- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Freshman Congressman Andy Barr (R-Lexington) pulled no punches in discussing the federal spending cuts known as the sequester and other national topics following his visit here last week to tour the public school system.
Barr railed against the sequester, a deal struck between Democrats and Republicans two years ago that went into effect March 1 and chopped a reported $85 billion in federal spending.
He also weighed in on entitlement reform, gun control and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s now famous filibuster of President Obama’s nominee to lead the CIA.
Barr said the sequester is not how the federal government should cut spending.
“First of all, the sequester was a bad idea when Obama proposed it in the summer of 2011, and it’s a bad idea today,” said Barr, who defeated Democrat Ben Chandler last fall.
“The reason it’s bad is not because of the amount of the cuts, it’s because of the indiscriminate nature in which it’s applied.”
Barr said he and other House members attempted to remedy the “indiscriminate nature” of the sequester, particularly for the military, by passing a continuing resolution in the House.
“That would have provided the Department of Defense with the ability to reprioritize,” he said.
Barr also lashed out at Obama, who spent the weeks leading up the sequester warning of its dire implications.
“The president should lead instead of trying to scare the American people,” Barr said. “To put this in context, we’re spending $15 billion more than last year, and we’re borrowing $3 billion a day. We need to reduce spending.”
Barr said instead of entitlement and other spending cuts the first focus should be on government waste.
“What we should be doing is eliminating expensive junkets for federal bureaucrats, and we should eliminate [the president’s] free cell phone program that’s costing $2.2 billion a year instead of cancelling White House tours that cost the taxpayer just $18,000 a week.
“We should look at wasteful programs like hundreds of millions in green energy grants to China. There are plenty of opportunities to achieve much more than $85 billion without threatening national security.”
Asked why Congress allows wasteful spending to continue when most Americans are forced to watch every penny, Barr said he’s still learning after only two months on the job, but already sees the problem.
“My first impression is that the bureaucrats in the executive branch are insulated from accountability, and there’s a lack of accountability in the executive branch,” he said, adding plenty of blame also lies in the Democrat-controlled Senate, which has not passed a budget in four years and relies instead on continuing resolutions.
“That’s the most basic responsibility in government,” Barr said. “They haven’t been doing the job that is required by law.”
Barr said he co-sponsored legislation that became law last month that will withhold pay from Congress unless a budget is passed this year.
“The main point I’d like to make to the folks in Anderson County is that we need to reduce spending, but do it in a more intelligent way, and to make sure Congress is doing its job. If they don’t pass a budget, they shouldn’t get paid.”
As for entitlement reform, Barr said it’s important to act now to preserve the benefits for the long run.
“If we don’t reform now, by 2025, 100 percent of all federal revenue will be consumed by Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on the national debt,” he said.
“My support for reforming benefits is not about austerity or cutting benefits to seniors; it’s about preventing cuts to seniors and making sure the government keeps its promises to seniors and people nearing retirement.
“The growth in these programs is crowding out every other federal priority, including national security, roads and bridges, transportation and education.”
On gun control, Barr said he is a “strong defender” of the 2nd Amendment and will have two principals in guiding any vote he makes on gun control legislation.
“Number one is it constitutional,” he said. “Two is will it solve the problem and prevent someone like [the shooter in Connecticut].
“A ban on assault weapons or high-capacity magazines has constitutional problems and wouldn’t have prevented that guy from doing what he did.
“The focus shouldn’t be on gun control. We need to focus on a national instant criminal background check that is effective. Only half of the states report into that system, which doesn’t have complete information, particularly regarding mental illness.
“We need to do as much as we can to ensure school safety and prevent guns from getting into the hands of the seriously mentally ill.”
As for Sen. Paul’s filibuster to force the White House to provide clarity on its use of drones to kill American citizens thought to be involved in terrorism, Barr said he and several of his colleagues attended it to show their support.
“They owed it to the American people to reassure Americans that they don’t have constitutional authority to unilaterally kill an American citizen non-combatant on US soil,” Barr said.
“Sen. Paul wasn’t getting an answer to his question about that, and did a great service to the American people.”