Arizona’s outgoing senator and the East Valley’s newest congressman had dire things to say about the federal deficit and national debt in an address to the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Monday, though they hailed what they called better dialogue and brainstorming about the issues.
Politicians, business owners and concerned citizens gathered at the Scottsdale Plaza Hotel for the “2011 Update From Capitol Hill” luncheon with Republican Sen. Jon Kyl and Rep. David Schweikert.
In individual remarks, both men focused on the federal budget and the looming debt ceiling vote. The United States will reach its current debt limit of $14.3 trillion by May 16, and if it is not raised by July 8 the country will default on its debt.
Schweikert, a freshman congressman who represents Arizona’s 5th Congressional District (Tempe, Scottsdale and parts of Chandler, Mesa and Phoenix), said the deficit was “much worse” than he thought.
But Schweikert said that Washington’s “greatest accomplishment” was that Democrats and Republicans are now discussing how much to cut, rather than if to cut from the federal budget. “We seem to be talking about the same subject,” he said.
Kyl, who won’t seek re-election when his third term expires in 2013, called the nation’s fiscal lifestyle “unsustainable.” He discussed several ideas that officials in Washington have floated, including spending caps and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. He also embraced the budget Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., drafted by calling it a “great idea.”
The Ryan budget, which passed the House of Representatives earlier this month, cuts spending by $6.2 trillion over 10 years and reduced the deficit by $4.4 trillion over the same time period. This budget would also transform Medicaid into a program that gives block grants to states and turn Medicare into a voucher system. It would also lower the corporate tax rate to 25 percent.
Though the GOP budget increases spending by $5.5 trillion over the next 10 years, many Republicans have shown a willingness to vote against the debt limit, including Schweikert.
“We are buried in debt, absolutely buried in debt. We need to start telling our brothers and sisters, and the markets and our communities that we are going to step up and find someway out of this crushing burden we are putting on our kids and grandkids,” he said in an interview.
Schweikert explained his vote for the Ryan budget by saying that it “bends the cost curve” and tells investors that the government is serious about a balanced budget.
During the question-and-answer portion of the luncheon, audience members asked about many different topics including health care reform, the mortgage crisis and the Middle East. Kyl said the U.S. has “no coherent strategy” in that region of the world.
Those who attended the lunch had very different opinions and reasons for being there.
“I’m very proud of a bill we passed earlier in our session, which is essentially a spending limit bill. You can’t really go over a certain amount, of course. In terms of what’s going on in Washington, I would love to see something like that happen,” Arizona state Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, said.
Smith also said he turned out because he likes to support the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the people who put on the lunch.
Business executives also took part. Steve Macias, the president and CEO of Pivot Manufacturing Corp., said: “We do a lot of business with Department of Defense contractors and so I always like to get an opportunity to hear from the federal perspective what they think is going on as far as budget and where the defense industry might be going.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-6514