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U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins said he will “kick down any bureaucratic wall” to get a new Interstate 10 bridge built. But he said officials in Baton Rouge must agree on a plan that includes input from local residents and officials.

During a luncheon Thursday hosted by the Republican Women of Southwest Louisiana, Higgins, R-Port Barre, said the I-10 bridge should be at the top of the list when it comes to President Donald Trump’s proposed $200 billion infrastructure plan. Because local residents would be affected the most by a new bridge, he said their opinions should carry the most weight.

The I-10 bridge predates the interstate system and was incorporated into the system in the 1960s. While the bridge is considered “structurally unsafe” because it does not meet modern standards, he said, it is “structurally sound.”

“It has no shoulders, there’s no median (and) the lanes are too narrow,” Higgins said. “But the bridge is not subject to fall. However, it needs to be replaced.”

After the recent mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead, Higgins said gun control “should be part of the national narrative.” 

But he said it’s “absurd” to suggest that mass shootings are happening because guns are not regulated enough. He added that fewer mass shootings occurred decades ago, despite there being fewer regulations at the time.

Higgins said Americans instead should “address the problem deep in the mirror.” He said the family system has “broken down,” and the country has “rejected God in schools.”

“We have fallen as a nation,” Higgins said.

Higgins said he believes the federal government will achieve a balanced budget. He said Washington, D.C., and Baton Rouge have “a spending problem.”

Higgins said he supported increasing military spending by $80 billion for the current fiscal year to strengthen the country’s defense. The goal, he said, is to “establish peace through strength.”

“We will restore our military to world dominance,” Higgins said.

Higgins said southern Louisiana should receive more money for dredging and restoring water management systems because sediment flows into the Gulf of Mexico. He spoke of the need to dredge the Calcasieu Ship Channel to its congressionally authorized dimensions — 400 feet wide by 40 feet deep. 

“We need the funding to make it happen, and we’re getting it,” Higgins said.

Higgins said he supported Trump announcing last October plans to open 77 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas exploration and extraction. He said decisions like these will help boost the country’s “energy dominance.”

“The oil and gas industry is about to explode,” Higgins said.

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