Rep. Bradley Byrne

Rep. Bradley Byrne fields questions from students Thursday during an hour-long visit to Wallace State Community College.

HANCEVILLE — He might be running for a U.S. Senate seat, but Bradley Byrne was mostly focused on his current job as the District 1 Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday during an hour-long visit with students at Wallace State Community College.

The Republican congressman from Mobile updated students and faculty as part of his check-in with Alabama residents while back in the state on a congressional break, dismissing Democrats’ ongoing efforts to wage an impeachment effort against President Donald Trump in Washington, while fielding a handful of questions that affect young people locally — and college students in particular.

Describing the impeachment effort helmed by House Democrats as merely the latest in a long line of politically-motivated efforts to “delegitimize” Trump’s presidency, Byrne said he can’t envision a scenario in which a Republican-majority U.S. Senate would remove Trump from office, should the House move to impeach him.

“As things stand today, there are not 67 votes in the Senate to remove President Trump — not anywhere close to that,” said Byrne, “which leads me to ask the question: What are we doing?… If this is not going to result in removing President Trump from office, then what are we accomplishing?”

During the Q&A portion of the event, more than one audience member appeared to agree with Byrne that Congress members’ focus should be on legislation rather than impeachment. One especially impassioned student asked Byrne repeatedly whether he and other House members had a plan for reforming what, in the questioner’s view, is an unbearably high-interest framework for repayment of federal student debt, chiding House members in general for focusing on politics instead of on hammering out a repayment structure that makes student loan repayment more affordable.

Byrne agreed that issues like student debt should take priority over the impeachment sensation, and said House Republicans are crafting a bill proposal that, while likely at odds with its Democratic-backed rival, will at least serve as a negotiating tool when Congress eventually does take up the matter.

Byrne and a handful of other Alabama Republicans already have announced they’ll be running in next year’s GOP primary election to win the nomination to challenge incumbent Democrat Doug Jones for one of Alabama’s seats in the U.S. Senate. Byrne treated his Wallace State stop as an official function of his role as a House representative, and didn’t overtly stump for his Senate campaign while in Hanceville Thursday.

Other Republicans who’ve so far qualified to run in next year’s primary include Tommy Tuberville, Stanley Adair, State Rep. Arnold Mooney, and Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.

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