Rep. Huelskamp’s town hall meeting
By TIM HORAN
Despite being removed from the Ag Committee, Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp said he was “going to still fight for farmers and ranchers. I am still a farm kid at heart.”
Before answering questions from the audience Friday in a town hall meeting at the Visitors Center Auditorium of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, Huelskamp gave an update on recent happenings in Washington D.C.
While he was removed from the Ag Committee and the Budget Committee, he said he is serving on the Small Budget Committee and the Veterans Affairs Committee.
“It actually has a much broader jurisdiction than just the Ag Committee,” he said of the Small Budget Committee. “We are going to be fighting for what we think needs to happen in rural America. Frankly, in rural America we don’t have many representatives left in Washington, D.C.”
He said a few people wanted him off the VA Committee as well.
“Why? Because I was more than willing to point out that your department of veteran affairs spent $100 million going to conferences,” he said. “Is it happenchance that all those conferences were in Florida or in Vegas and certain places in New Jersey? The point is, they were wasting money and that happens in agency after agency. That’s part of my job: making sure the $55 billion we set aside to take care of our veterans’ health care that we actually spend it on veterans.”
In his first two years as a congressman, Huelskamp conducted 142 town hall meetings. The meeting in Abilene was his fourth in 2013.
“I do believe that this is the fun part of the job,” he said. “It’s not always a positive interaction because it is not always positive what’s going on in Washington, D.C. Usually when I get done with a town hall meeting, somebody says, ‘Gosh, Tim, could you give us the good news?’ I’ll try to give you some good news but I also want to be frank with you and let you know the reality is our nation really is in trouble financially on a number of accounts.
“The current speaker of the House (Rep. John Boehner) said it right two years ago when he said our nation is bankrupt,” he said. “How did we get into the situation today where we are $16.4 trillion in debt? I’ll admit up front, I don’t know what a trillion dollars is.”
“Everyday that I serve in office for you, Washington is adding about $3 or $4 billion dollars in new debt,” he added. “Not spending. New debt. Every single day. At the end of this fiscal year we are likely to have our fifth year of trillion dollar deficits.”
He said revenues (taxes) going into Washington went up 10 percent in October, however, he said the problem was that spending went up 12 percent.
Huelskamp said the largest money problems facing the United States in the next 20 years are Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.
“Everyday in America for the next 20 years or so we will have 10,000 Americans turn 65,” he said. “Our population is getting older and there is no money in the Social Security fund. There’s no cash balance. There is nothing in the Medicare trust fund and as more and more folks retire, spending is going to be endless. That will make our current debt situation even worse if we don’t get a handle on spending in the future.
“The Joint Chiefs of Staffs are always trying to increase spending for defense,” he added. “By the way, President Eisenhower had some thoughts on that, very poignant thoughts. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs has said the No. 1 threat to national security is not Iran, not North Korea, certainly not China. It was our debt because if we’re borrowing from our neighbors to try to fund our own national defense, that makes for a very risky situation.”
Huelskamp told the audience why he voted against the fiscal cliff bill.
“It increased spending. It raised taxes and did nothing about the tax system we have in which certain people, certain corporations, get specific handouts from Washington and it did nothing in protecting and preserving our entitlement programs. I voted no. It did not solve the problem,” he said.
“We have a debt ceiling crisis coming. Sometime in February, or maybe early March, Washington’s credit card will be totally maxed out. So we have to figure out what we are going to do. We are going to put together a plan to actually make certain we have an avenue to get our spending under control and to actually convince our creditors that we are going to get our act together. That will be our challenge the next couple months, which is much like the challenge of the last couple years.”
On Wednesday, part three will be Huelskamp’s responses to questions from the audience.
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