By Heather Murtagh
From keeping an eye on what she calls unwise military machinery spending and continuing the fight against sexual violence within the armed forces to worries about the fiscal cliff, U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier was open to talk about a number of items of national importance with reporters Monday morning.
Speier, D-San Mateo, invited reporters to visit her office Monday for a casual and wide-ranging conversation. For more than 30 minutes, Speier discussed her continued efforts to curb sexual violence in the military and helping veterans get needed services despite a long backlog. In the coming months, she will be helping work to ensure safety at U.S. embassies. And Speier warns not making changes to avoid impacts of the fiscal cliff could be catastrophic.
The fiscal cliff has been a buzz term in the media since the election. It's referring to the end of the year when, if nothing changes, higher taxes and cuts to some government programs will kick in. Such an increase in taxes could create less spending. It's not uncommon to have lawmakers discuss budget issues until the last minute. Without changes, many worry the financial markets could take a nosedive.
Speier shares the concerns about a negative impact on markets. However, the tax cuts were always meant to be a holiday, she said. Those were extended two years.
"We can't afford the tax holiday anymore. We also need to cut government," she said, adding defense shouldn't be immune from cuts.
Speier isn't anti-military, however, she believes the organization could run more efficiently. She also has concerns about spending on military machines. For example, a boat that's in its beta phase is taking in water, which creates a number of problems. There is supposed to be a large order of these boats. Speier questions moving forward with such a purchase.
Issues related to the military has been a focus for Speier's office lately. In the past year, she noted efforts to help streamline the process for veterans' disability claims has resulted in more than $1 million being granted. But the backlog remains.
The congresswoman's office has generally been working more with individual constituents on a number of issues. Helping veterans who are in limbo waiting for services and those dealing with mortgage struggles are some of the top requests the office handles.
Speier's work will cover a different topic later this week when she's expected to introduce a resolution to be sure federal funds aren't used to support psychological therapy aimed at "converting" those under 18 from gay to straight.