Gingrey trained the focus of his planned remarks on the topics of energy, health care and jobs before turning much of the session over for questions.
As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Gingrey looked to rising gasoline prices for entry into a conversation concerning avenues to reduce dependency on foreign oil. The exploitation of natural gas and oil reserves topped the congressman's plan for increasing domestic production while other means, such as the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in Canada, could reduce dependency on OPEC-member nations for future energy needs.
"I'm really astounded that the president would not allow [the Keystone XL pipeline]," Gingrey said. "To remain dependent, so dependent, on other sources -- and I'm not talking about Canada and Mexico -- I'm talking about sources where there is a lot of unrest in the world ... the concern just gets worse and worse.
"The need for us to become independent is not just an economic issue, it's a national security issue."
Tying in the issue of jobs to both energy and health care, Gingrey looked toward growth in these areas to help ease the nation's high unemployment rate. He also gave credit to the local Buy Bartow initiative and industrial projects across the state.
"The unemployment rate is just way too high, but we've had some good news in the state of Georgia," Gingrey said, citing the industrial projects of Kia and Caterpillar. "You guys here at the Chamber have done a great job too and the Ring The Bell campaign has been a great success last year and now this year but, again, I'd like to hear it rung a whole lot more as I know you would."
As a physician, Gingrey acts as chairman of the GOP Doctors Caucus and spoke Monday against the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010.
"My efforts will continue to be working on health care, to bring down the cost of health care, to not take anything away from the quality of health care in this country -- it's second to none, but it is too expensive. But the answer to that was not the Patient Protection Act or the Affordable Care Act," Gingrey said. "It has become increasingly clear that it is the unaffordable care act and there will be a huge decision made by the Supreme Court in June before they finish their session as to the constitutionality of the individual mandate."
Gingrey fielded questions from those in attendance on a number of topics, including the proposed LakePoint Sporting Community & Town Center. On that matter, Gingrey expressed his excitement for the project, naming it No. 2 in importance behind only the deepening of the Savannah harbor, but offered the 2010 ban on congressional earmarks as a limiting factor for federal support.
In opening the floor for questions, the first query was taken from Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Watkins concerning a lack of cohesion amongst conservative figures on television and radio.
"Why does it seem like Republicans never have a concerted effort to respond to attacks of misinformation," Watkins asked.
"First and foremost, their agenda is making money. They're looking at rates, they're looking at advertising," said Gingrey of national media outlets. "They're going to try to stir up controversy and keep things going, keep interest in their show high and have interesting and entertaining guests -- but they do not officially speak for the Republican Party.
"We have a policy committee, we have a Republican conference and every member -- all 242 of us -- know exactly where we stand on energy, where we stand on national defense, where we stand on job creation, where we stand on regulatory agencies."
Many topics were covered during the question-and-answer session but the meeting was closed with an item garnering much attention Monday and has been the topic of local meetings by those involved. Watkins asked Gingrey if he was aware of loss-share agreements entered by banks taking over failed institutions and, if so, what was being done. These agreements allow for a rebate of sorts if judgment is levied against the borrower.
"In a nutshell, if they get a judgment against the borrower then they get 80 to 90 percent of that loan paid to them by the taxpayer. ... It seems like it's encouraging lawsuits against borrowers," Watkins said, clarifying his concern is with lawmakers not banks. "I don't blame the banks at all. I blame the people that put this law and regulations in place."
Gingrey, an investor in a failed Ellijay bank, knew of the situation personally but had little to offer in the way of solutions. Gingrey went as far as to call the practices allowed under current regulation "criminal" advising that he would continue to work on the issue.
"I will tell you that the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are very aware of it," Gingrey said. "I am working on that and I'm working with the members of the House banking service committee."