A leading tea party Republican from Kansas, who has opposed raising the nation’s debt ceiling without significant spending cuts, believes President Barack Obama and Democrats aren’t serious about tackling the country’s tough budget problems.
U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp called the president’s spending plans outlined in Tuesday’s State of the Union speech an expansion of bigger government and higher taxes. He questions claims that it is possible to accommodate Obama’s proposals without adding to the deficit.
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“Clearly, he was talking about more than $100 million in new spending and a tremendous amount of regulations that, at the end of the day, are going to slow down the economy and cost us jobs,” Huelskamp said in an interview with Newsmax TV.
He said that by doubling the budget deficit, rather than halving it as promised in his first campaign, the president has shown he’s not serious about spending restraint.
“He has no intention of reducing the deficit. His policies will drive up the deficit because he’s slowing down the economy. We need more freedom, more growth, more opportunity and less government,” he said.
Speaking about the automatic spending cuts set to take effect March 1 Huelskamp said unless a compromise can be reached, a situation that’s come to be known as “the sequester,” he’s not in favor of making any additional concessions to President Obama and Democrats.
“The compromise already occurred when they agreed to the debt deal back in August 2011. These were the only cuts that were supposed to take place a year and a half after they raised the debt ceiling by more than $2 trillion. These are minimal cuts out of a $3.8 trillion budget,” he said.
Huelskamp said he’s not deterred by any economic impact from the sequester.
“The world will not end, but there will be some changes in Washington, many of which are long overdue,” he said.
In Tuesday’s address, President Obama called on Congress to raise the minimum wage to $9-an-hour. While conceding that no one can easily live on the current $7.25-an-hour, Huelskamp believes the answer to the country’s economic woes is job creation.
“Everything the president proposes seems to cost jobs. We have 22.7 million Americans who are either without work or have quit working or only working part time and want to go back full time,” he said. “All the president can say is ‘Hey, I don’t care about the 22.7 million.’ That’s a bad answer to a bad, bad problem created by bad economic policies.”
President Obama has promised to accomplish as much of his agenda as possible through executive orders if he cannot get Congressional agreement. However, Huelskamp said the fact that Congress controls the nation’s purse strings gives it leverage against these actions.
“The president, particularly on the Second Amendment, is engaging in further use of executive orders or executive actions. It was a shocking threat for the president, who swore on the Constitution a month ago to uphold the document, to turn around and tell the world and an entire U.S. Congress that if you don’t listen to me and do what I say, I’m going to go around the Constitution and do it unilaterally,” he said. “What’s the House to do about it? They’re going to take away the money.”
In particular, Huelskamp singled out EPA funding as a target if President Obama pushes through a carbon tax.
Speaking on a renewed push to put through immigration policy reforms, Huelskamp said he doesn’t support amnesty for illegal immigrants, but does believe it’s time to modernize a system he characterizes as “stuck in the ‘50s.”
“We need to upgrade it, but we have to secure the border first. That, to me, is the most unlikely thing to come out of this administration. The president is not committed to a solution, he likes the political issue,” he said. “(Given) the 2014 elections, I’m not very optimistic that we’ll have some serious immigration reform proposals make it through the Senate or the House.”
Despite the nation’s divided government, Huelskamp believes there may be room for compromise on issues such as entitlement reform.
“(President Obama) did make one mention of the need for entitlement reform and Sen. (Marco) Rubio’s response was very accurate in that if you don’t want to reform, secure and strengthen Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, you’re essentially saying you’d rather bankrupt us,” Huelskamp said. “We see a little angle where maybe the president could come to the table and work with Republicans to save Social Security and Medicare.”
Addressing the different philosophies in the Republican Party, Huelskamp said he and others that are committed to conservative views plan to push them forward.
“For two years, conservatives were told we can’t push that agenda, that we can’t work seriously on balancing the budget or a balanced budget amendment because we can’t deal with this president. Now, we’re stuck with this president for four years and it’s time to move forward,” he said. “The real battle is to save this country and Republicans need to come together. The most that’s happened in the last two years if when we focus and provide our foundation on conservative principles.”
Speaking on recent violent acts committed by veterans, including Christopher Dorner who was killed by police in California on Tuesday, he said most in Congress aren’t making veteran-related issues a priority. Huelskamp, who serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, promised Republicans would have proposals to address the issue.
“We had a hearing yesterday on mental health issues related to our veterans. We can do a much better job. The (Department of Veterans Affairs) and the Department of Defense and how they handle things are so bureaucratic. We also have an administration that refuses to enforce current gun laws and Democratic governors who refuse to provide information to Washington about mental illness,” Huelskamp said.
“If Washington would get out of the way, we’d see tremendous progress in dealing with these mental health issues.”
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