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Roby discusses national debt, military budget cuts

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Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 5:09 pm

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby recently provided an update on what's happing in Washington and how the House of Representative is working toward putting a restraint on government spending.

During an Enterprise Rotary Club meeting, Roby said efforts in Washington to pass an acceptable budget have been fruitless labors due to the Senate's lack of compromise.

"We're trying to do all these good things in the House, but most everything we do is stalled in the Senate," Roby said. "We've passed good legislation that defunds Obamacare, repeal it completely, all of the energy bills that we've passed ... All of these efforts that are pro growth, pro private job bills are stalled in the Senate and nothing is happening," Roby said, adding this type of languish will continue to worsen as the 2012 election grows nearer.

A sign of the House's respect toward work in the White House was exemplified by the complete absence of votes for a budget presented by President Barack Obama.

"I'm not talking just Republicans (voting no), I'm talking zero votes in the House of Representatives," Roby said. "We're on an unsustainable path."

A path, she said, that will eventually leave the next generation a legacy of debt.

"The president presented us a budget that has over a trillion dollars of deficit spending for the fourth year in a row," she said. "It's actually unconscionable that we would leave that kind of debt to (our children)."

Roby also discussed the Budget Control Act and the "failure" of the Joint Select Committee to find $1.6 trillion in cuts required under the law.

In August 2011, Obama called for Congress to raise the debt ceiling to prevent default. Roby said Congress would do this only if significant cuts were achieved "dollar for dollar" for the amount the president wanted to raise the ceiling.

The "flawed" method, she said, was putting that responsibility into the hands of a 12-person team made up of Congressmen who were a "microcosm of all the partisan ills we have in the Congress as a whole.

"So why we thought 12 people could figure it out is beyond me, but that's what the law says," Roby said. "So, of course, a committee that was set to fail before we ever even created failed."

The failure resulted in automatic spending cuts implemented by the Budget Control Act, which will begin in January 2013.

Military cuts

Roby said she voted against the Budget Control Act, because 50 percent of the cuts will be out of the Department of Defense.

The military is already working under nearly a half trillion in cuts during a 10-year period to the military, additional spending cuts as a result of the BCA would cut another half trillion.

The other half trillion in cuts will be equally shared among other government agencies.

"Our military will cease to operate as we know it today. They can't. They don't have the resources," Roby said. "We will not be able to have the presence that we need to have in certain areas of this world. And it's frightening."

Roby said cuts to the military have had to be made in the past, but never during a time when the military has been fighting a war.

In an effort to prevent that, the House has proposed a solution within chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan's budget, which includes reconciliation.

"This is an effort on behalf of the Congress, both the House and the Senate, to decide together the specific cuts that will come out of specific committees," Roby said. "The committees will meet. They're charged with finding a certain number of billions of dollars in cuts over 10 years, and then together they reconcile the budget process so that those cuts will cover the first year of sequestration (automatic spending cuts) so these military cuts won't happen."

However, Roby said these efforts in the House would likely not carry over to the Senate.

"We've been charged with these reconciliation efforts, and they will pass, but come November when we go into a lame duck session, is when all this stuff is going to be handled," Roby said.

Several pieces of major legislation are set to expire, and Roby said none of it would likely be handled until after the presidential election.

"That does nothing to help you," Roby said. "That gives you no certainty as to what you need to plan for down the road, and I get that, and I wish I could change that."

Roby blames Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for not allowing discussion in the Senate on these issues.

As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Roby said it is especially important to have a seat at the table because of the large presence of the military within the Wiregrass.

Roby said she has had the unique opportunity to travel to Afghanistan to meet with men and women in uniform.

"To experience just a small sliver of the sacrifice that you make was tremendous for me to offer perspective when I'm sitting in the hearing room having hearings in front of Secretary (of Defense) (Leon) Panetta and Gen. (Martin) Dempsey (Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff) and our other chiefs to be able to ask the right questions about how are we taking care of our military families, and then specific questions as it relates to Fort Rucker and Maxwell-Gunter (Air Force Base) as well."

Roby said she is confident in the leaders in charge of carrying out the mission in Afghanistan.

"Certainly we all want our men and women home, but we do have a mission there, and we need to follow through with that," she said.

Roby also noted the president has called for a 2013 and 2015 BRAC, or Base Realignment and Closure, which she said shows no real savings until 12 or 13 years later.

"It's our job (the Alabama delegation) to view this BRAC as an opportunity for our installations here that we can expand and grow the mission in a way that makes sense for what we already have," Roby said. "We're going to continue to work with friends of Fort Rucker and your local leadership all across the state and the lieutenant governor's commission to make sure that we are doing everything we can."

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