Huelskamp responds to questions
By TIM HORAN
For more than half of his town hall meeting, Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp fielded questions from the audience, Friday.
Here are a few of the issues and his responses to patrons at the meeting held at the Visitors Center Auditorium at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.
On closed door meetings, the debt ceiling and confidence in Speaker of the House John Boehner:
“I did vote against John Boehner as the Speaker of the House. He is still the Speaker. I thought we needed new leadership. Sometimes you have to send messages. What the speaker told us, and he made it public as well, no more backroom deals with the President of the United States. Frankly, I didn’t think we should be doing that, as well. Do it in public. Do it out front so we can see what is happening. Run a bill across the floor of the house. See if you can get it through the Senate. That is what their promise is. The President (Barack Obama), by the way is of a different mind set. He says just raise the debt ceiling and don’t have any conditions to it. Now we have an opportunity where we can lay our conditions down and get our spending under control.
“That’s my goal, whether or not other folks follow through on that, I don’t know. One of the most difficult jobs I have in a town hall is trying to explain what anyone else does in Washington. I can’t guarantee but that is the promise now from the Speaker.
“This is not just a debate about whether we raise the debt ceiling from $16.4 trillion to $18.5 trillion. What should be debated is, ‘How are you going to pay that back? When do you plan on paying that back?’”
He said the last time the debt ceiling was debated it was agreed that the ceiling would be raised along with spending cuts.
“That was 17 months ago. We raised the debt ceiling $2.1 trillion and between Aug. 11th and today they have cut nothing. They probably increased spending. They didn’t follow through on their promises and we’re going to try to hold them accountable. It’s not about today. It’s about the next generation. Somebody has to pay that off.”
On Congressional investigations into the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi and of a botched anti-gunrunning operation known as Fast and Furious:
“I was sitting on the House floor that day (Sept. 11) talking to my fellow House members. Who in America wouldn’t think that this would be a day to target us on the anniversary of Sept. 11? Was anyone surprised? Apparently, somebody was at the state department and it happened that day. That was Sept. 11. That was months ago. There was an effort in the house...I supported that...the leadership did not, to support a special committee just like Watergate, to look into what happened in Benghazi. I don’t know much more than you know because they haven’t told us anything.
“Fast and Furious was even further ago. The evidence that we know today, the justice department allowed guns to be bought and sold illegally in a gunrunning operation that extended into Mexico that resulted in the life of one border security agent and 250 Mexican citizens. They were killed by these illegal guns. We still haven’t found out who actually authorized that. I believe our attorney general went all the way to the top. I had called on him to resign and he has not. I visited with members on committees looking at that. They are not giving up but I don’t know if leadership is going to continue to allow us to explore what happened there.
“On one hand, we are likely next week to have a proposal from the President of the United States to restrict gun purchases. I don’t know what those will be. Meanwhile, we have a documented case of Fast and Furious, the justice department violating their own rules and regulations that resulted in the death of many Mexican citizens as well as Americans. I am troubled by it. I am pushing as hard as I can.”
On the second amendment:
“There will be proposals out of the White House and elsewhere. We’ll see what they are.
“Actually, today our office was working on a proposal because next week with the Sandy (hurricane) relief measure there is a $60 billion spending request. There have been some people in that particular area that have not been supportive of the second amendment, especially the mayor of New York City. We are trying to put some proposals together to strengthen the second amendment related to that Sandy relief effort.
“I have not seen a proposal that I would support.”
On the number of veteran organizations and whether they should all be supported:
“Some of those organizations that I know personally do a great job. The Federal government spends $55 billion and of that we spent $100 million on conferences. Why didn’t it go to veteran’s care? One of the jobs of Congress is to provide oversight to spending $3.8 trillion.
“Particularly in rural areas like here in Abilene or other areas across the First District where there are restrictions to the VA, in many cases they require you to go to a VA hospital or out-patient clinic. For some folks, they might be living next door to a hospital in a small town and they’d like to get their care locally. ‘We can’t do that’ is not the answer. I think we can.”
