U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, is warning folks who’ve been breathing a
sigh of relief—following Congress’ passage on Jan. 1 of a compromise bill
meant to keep the country from stepping over the so-called “fiscal
cliff”—that there’s more “theater” just around the corner.
At his annual Duneland town hall forum last week, Visclosky said that, at
the end of February, Congress will address the debt ceiling. Nor is
sequestration off the table. “I just caution you, people will be looking for
cuts” in what Visclosky deliberately called entitlement programs.
“I want to make sure I’m very clear,” he explained with reference to
Medicare and Social Security. “There’s a lot of semantics involved here.
These are federal programs people have paid a tax on and they’re entitled
to a benefit. And we need to make sure these programs stay solvent for
current and future beneficiaries.”
These programs, Visclosky added, “are not part of the budget deficit. I
don’t want them to become part of the budget deficit.” And as matters stand,
Medicare is solvent through 2024 and Social Security through 2033. The
problem is the natural inertial tendency of Congress to postpone action
until the last possible moment. “Why wait until the last possible moment
before solving it? Do something now. We ought to have that discussion now.”
In any case, Visclosky said, he was one of 16 Democrats to vote against the
Jan. 1 compromise bill precisely because it leaves these programs
On the other topic of moment at the town hall forum—gun control—Visclosky
was mostly noncommittal. “With the tragedies that have occurred, legislation
will be considered. But it’s hard to speculate what form it will take in the
Visclosky did say that, in 1994, he voted in favor of the Brady Bill, which
mandated background checks on gun purchasers and eventually evolved into an
automated check system.
He also voted in favor of a ban on the sale and distribution of assault
weapons and limited magazine capacity to 10 rounds. That bill was in effect
for 10 years, was never challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court, but
expired and was never re-authorized.
Visclosky opened the forum, as he always does, with an overview of his
positions on a variety of issues.
On the War in Afghanistan: President Obama has committed troops through the
end of 2014—to reduce the insurgency, strengthen the government, and improve
its economy, as his stated goals—but Visclosky believes that “the time has
past gone to withdraw troops.”
On unemployment: the number of folks unemployed now—11.3 million, compared
to the 13 million when President Obama was sworn into office—remains
“unacceptable,” Visclosky said.
On trade: “We must attack the trade deficit and protect ourselves against
illegal trade practices,” Visclosky said. He added that he is “angry” both
with Congress and with President Obama “for not going after China for money
On commerce: “Stop rewarding companies with grants and tax benefits who
outsource,” Visclosky said.