By Wendy Holdren
Congressman Nick Rahall appeared Tuesday at the Beckley Rotary Club to discuss what’s happening in Congress, the impending sequestration and to answer questions from local business leaders.
He was introduced by Paul Hutchinson who gave the congressman a warm welcome back to Beckley after being in Washington.
“This is home. It is and always will be. I love every part of it,” Rahall said.
He didn’t waste any time after his introduction, jumping right into discussion about infrastructure.
“We all agree there is a federal role for transportation policy.”
He said while some members believe that road systems are, for the most part, complete, and the cost and infrastructure should now be handled on a state level, he strongly disagrees.
“All options must be on the table for financing. That’s always the big elephant in the room — how we’re going to pay for it.”
He said he thinks everyone is moving to the same page as far as infrastructure goes, but he does not believe that raising the gas tax is a viable solution to the funding problem.
Rahall then moved on to the issue of sequestration, which is essentially the freezing of government funding for certain departments.
He said the sequestration will most likely go into effect at the beginning of March after being delayed from the beginning of the year.
“The real question is how long it will last, because the longer it lasts, the more cuts will happen.”
The Defense Department will be affected first, but he said everything from day cares to law enforcement agencies could feel the effects.
“There was a lack of Congress agreeing on budget decisions. It all cannot be cuts alone. There has to be revenues and tax reforms.”
He said the day and age of fiscal cliffs is not the way to run a government, but emphasized that’s the nature of the political beast in Washington.
“It’s very frustrating. There are a lot of political games.”
Not only are there difficulties between Republicans and Democrats, Rahall said, but within the parties themselves.
“I believe in the word compromise. The Tea Party doesn’t believe in the word compromise. All three sides need to compromise; don’t give up on your principles, but no one is going to get 100 percent of what they want.”
During the question and answer session, Rahall was asked about how Congress has changed over the years, especially how much time members of Congress used to spend together.
Rahall mentioned Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan who “did not find any agreements, but agreed to compromise.”
He said the two golfed together after business was taken care of, and truly respected each other.
“It’s not there today. We appear like a bunch of bumbling idiots.”
He blamed that on 24/7 television talk shows like those appearing on Fox and MSNBC, that have taken far sides of the spectrum, locked themselves on their positions and turn politicians against one another.
“With the growth, they have to find something to talk about and get the ratings up. Cable picks up these shows because it gets the ratings up. People take it to be the truth.”
He said another issue is the cost of campaigns. With unlimited funding from undisclosed sources, Rahall said the massive spending leads to raised negativity, which makes it very difficult to come together after an election.
A third issue is that instead of families relocating to Washington, the member of Congress now spends his or her week in Washington, and then travels back to their hometown.
“We have less social time in Washington with colleagues. We spend two to three days in the middle of the week, attack each other, then go back home. Do we need to spend more time together? It’s hard to because of issues one and two.”
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