On the Farm Bill:
“Washington did not get its job done. In the last minutes or the first minutes of the New Year, they extended the current version of the Farm Bill for another nine months until Oct. 1. The Senate passed a Farm Bill. The House Ag Committee, on which I served, sent a bill to the floor but our leadership, John Boehner, refused to let it come to a vote. So we did not have that debate. Hopefully, they will follow normal order and debate bills that come out of committee. What do I expect it to do if it comes through the House? I expect crop insurance to continue. Hopefully, it will improve.
“What really concerns me, over the years the Farm Bill has become everything but the Farm Bill. Eighty percent of the Farm Bill is now food stamps and nutrition programs. I have been working with the national media, ‘Would you please report the reality of the Farm Bill? It’s not about farmers anymore. It’s about food stamps.’ Just last week we got notice that in the last fiscal year, you spent $80 billion on food stamps. That’s a lot of money. For comparison purposes, 11 years ago you spend $19 billion.
“In the Farm Bill that passed through the Senate, Kansas farmers and ranchers were going to take a cut. I said be ready for a cut. Every farmer I talked too basically, I think every one of them including my dad, said, ‘Hey, we’ll take a cut. Just make sure everyone else does.’
“Is there a waste in food stamps? Absolutely. Do I have ideas? So I have an amendment to actually save money in food stamps and target folks really in need? Absolutely. We can save money. But they wouldn’t let that come to the floor.”
On Social Security and disability:
“Let me outline what I know about Social Security today. We were spending more money than was coming in. Social Security is not that much of a problem compared to the rest. It’s Medicare. But if we could solve Social Security today, why don’t we solve it today rather than wait 10 years from now? I’m 44 and I think I should have to work a couple years longer. I think that should be expected of younger folks to save the system. Medicare is a much more difficult problem to solve.
“In order to pay Social Security we are borrowing money from the Chinese every month. Does anyone know what the retirement age in the original Social Security law was? How old did you have to be in 1935 to qualify? Sixty-five. What is the retirement age today? (Full retirement is between 66 and 67, depending on the year you were born.) People live just a little bit longer today. That’s a problem. I am not suggesting we go to this. A comparable retirement age in 2013 would be 87 years old. I am expecting people my age, I’m 44, and perhaps a little older, to expect being told soon that your retirement age is going to slowly (go up). That doesn’t solve everything.”
“Does anyone know the last time Congress actually reduced its spending? You hear about cuts all the time. I’ll give it away. Does anyone know who the President was the last time we actually reduced our federal budget? I’ll give you a hint. He kind of has his name on this building. When Eisenhower was President is the only time Washington spent less one year than the year before. They have not done it since.
“When you hear in the general mainstream media about budget cuts, very rarely are they anything, and Eisenhower would say, ‘Are they really cuts?’ It’s usually about rate of growth. You’re going to hear the President announce he is proposing $800 billion worth of cuts. No, not really. Not as we would see it.”
Saving rural post offices:
“The problem with post offices is the same as it is at the Federal level. Every month, give or take a few $100 million, the postal service loses $1 billion. It’s going to take some changes. The U.S. Postal Service threatened to close all these small rural post offices and it is only five percent of their spending. They backed off of that. They reduced the hours of service based on your quantity of service. The biggest problem with the post offices is their union contracts. They are very generous and they can’t get out of them or are not trying to get out of them and they are creating costs much greater then the return. That doesn’t impact us as much as the big cities. It is cheaper to deliver a piece of mail in rural Kansas than it is in a big city. That’s because you are doing a better job out here and you don’t have the union contracts.”
On rural health care:
“In the First District of Kansas, I have more community hospitals than any other district in the country. I am very concerned and very troubled with the President’s healthcare plan. I am supporting what the state did in trying to take some responsibility in Medicaid reform.”
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