Health care, abortion, tenure for teachers and climate change were just a few of the issues discussed with Rep. Kevin McCarthy on Friday when he spoke to a group of students at Paso Robles High School.
Students were given the rare opportunity during an hourlong assembly to ask questions of McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, who as majority whip is now the third-highest-ranking member of the GOP’s new majority in the House of Representatives. He represents the North County and parts of Arroyo Grande and Nipomo.
McCarthy counseled students to pay careful attention to the politics at play in Washington, D.C.
“There is currently a $1.5 trillion national deficit,” McCarthy said. “You should be concerned because you are the ones that are going to have to pay for it.”
McCarthy acknowledged that patriotism has suffered because of the growing political divide between Democrats and Republicans.
“You may not have as much hope as the generations before you,” said McCarthy to the nearly 230 students at the assembly. “Yet there is no greater nation or privilege than where we live.”
McCarthy said future success is dependent on building trust across party lines.
“We need to become one nation,” he said.
Sophomore Alex Delbar, 15, asked McCarthy how that trust might be achieved.
McCarthy pointed to times in history when the nation came together as one — such as after Sept. 11.
After McCarthy’s speech, Delbar said he was slightly disappointed in the congressman’s response. “He didn’t offer specifics that I had hoped for,” Delbar said.
Other students asked McCarthy his stance on issues, including his involvement in the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act being debated in the House. The bill would prevent public funding of abortions.
“I am pro-life,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think my tax dollars should be paying for it.”
McCarthy also took a strong stance against President Barack Obama’s health care legislation — saying that philosophical differences made it impossible to accept and calling it unconstitutional.
Paso Robles Public Schools Superintendent Kathy McNamara said the personal connection that McCarthy made with students was immeasurable.
“He showed students that the opportunities are boundless,” said McNamara, who added that McCarthy’s visit was the first of someone of his stature for the school district.
McNamara said the issues discussed at the assembly would continue to be debated in classrooms — and at the dinner table with students and their parents.
McCarthy said the best advice he can give students is to pay careful attention to where the country is going.
“Think about holding people accountable,” McCarthy said. “They need to study where the country is going now because it is going to fall on their shoulders.”
Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.