Congressman visits, talks with veterans and addresses shutdown
By BRITANY FHOLER
U.S. Congressman Roger Williams, R-Austin, made a stop on Tuesday to Central Texas College’s Anderson Campus Center to speak about the military and the country’s debt with members of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce during a luncheon.
Williams met privately with several area veterans prior to the luncheon, including Coryell County Veterans Services Officer Tony Smith, to discuss concerns regarding training, quality of life, Veterans Affairs benefits, and the effects of the government shutdown.
Williams called the shutdown, which lasted three days from January 20 to January 22, an “embarrassment.”
“I was saddened and disappointed that certain people took it upon themselves to play the military as a pawn in this negotiation and frankly pit the military against those that are here illegally,” Williams said. “It should have never happened in America.”
Williams said that shutdowns and continuing resolutions are how Washington, D.C. does business. The House of Representatives passed 12 appropriations bills and sent them over to the Senate, who have not taken up a single one, which led to the shutdown, he added.
Williams was confident that come February 8, which is the date that the stop-gap funding bill expires, that the dynamics between Republicans and Democrats will be different, and that military pay will not be held hostage.
He also said he was prepared to join U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, in having his pay withheld until the shutdown ended.
He also supported increasing the military budget, mentioning the additional $100 billion included in the House’s version of the budget to go towards training, vehicles and equipment.
The shutdown cost an estimated $6 billion, according to Williams.
Williams shared his thoughts on the DREAMers, who are illegal immigrants who came into the U.S. as minors, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (D.A.C.A) program.
“There’s some tremendous stories and there’s also some not-so-good stories,” Williams said, of the estimated 800,000 DREAMers. “And this is different debate from the budget, the C.R. That was the problem.”
Williams said that a debate on the issue was necessary but not what the budget was about. He further explained his views on illegal immigration.
“Candidly, we’re not going to ask everybody to go back but we have to know who’s here,” Williams said. “I do not support a pathway to citizenship for them. We already have that for everybody.”
Williams added that he would support legislation that would require the DREAMers to apply for work visas, renewing every three years, which he said would end chain migration. He also supports ending the visa lottery program and outlawing sanctuary cities.
During the luncheon, Williams touched on the debt crisis facing the country, calling it the “biggest crisis in America.”
“We have a $20 trillion debt in America, and I must tell you there is no appetite, Republican or Democrat, except for a few of us, that want to reduce this debt,” William said. “And we have to reduce this debt. It’s driven because we’re just totally out of touch with what we’re spending.”
Williams said that he always votes against raising the debt ceiling and added that he would be in favor of a balanced budget amendment.
“The $20 trillion debt is a little misleading to the people of America because if you add in your contingent liabilities, your social security and that sort of thing, it takes the debt to a number that nobody can conceive. That’s $200 trillion,” Williams said.
Williams suggested the federal government sell the thousands of vacant buildings it pays to have maintained to companies in the private sector and getting rid of the Department of Education as ways to cut down on spending, while avoiding cutting the defense budget.
Williams also touched on the rising interest rate.
“At the rate we’re going, by 2030, 75 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) will go to pay interest on the debt,” Williams said. Currently the interest rate is 3 percent but Williams said he could see it rising up to 8 or 9 percent.
“When you get to that figure, you don’t have a military. You don’t have the police. You don’t have an economy,” he said. “That is where we’re heading, and that’s based on these rates.”
Williams explained that his priorities as he heads back to Washington include continuing tax reform, lessening regulations, getting the military out of sequestration and getting a budget passed.
“I think the government should do three things: They should collect my taxes, defend my borders, build infrastructure, and get out of my life,” Williams said. “And if we would do that, we would be a better country for it.”
Before the luncheon ended, Williams expressed his thanks to his constituents and encouraged them to keep the faith.
“America is the greatest country,” Williams said. “Without a doubt. As bad as we are, we are still the best.”
In response to people who say they don’t like politicians or politics, Williams said that he believes the U.S. still has the best political system in the world.
“We can’t give up on it,” Williams said. “If we start standing down, as business people, because we’re tired of the debate, we’re tired of getting hassled, we’re tired of arguing, then we’re going to lose everything we stand for.”