BRISTOL, Tenn. — U.S. Reps. Phil Roe and Morgan Griffith addressed everything from Obamacare to the federal sequester’s effects during a joint town hall-style meeting Wednesday night at the Paramount Theatre.
Roe, R-Tenn., led off with a short slide presentation showing the federal budget is mostly consumed by Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the national debt.
“What we have to do to balance this budget is talk about the entire budget. ... The problem is not revenue. Spending is the problem,” Roe told the small gathering at the Paramount.
About half of the nation’s $16 trillion debt, Roe added, is foreign-held debt.
Roe also used his slides to point out problems with illegal immigration, an issue now before the U.S. Senate but not yet in the House.
Nearly 12 million people are in the U.S. illegally, Roe said, with a low percentage of them being skilled workers.
The children of illegal immigrants get federal benefits, while none can be turned away from a hospital emergency room regardless of their ability to pay, Roe noted.
“I have great respect for people who come here to work. ... I was lucky ... I was born in America. ... But my question is if we don’t enforce the border (with Mexico) and we don’t prosecute we will be right back where we were,” Roe told the audience.
Both congressmen railed against the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called Obamacare, with most of its key provisions going into effect next year.
Griffith, R-Va., called ACA a “train wreck” that will keep small businesses from adding workers because of the mandate to offer health insurance coverage to full-time employees.
“Next year, we may get something (in Congress) that looks and quacks like repeal,” Griffith predicted.
Roe pointed out President Barack Obama promised health insurance would be cheaper under ACA.
Instead, Roe forecast premiums on individual health insurance policies will go up 25-35 percent in 2014.
“I sense the frustration,” Griffith said of the public’s negative feelings about ACA. “I feel it will collapse without civil disobedience. ... It’s a house of cards and the cards are going to slip.”
When asked by a Marine veteran about repealing the U.S. Defense Department’s policy on allowing women in combat, Roe said there’s not much Congress can do.
Griffith, meanwhile, responded that a lawsuit may be filed if women are required to sign up for Selective Service.
The two congressmen disagreed when asked about term limits. Roe wants them, but Griffith doesn’t.
Term limits, Griffith argued, empowers federal bureaucrats and stymies change in Congress.
Concerning the effects of the federal sequester, both congressmen emphasized they have cut spending in their own individual offices.
When asked if the sequester is exposing the United States to security threats, Roe said the military is facing $100 billion in cuts and troop reductions.
“If I’m the commander in chief, I want the biggest stick in the box,” Roe, a military veteran, told the audience.
Griffith insisted Europe relies too much on the United States “to take care of things.”
Both congressmen also took former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to task for her handling of security at U.S. facilities attacked last September in Benghazi, Libya, resulting in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and others.
They also acknowledged disagreement between themselves at times and being civil about it.
“The bottom line is when we’re looking to do the right thing for the people of Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee, we bring our different perspectives together and I think usually we come up with about the same answer,” Griffith said.
For more about Roe go to www.roe.house.gov.
For more about Griffith go to www.morgangriffith.house.gov.