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Senator Marsha Blackburn visits Elizabethton for Community Conversation on Wednesday

BY NIC MILLER
STAR STAFF
nic.miller@elizabethton.com

All eyes were on downtown Elizabethton early Wednesday morning as United States Senator for the state of Tennessee Marsha Blackburn made a stop in Betsy for a Community Conversation event at the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce to share information about issues facing the area.

Blackburn, the first woman in the state of Tennessee to be elected to the Senate, spoke on many topics during her conversation such as the ongoing events in Afghanistan, internet usage in the region, and the national debt problem in America.

The crisis in Afghanistan has been one that is a hot-button topic with many different views and opinions on the situation over the past week. Blackburn began by talking about this issue, and mentioned some of the facts of the latest information coming out of the country, saying, “Over the past couple weeks, one major event that took place was Bagram Airfield, where there is a U.S. detention facility, was turned over.”

“That was very disappointing to both us and the Afghan Security Forces, as they needed the base for air support to be able to go out and fight the Taliban.”

Blackburn continued by looking toward a hopeful future for those still trying to leave the country, saying, “However, we are very hopeful, as there are now 6,000 troops on the ground to hopefully guide safe passage for our citizens and partners to come home.”

The next issue discussed by Blackburn during the conversation revolved around internet usage and the lack of coverage in some spots throughout the region. And while there are still some areas without coverage, Blackburn expressed that progress is being made in that regard, saying, “In the House of Representatives, we were able to put $600 million toward rural development for broadband in those areas.”

“What we are seeing happen now is that local exchange carriers are partnering with these counties that receive no coverage, and are receiving federal and state grants to extend the coverage even further.”

As is common knowledge, the United States has accumulated a surplus of debt throughout history. And when prompted about the amount of debt within the country, Blackburn gave a timeline of events, saying, “From George Washington to President George W. Bush, we accumulated $10.6 trillion of debt.

“Then during President Obama’s term, the amount of debt doubled in size, and after both President Trump’s administration and President Biden’s proposed spending, we will be looking at around $30 trillion of debt.”

“In terms of decreasing the amount of national debt, it is important to have priorities when it comes to the federal budget so that we know where the money is being spent. National debt and prioritizing spending is something we are going to continue to focus on.”

In closing, Blackburn spoke on the increase of job opportunities in the area, saying, “Carter County is going to be an area that leads the way in this. There are a few pieces of legislation that would allow TCAT to move forward and be able to provide additional training programs to give students more opportunities in the workforce.”

This event with Senator Blackburn was the first of which that the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce was able to host with an elected official, and the organization hopes to invite even more in the future.