Medicare, spending overhaul on D.C. agenda

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By Cindy Simpson

Congressmen Chuck Fleischmann and Scott DesJarlais both shared what they’ve done their first 100 days in office during visits in Kingston Tuesday afternoon.


Fleischmann, who represents six precincts in Roane County, started with a community meeting at Kingston City Park before The Roane Alliance luncheon.

Both agreed one of the most important thing during their first 100 days was the actions Congress took to cut spending and fix the nation’s deficit.

“It is the issue that basically is the most important issue we’re facing in Washington, D.C., and as a nation,” Fleischmann said.

Both men voted for Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan’s proposed budget.

DesJarlais agreed their actions to work on the deficit are important.

“It may not seem aggressive enough for some folks, but if you look at it, it is incredibly aggressive,” said the South Pittsburgh Republican.

“Nobody has ever talked about cutting trillions of dollars from a budget over time before. These cuts are historic.”

Added Fleischmann, “We cannot sustain spending at the current level we’re currently spending.”

Fleischmann, a Ooltewah Republican, said the country continues to borrow and spend, taking money from private enterprise.

“When the government has to go out and borrow money, that just leaves less capital available for the private sector to be able to borrow,” he explained.

“I’m also a co-sponsor of a constitutional amendment to balance the budget — and I think that is sorely needed,” Fleishmann said.

“We have that in Tennessee. We have a state constitution which requires by state constitution that we balance our budget every year. That is why we cannot deficit spend in Tennessee. The federal government does not have that requirement.”

Both Fleischmann and DesJarlais voted to defund President Barack Obama’s health-care reform measure passed last year.

Other areas that will likely see overhauls are the Medicare and Medicaid systems.  

Fleischmann said some but not all Democrats are trying to scare seniors, “and it is just wrong.”

“That is something that some Democrats put out as a scare tactic,” he said. “The reality and the truth is that seniors 55 and older will not even be touched. They are safe.”

What will happen for future seniors is yet to be seen.

“We don’t know yet,” Fleishmann said. “We’re going to have to look at proposals dealing with people younger than 55 so that these programs are available. If Medicare is left alone and untouched, it will go broke in nine years.”

There should be no change in Social Security for ages 55 and older, but the congressmen said changes will also be made there.

Fleischmann said he wants to hear from constituents and the experts about how to preserve these programs.

“If they are not reformed, they won’t survive in their current shape,” he said.

DesJarlais discussed the funding of these programs while discussing Ryan’s budget.

DesJarlais said 10,000 new people are enrolling in Medicare every day.

“But nobody bothered to adjust the amount of money coming in to account for the baby boomers that are coming through now,” he said. “So we’ve got to have cuts, and we’ve got to have them now, but no one who is on Social Security now or is approaching Social Security wants to see those cuts.”

DesJarlais and Fleischmann, both business owners, said free enterprise is important.

“I understand the problem of having to make payroll, being overtaxed, being overregulated,” Fleishmann said. “We have to get back to making free enterprise work in this country, and the best way is get EPA out of the way. Get OSHA out of the way.

“Throughout the district I’m going to continue to work for job creation in the private sector by reducing unnecessary regulation, keeping taxes low and promoting pro-business policies while working very hard to develop our nation’s fossil fuels, particularly natural gas and oil, which is abundant and is impeded greatly by this administration, causing higher energy prices and hurting our economy, Fleischmann said.

DesJarlais said he has been doing a job creators tour.

“We’ve been visiting a lot of our factories and businesses to find out what is impeding job growth,” he said. “We’re hearing get government out of the way, get the EPA out of the way, level the playing field and fix the health-care issue,” DesJarlais said.

Fleischmann is on the Science, Space and Technology Committee. He spoke of his commitment to do what he can for the industry in Oak Ridge.

“It is a national treasure what we do at the lab and at Y-12,” Fleischmann said.

“I’m here in Roane County today to continue to advocate for the wonderful energy mission that exists in Roane County and Anderson County with ORNL and Y-12 and my committement to the ETTP (East Tennessee Technology Park) cleanup mission as well.”

DesJarlais said prioritizing is key and he appreciates that everyone is preparing for cuts and acknowleding the spending “has been beyond what it has probably needed to be for several years now.”

“I think with good prioritizing we can still keep the essential programs fairly well intact,” he added.

One person asked about the Uranium Processing Facility, a big project for this area.

“I’m committed to funding it,” Fleishmann said. “It is critically important that we move forward with that.”

Both spoke of opening up oil, natural gas and other fuel resources in the country and how those high costs are effecting businesses.

The congressmen also said they’re working hard on projects unique to their districts.

DesJarlais said one of those was helping the counties deal with the defunding of the methamphetamine lab cleanups.

“We’re looking at ways to condense these cleanups into a multi-county storage, which would be much more economical,” he said.