During a visit to St. Charles County Tuesday, U.S. Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-St. Elizabeth) predicted a "nasty" fight between conservatives and the President over spending cuts and extending the nation's debt ceiling in the weeks ahead.
Luetkemeyer's visit marked the first time he's been in St. Charles County since he was sworn in on Jan. 3.
Through redistricting, Luetkemeyer, a Miller County Republican, now represents St. Charles County for the first time. This is his third term in Congress; he formerly represented District 9, which used to include a wide swath of Mid-Missouri extending to the St. Charles County border.
Luetkemeyer spoke to Chamber members on Tuesday about the upcoming debate over spending cuts, the debt limit and the fiscal cliff deal.
"The deal that was struck is certainly not a perfect deal," he said. "Everybody would like it to have more spending cuts in it, but that is not what the other side wanted," he said.
Luetkemeyer said that they were able to get the permanency of the tax rates which helps add certainty to the tax code and "lock up" citizen's wallets.
As a conservative congressman, voting in favor of the bill gave him heartburn, Luetkemeyer said. But knowing that there's a possible loss of 700,000 jobs if the country doesn't do something with the debt limit, he felt this was needed to buffer the economy.
"We Are Not Going to Blink"
Luetkemeyer said the upcoming debate over raising the country's debt ceiling will be nasty.
President Barack Obama has said that he will not negotiate with Congress over raising the debt ceiling. The GOP's best leverage to get additional spending cuts is by tying cuts to the discussion of the debt limit and the budget extension, Luetkemeyer said.
"We are not going to blink," he said. "We have reached the point where we are tired of negotiating with someone who does not want to negotiate with us and it's his way or the highway."
"We have bent over backwards to work with the President; we have negotiated in good faith. It's time for him to step up."
Luetkemeyer said debt increases are a symptom of excess spending and that it's time for the country to get its fiscal house in order. He said Congress should structure the discussion by prioritizing paying debts, paying the troops and other necessary expenses while negotiating.
Medicare Targeted for Spending Cuts
Luetkemeyer said Medicare and other programs throughout the budget can be cut without affecting the quality of life for citizens.
"You have to reform the entitlements," he said. "That has to be done. Medicare is the driver of our deficit problem. It has to be on the table."
Luetkemeyer wasn't specific about what kind of cuts should be made to Medicare. He said he's interested in looking at a number of ideas, including raising the eligibility age for Medicare gradually from 65 to 67.
"Let's sort through them, which ones make sense, which ones will work, which ones can save and not hurt care," he said.
The economy may be affected by the spending cuts, Luetkemeyer said, but, "it's short-term pain for long-term gain."
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