By: Callie Jones
Congressman Cory Gardner was in Sterling on Wednesday, visiting with his constituents at several different events.
His trip included a visit to Sterling Regional MedCenter, where he toured the David Walsh Cancer Center as well as the in-patient area and laboratory, and visited with staff. Following the tour he attended an open house at his Northeast Regional Office, located at 109 1/2 South Third St.
Earlier in the day Gardner spoke at a Rotary Club meeting as part of their Distinguished Speaker series. About 45 people attended the meeting, which was open to the public.
"This nation faces over $14 trillion in debt," he said. "Our deficit this year will be over $1.6 trillion, that's a lot of money."
Gardner said one thing that has to happen to get out of that debt is cutting congressional spending.
"I believe if we are going to ask everyone to help us balance our budget, that it has to start in our own back yard first," he said.
He talked about an amendment he sponsored to require a balanced budget.
"We have seen where Congress has to have handcuffs when it comes to spending, because otherwise, left unrestrained they continue to spend money they don't have," Gardner said. "40 cents of every dollar is being spent with borrowed money in the federal government today. So we've got to balance the budget and we've got to get a constitutional amendment in place to require that budget to be balanced."
He also talked about new rules requiring legislation to be online 72 hours before it's voted upon and requiring every bill that comes before the House to cite its constitutional authority.
"Those are all things that I think will make the process better, stronger and more open for the people of America," Gardner said.
He also talked about the continuing resolution that funds the government from March 4 through the end of the fiscal year.
"The continuing resolution we passed cuts spending by $100 billion from the 2011 president's budget," Gardner said.
There were more than 600 amendments offered by members of Congress when the resolution was debated, including one from Gardner, which was approved, that defunds a part of the healthcare bill.
He noted the continuing resolution was spread across the board and includes a $19 billion cut from the Department of Defense from the 2011 president's budget.
Gardner also talked about a piece of legislation they'll be introducing soon, the Small Business Savings Account.
This legislation allows those who want to start a small business, but aren't quite ready to, to open a savings account and the money they save is tax-free. Later that money can be withdrawn and put toward the purchase of a building for the business or supplies, or the hiring of new employees.
"It's a way to encourage people to save money and to get money back into the economy by creating jobs and opportunities," Gardner said.
He said they're sharing this legislation with chambers of commerce, NFIB organizations, and people around the state and around the country to really make sure they're doing everything right.
Gardner also answered several questions from the audience, including one regarding what's happening with oil drilling and exploration in light of the recent events in Egypt and other Middle East countries.
He said the Energy and Commerce Committee had a hearing about two weeks ago on the Middle East turmoil and what it means for the U.S. energy supply.
"We're certainly focusing on that," he said.
Gardner said there should be more focus on opportunities in the U.S.
"We have so many opportunities in eastern Colorado and northern Colorado to develop our oil and gas, wind, solar resources, that we should be doing that anyway," he said.
Gardner is working on legislation called American Energy Zones that he said he thinks could really push the country toward more energy development in a responsible manner.
He also talked about foreign aid.
"I think there's going to be more and more people examining what exactly we're doing with foreign aid, how much that is and where it's going," Gardner said. "There were discussions during the Continuing Resolution, foreign aid, particularly to Egypt, how that is being placed, who its going to, who's going to receive it given the situation the government was in."
"I think this is a renewed effort to examine and re-examine how our foreign aid dollars are being used and spent."
Another question was about what's being done about transmission of energy.
In the Colorado legislature Gardner created the Clean Energy Development Authority.
"The idea being how do we match private investments with a public need, like transmission lines," he said. "So that we can have that tool to say build that line out in northeastern Colorado or southeastern Colorado and connect from where the power is developed to where the people are using the power."
"That's a continual conversation we have," Gardner said. "If the desire is to develop clean energy, then how do we make sure that we're able to develop clean energy without unnecessary impediments being put in front of us?"
He also talked about the need to do a better job of checking the power of the government.
"Republicans, Democrats, the state legislature, the federal government, both parties have failed when it comes to watching the power of the other branches, in particular the executive branch," Gardner said. "We have to step up, in terms of our obligation under the Constitution, to be that watchdog and to be that separate power and to be that check and balance.
"How do we check that power? It's through oversight, it's the investigative powers of Congress."
Gardner said there needs something like the Rule Review Bill that Colorado has, at the federal level. If a rule passes through the agency, then it has to be approved by the state legislature before it goes into effect.
Also, a lot of the regulations at the state level sunset after seven years and then come up for review.
"We ought to be sunsetting more regulations and have those sunset reviews at the federal level," Gardner said.
He also responded to a statement asking him to help with the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act or postponing the next step when it comes to accountability requirements.
"I believe that one of the best things that I can do as your member of Congress is to make sure that Washington's not trying to do your job," Gardner said. "Make sure that they're not trying to tell you what to teach, tell you how to teach it, but to make sure the school board that you elected is doing the job that they were elected to do and not somebody who's unelected in Washington D.C."
He also talked about federal mandates.
"We had a lot of discussion during the continuing resolution, if we're going to cut funding for a program that the federal government is mandating, well the mandate's still there, you're still required to do it," Gardner said. "The only difference is that the money they were giving you is now gone and so somebody else has to pay for it. That's really not saving money, that's just passing the buck or the bill down to somebody else.