In a two hour debate on April 9th, the five candidates for the 9th District Congressional seat debated a wide variety of topics. In previous posts, we covered taxes and national security. This post includes debate on budgeting and the appropriations process, funding Planned Parenthood, and what to do about the district’s water needs. Participants include Rep. Doug Collins, former 10th district congressman Paul Broun, retired educator Roger Fitzpatrick, retired National Guard General Bernie Fontaine, and Lanier Tea Party Patriots founder Mike Scupin.
The first question was, “With plans for the Glades reservoir on hold and the continuing threat of another drought, how should Congress act to secure water for the region?”
Dr. Broun believes that if rain falls in Georgia, then it belongs to the state as long as it remains in the state. He believes that the “jobs destroying, liberty destroying” Environmental Protection Agency is a threat to jobs and industry, and his goal would be to eliminate it completely. He is disappointed that the Glades Reservoir isn’t going to be funded.
Mr. Fitzpatrick believes that each state is sovereign, and that the 10th Amendment gives Georgia the right to anything within the state including water. Saying that the EPA is unconstitutional, Fitzpatrick says Congress should rein in the agency’s unauthorized powers as it works to eliminate it completely.
Rep Collins said that while part of the Glades Reservior issue deals with whether it should be funded by the county or the state, the bigger issue deals with the long running water wars between Georgia, Florida, and Alabama that boils down to who gets the water from north Georgia. Collins believes that this should not be something that is solved by Congress. Instead, the states should solve the issue on their own.
Calling the Environmental Protection Agency “insane,” General Fontaine said the agency should be done away with, with any essential functions taken over by the Department of the Interior. Mr. Scupin called the Glades project ill conceived. He suggested that recent land purchases near where the reservoir was to be located may have had something to do with the project. He agreed with Rep. Collins that the issue should he settled between the states.
The next portion of the debate dealt with the federal budget, including the Omnibus that was passed last December, how to fund or not fund specific appropriations, including Planned Parenthood.
Speaking first, Congressman Collins pointed out that the only reason an omnibus spending bill is needed is because congress has been unable to pass the normal appropriations bills. As a result, Congress must pass either a continuing resolution, which maintains spending at current levels, or an omnibus, which allows for spending reductions.
Planned Parenthood, he pointed out, is funded more than 90% by mandatory spending, which is not part of the appropriations process, and is not part of the Omnibus. The remainder is from grants. Language in the Omnibus says that Planned Parenthood funds cannot be used to provide abortions. Collins said that legislation defunding Planned Parenthood and Obamacare was in last year’s budget reconciliation bill that was vetoed by President Obama.
Dr. Broun said he would not have voted for the Omnibus, saying that the Planned Parenthood funding it contained would have been enough reason to vote no on the measure. “Omnibus bills, by definition, include a lot of unconstitutional programs,” Broun said. “There are four questions I utilize to evaluate any piece of legislation. The first one, is it right. The second one, is it constitutional. Third, do we need it; fourth, can we afford it. “
Mr. Scupin called omnibus bills ill-conceived, saying that they provide an opportunity for congressmen to include items that benefit themselves. Saying that omnibus spending bills are unconstitutional, Scupin said he would not vote for one. He said that if the government followed the Constitution, no budget or omnibus bill would be necessary, since government’s size and scope would be greatly reduced from what it has become. “The Fabian socialists in 1921 wanted a budget so that they could add things to it that were unconstitutional,” Scupin maintained. “They got it, and we’re still doing it.”
Mr. Fitzpatrick also said that he would not vote for an omnibus bill. He said that each appropriations bill should be voted on individually so that the merits of each one could be evaluated. He expressed support for zero based budgeting as another way to keep spending under control. Gen. Fontaine lamented what he called the mismanagement of the budgeting process. He said that by the time Congress is forced to use an omnibus to set upcoming spending levels, congressmen want to vote against it, but have to vote for it on order to be able to keep the government open.
Each of the candidates was asked how they would defund Planned Parenthood, and if they were willing to risk a government shutdown in order to get the job done.
Dr. Broun maintained that the mandatory portion of Planned Parenthood’s funding could have been dealt with by language in the Omnibus bill specifying that no federal funds could go to the organization for any reason. This was challenged by Rep. Collins, who said that House Rule 21 specifically prevents language in an appropriations bill affecting mandatory spending.
Mr. Scupin maintained that Congress didn’t really want to defund Planned Parenthood, and that it was worth shutting down the government, pointing out that after government shutdowns in the 1990s, Republicans picked up seats in the House and Senate. “I am not against shutting the government down if the government will not wake up and do what is right and follow our Constitution.”
Mr. Fitzpatrick credited Congress with passing last year’s reconciliation bill that removed funding for Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act. That bill was vetoed by President Obama. He hoped that a Republican president will be elected in November who would be willing to sign a bill to defund both Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act. He is willing to shut down the government over the issue.
Rep. Collins put much of the blame for not being able to defund Planned Parenthood on the Senate, where, he says, Democrats filibuster GOP efforts to limit the size of government. Collins defended his commitment to the pro life movement, saying, “I will not take a back seat to anyone for my commitment to life.” He accused Mr. Broun of voting against the Fetal Pain bill because it would help him get the endorsement of Georgia Right to Life in his Senate race.
Congressman Broun pointed out that the first bill he introduced in congress was his Sanctity of Human Life Act, which defines life as beginning at conception. He said that he has fought for the unborn throughout his congressional career. “Planned Parenthood continues to butcher babies. I will not vote for this one iota.” He continued, “ll do anything I can to stop Planned Parenthood from being funded by your tax dollars. And we have to stop killing these unborn babies, and I’ll die on the cross to do that”
For his part, General Fontaine blamed the Democrats for making social issues more important than they really are, in hopes that conservatives would beat each other up. He said that a simple statement opposing abortions and Planned Parenthood should be sufficient. “We have more important things to worry about,” Fontaine pointed out. “Same-sex marriage? It’s a matter of semantics. It’s a civil union by any other definition. But when other people push their agendas down our throats, especially in the area of religion, morality and those things. Don’t get bogged down in this.”
The final question of the candidates asked what each would do about Social Security; specifically how the candidate would protect Social Security and ensure it will be there in the future.
General Fontaine maintained that there had been a lot of mismanagement, and that the scope of social security should be returned to its original intent. Rep. Collins said that mandatory spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid needed to be addressed. Maintaining the current system for those older than 55 or 60 was important, but developing a new system for younger workers that would let them save for retirement on their own through their jobs. Collins said that Social Security was never meant to be a retirement plan. Dr. Broun pointed out that Americans had contributed their money to Social Security, and should be able to get it back. Yet, something new had to be done, or young people would not see any benefits.
Mr. Fitzpatrick also advocated a gradual transition from the current system to one run by private enterprise that could meet the needs of younger people when they retire. Mr. Scupin claimed that Social Security violates the Constitution. He said that in the 1960s, 13% of the federal budget went to entitlements. By 2014, he said, entitlements had risen to 49% or more of the budget, and that percentage is going to grow. Scupin said that something needed to be done to fix that problem.