Sen. George LeMieux contends that any attempt to rein in the deficit has to include repealing President Barack Obama’s healthcare law. But the president’s deficit commission took a courageous step in the right direction with its $4 trillion belt-tightening recommendations, the Florida Republican told Newsmax.TV in an exclusive interview.
“We need to repeal and replace Obamacare,” LeMieux said. “I’m sympathetic to trying to help folks who don’t have health insurance, but we can’t afford a trillion-dollar new program that raises the cost of healthcare and cuts a half a trillion dollars out of healthcare for seniors.”
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LeMieux was appointed to the Senate in 2009 to finish out the term of Republican Sen. Mel Martinez. Republican Marco Rubio won the seat, defeating defeated Gov. Charlie Crist, who ran as an independent, and Democrat Kendrick Meek.
LeMieux described the recent report from the president’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform “a good start.” The commission’s plan, which failed to garner enough votes among members to send it to Congress for quick action, called for budget cuts and tax increases to cut the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade.
“I think the people who voted for it are courageous because there are things in there that Republicans don’t like on taxes and there are things in there that Democrats don’t like on cuts and entitlement spending — but the people who voted for it were courageous,” LeMieux said. “We are going to have to have adults in Washington who are willing to work together to stop this outrageous debt and deficit.”
Regarding another contentious issue, offshore oil drilling, LeMieux said he generally favors the practice but expressed caution about expanding it too fast.
“I think until we figure out what happened with the recent Gulf oil spill, we need to be very cautious about expanding drilling,” he said.
“I don’t want it so close to Florida that it’s going to damage us,” he said, “but I’m generally in favor of it because we need energy independence. But we have a regulatory structure in oil that didn’t do its job and I want to make sure the government is ready, or the private sector is ready, the next time there is an oil spill to contain it.
“This administration’s handling of the oil spill was tragic, it was completely incompetent. So I want to know that we’ve got the right answer in place to contain the oil if it spills again and then we can start with more drilling.”
On the topic of illegal immigration, LeMieux said he would not vote for the DREAM Act “because it doesn’t do anything to secure the border.” He expressed sympathy for the plight of children of illegal aliens but said the problem will have to be dealt with again in five to 10 years if the border isn’t secured first.
Illegal immigration has been cut by 95 percent during the past three years in Arizona locations where the border fence has been completed, he said.
“We know what works now,” he said. “What we need to do now is properly fund that and replicate it throughout the border.”
Arizona’s tough and controversial anti-illegal immigration law, a version of which is being considered in Florida, is a “good law for Arizona” but “it doesn’t make sense for Florida,” he said.
LeMieux predicted that Congress will agree on an extension of the tax cuts and unemployment insurance before his Senate term ends.
As to his own future, and whether he would seek a Senate seat in 2010, LeMieux said he would make a decision soon.
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