By Kim West
For the second time in two weeks, Limestone County residents had the opportunity to attend a legislative forum and share their concerns and viewpoints.
A week after the local legislative delegation hosted a forum at Athens State University, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-5th District) hosted a town hall meeting Monday night to discuss the upcoming challenges facing the 113th Congress.
Brooks talked for about 30 minutes in front of more than 100 people crammed into the Athens Board of Education chambers before opening up the floor for questions from the audience.
Brooks, a sophomore, said Republicans lost two seats in the Senate and eight in the House of Representatives in November’s General Election, but he still considered it a successful election cycle for the GOP.
“The 2012 election was a great year for the House of Representatives for conservatives,” Brook said. “This (was) the second-best election cycle that the Republicans have had in the House of Representatives in 60 years. The only year better was 2010, and we have 223 Republican representatives now.”
He lightened his repeated warnings about the fiscal cliff, debt ceiling and possible government shutdown by playing a satirical YouTube video that poked fun at Congress’ willingness to go into further debt without spending cuts. In the video, a man visits his bank, and asks a loan officer for more money despite being deep in debt. The lender repeatedly turns the man down until he mentions being a father. The video ends with the man’s loan quickly being approved and the loan being signed by his young daughter.
“The big issue that permeates everything else are these trillion-dollar deficits,” Brooks said. “We’re up to 16.4 trillion dollars in debt, which is going higher because right now there’s no debt ceiling if the Senate passes the bill that the House passed to suspend the debt ceiling until May 19.”
The Republican-controlled House voted 285-144 to pass legislation Jan. 23 that eliminated the country’s debt ceiling until midnight May 18, and the bill is expected to be passed by the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Brooks predicted that as much as $300 billion to $400 billion would be borrowed until then, based on last year’s $1.1 trillion debt.
“My primary concern is the solvency of the federal government,” Brooks said. “I am never going to vote to raise the debt ceiling unless we address the underlying debt problem in a substantial way.
“The reason the debt ceiling is being raised is because we’re spending more money than we have, which is causing a deficit. Something has to be done in a constructive way to contract those deficits.”
In the coming weeks, the House Budget Committee, chaired by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, is expected to release details of the 2014 fiscal year budget.
Brooks said the three major issues facing Congress is the Feb. 28 deadline for the sequester, which are automatic budget cuts enacted in July 2011 after the previous debt limit standoff; the March 31 decision to approve a “continuing resolution” to continue funding for government services; and May 18 deadline for the debt ceiling.
Local governments officials in attendance Monday included Limestone County commissioners Gary Daly and Ben Harrison; state Rep. Dan Williams, R-Athens; Athens City Councilmen Harold Wales, Jimmy Gill, Wayne Harper and Joe Cannon; and Limestone County Republican Party Chairman Ronnie Coffman.