Outgoing U.S. Sen. George LeMieux says one thing in particular stunned him during his short 16 months in office. “People will often ask me what’s the most surprising thing about being a member of the United States Senate,” the Florida Republican says. “And the most surprising thing to me is the way this government spends your money
. It is shocking.”
Despite the shock — or, perhaps, because of it — LeMieux is mulling a return to the Senate. He was Gov. Charlie Crist’s chief of staff when Crist appointed him to fill the 16 months Sen. Mel Martinez left in his term when he resigned in August 2009 — with the proviso that LeMieux not run for the post this year. Marco Rubio won the seat in November, defeating Crist, who ran as an independent, and Democrat Kendrick Meek.
LeMieux plans to decide soon whether to challenge Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson in 2012. The fact that he has four small children weighs heavily on the decision, he said.
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“This is tough on us . . . but we’re thinking it over, we’re talking about it and I think we’ll make a decision pretty soon,” LeMieux said in response to a question after an address at the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Fla., Monday.
Things are tough across the nation, too, he said during his speech, noting that Florida has an unemployment rate of 11.9 percent and is near the top in mortgage foreclosures, the United States is fighting two wars, and there are worries about North Korean aggression and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“Florida and America are struggling . . . This is the worst recession that we’ve been though in Florida since the Great Depression,” he said.
Congress has worsened matters by passing President Barack Obama’s healthcare law and stumbling with the decision on extending the Bush tax cuts, he said. “The majority of things that happen in Washington are hurting this economy and creating too much uncertainty,” he said.
That uncertainly is causing businesses to hold back on expansions and hiring new employees, LeMieux said.
Congress’ idea of fiscal planning to take last year’s budget and add to it, he said.
“We are funding the priorities of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s without any account as to whether or not they are still the priorities of this country,” he said.
The United States is like a family that has run up so much debt on credit cards that it no longer can make even minimum payments, LeMieux said.
The federal government spent $1.3 trillion more than it took in last year, and the country is almost $14 trillion in debt, LeMieux said. Forecasts put the national debt at $26 trillion by the end of the decade, and the interest payment on that debt will be $900 billion.
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