NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — House Speaker Beth Harwell is helping a group address the lack of access to healthy foods in low-income Tennessee areas.
On Wednesday, the Nashville Republican is expected to lead representatives of the Tennessee Obesity Taskforce on a walk from Legislative Plaza in downtown Nashville to a local urban market to illustrate the difficulties Tennesseans living in so-called food deserts have buying healthy foods.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a food desert is a low-income census tract in which a substantial number of residents have low access to a supermarket or large grocery store. That means they may also have little access to healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
In 2010, the task force released a statewide nutrition and physical activity plan designed to reduce obesity and chronic disease in Tennessee.
Democrat Eric Stewart charged Friday that U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., is showing “complete disregard” to citizens in the 4th Congressional District by refusing to debate him while presiding over a mostly empty U.S. House in Washington, D.C.
In a news release, Stewart describes the congressman’s tenure at the podium as a “power-trip of having a gavel for one day and slamming it down and preventing his colleagues from talking.”
Further from Andy Sher: He said DesJarlais, who is from Jasper, Tenn., went to Washington “because he doesn’t want to listen to the concerns from people in his district that are not happy about his votes to raise the Social Security retirement age to 70 and his votes against giving our military a pay raise.”
DesJarlais was on a flight out of Washington late Friday afternoon and unavailable for comment.
But in a column this week, DesJarlais said the House session keeps President Barack Obama from making recess appointments without congressional consent.
He created a stir Friday during the session when he silenced two Democratic House members who wanted to complain about a “do-nothing Congress” and inaction on a major farm bill, The National Journal reported.
Presiding over the session, DesJarlais slammed his gavel, a sign to shut off the C-SPAN signal. That prompted protests from Democrats and shouts about the nation’s “fiscal cliff” and the farm bill, the publication reported.
According to The National Journal, DesJarlais walked off, leaving Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, shouting about the fiscal cliff and the farm bill.
“We’re about to go over a cliff. We need to stay in session,” Cummings said from the floor. “Mr. Speaker, please don’t leave. Don’t leave, Mr. Speaker.”
In response to DesJarlais’ actions, Stewart said, “today we learned that it’s not just voters in the district, he won’t even listen to his colleagues in Congress that wanted to speak about the issues facing our farmers.”
…The House is out until after the Nov. 6 election, but members can hold a session at which no formal business is conducted.
DesJarlais said in a statement that, if the two Democrats “were really serious about working on these issues,” they should contact Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid “and ask them to return to Washington to consider the 30 House-passed jobs bills languishing in the Senate rather than engage in political theater.”
— Note: An Eric Stewart press release that touches on the matter is below.