because it gets more water and sediment from the Mississippi River Basin.

“It makes no sense to me that a state upstream should get the same Corps of Engineers money as we do, but we are getting their problem,” Higgins said.

Health Care

The American Health Care Act — the GOP-led legislation that was intended to repeal and replace Obamacare — will pass within two weeks of lawmakers returning from Easter break, according to Higgins. The measure was set to go for a House vote in late March, but House Speaker Paul Ryan cancelled it because it didn’t have the 216 votes needed for passage.

“We will rescue America from the collapse of Obamacare,” Higgins said.

Higgins said the American Health Care Act includes provisions that allow for protection of people with preexisting conditions and for keeping children on their parents’ health insurance policy until they reach 25 or 26 years old. He said lawmakers continue to work on the legislation.

Higgins said Obamacare can’t be completely repealed because people would be left with no health insurance. He said if the American Health Care Act is passed, there will be a transitional period to bring back health insurance providers that have left the market.

“The market that existed prior to Obamacare is gone,” Higgins said.

Higgins said the Republican Party “has not disintegrated” in Washington D.C.

John Guidroz, American Press

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