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The Pratt Tribune- Huelskamp: Everything Should Be On the Table in Washington

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Location: Pratt, KS

Everything has to be on the table. Rep. Tim Huelskamp was clear on that point as he discussed the $14 trillion U.S. deficit during a town hall meeting Thursday in Pratt.

Huelskamp serves on the agriculture, veterans and budget committees. The budget committee will face many challenges because they do not have a budget to work with and are working with a continuation resolution until March.

They are currently looking at a $1.5 trillion deficit for next year.

"Those numbers are scary," Huelskamp said. "This isn't just about us it's about our children and grandchildren."

If something isn't done the country could be looking at 70 percent taxation on income in the future.

As Huelskamp, who started his career as a U.S. Congressman in January, and the other members of Congress tackle the problem of the deficit, Huelskamp wants to look at every element of the budget including Social Security, military, agriculture supplements and the money the U.S. is investing in foreign countries.

"Our government spent $56 million in foreign aid to China last year," Huelskamp said.

Israel receives the largest amount of foreign aid from America.

As the country continues to borrow money to stimulate the economy it has become obvious to Huelskamp that it's just not going to work. Washington has told the public things they wanted to hear and that will not solve the budget problem.

The money flowing into the military is also an item Huelskamp wants to examine in the budget committee. With money flowing into Iraq and Afghanistan as well as other military budgets, that spending has to be examined as well.

"In my belief everything should be on the table," Huelskamp said.

Exemptions in all areas are going to get close scrutiny. A recently published list of 733 organizations that are exempt from the changes in health care is getting a lot of attention. Why are these organizations exempt even if it is just one year? The United Federation of Teachers is exempt for one year and they have 351,000 members. Huelskamp wants to know why these groups are exempt.

Two critical issues facing Congress are balancing the budget and how to get to that point.

Already they have made changes that have taken five percent out of the budget but much more has to be done, Huelskamp said.

Right after the five percent was removed, Congress made a request for a 10 percent increase in security after the shooting in Tucson, Ariz.

He said finding a solution to the deficit and the other issues facing the country is a long process and Congress does not move quickly.

Along with the change in members of Congress is a change in policy that allowed Huelskamp to be in Kansas just a month into the new session. Congress has a mandate that every member will spend at least one week a month in his or her home district.

This is a radical change for some members but Congress is spread out across the country during this first week of that policy.

He and other Representatives have already made some changes in the health care package but much more needs to be done.

"We do need significant change and reform to the system," Huelskamp said.

An audience member said farmers are getting good prices now for grain and livestock but is worried that in an effort to cut the budget, Congress might do away with safety nets and when the prices go down, it would be hard for them to reestablish those funds for farmers.

For all the problems, Huelskamp said he is optimistic the county can solve the problems. He wants to see Kansas become a refinery and production capital. He also sees positive elements for agriculture.

"We will get through the tough times ahead," Huelskamp said.

While his represents the biggest district in Kansas, 69 counties, Huelskamp estimates that when redistricting is over, the big First District in Kansas will increase to 70 counties.

Huelskamp asked the audience what they thought his first priority should be as a Congressman and they responded: pick a good staff, remain bi-partisan, keep in touch with the people in the district, address illegal immigration, use your common sense, keep your principals and values.

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