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“It’s great to be here,” commented Congressman Robert Hurt in a phone interview last week.
Hurt had just completed his first week representing Virginia’s 5th Congressional District in the House of Representatives as part of the 112th Congress. The new Congress was sworn in on Jan. 5.
He sees getting spending under control as a critical issue for the new Congress, as well as a daunting task. Part of what makes it daunting is what the previous Congress did, or rather, didn’t do, he said.
“They left town without a budget,” Hurt said.
The 111th Congress failed to pass a federal budget and the federal government continues to function via continuing resolutions, the last passed in the waning days of last year. Hurt said that the new Congress must pass a budget for the current fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2010.
Hurt believes the House has already started off on the right foot by banning earmarks and cutting office budgets. Finding the cuts that will seriously reduce spending, however, will be hard and require tough choices.
“I think we have to look at everything,” Hurt commented, when asked what should be cut.
One area that Hurt would like to look at is funding for federal regulatory agencies, noting that reducing their funding would not only save money but also deal with the problem of overregulation. Overregulation harms small businesses, he said, and he wants to work on ways to help curb that.
“They certainly got the short end of the stick in the last two years,” he commented.
He said that he joined as a co-patron of a House joint resolution calling for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
“I look very much forward to working on that,” he said.
Hurt expects a vote to repeal the federal healthcare legislation, passed last year, to come up shortly. This vote was originally scheduled for Jan. 11, but was postponed after Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot and critically wounded the previous Saturday.
Hurt said that the House rules for the repeal process.
“It’s ready to go, he said, “It’s just a matter of when. I was proud to be a cosponsor of that bill.”
Once the repeal clears the House, Hurt said that he hopes the Senate will take a fresh look at it. He said that in the last election, voters voiced their opinion of the healthcare legislation loud and clear.
If a repeal of last year’s comprehensive healthcare bill does not make it past the Senate, then Hurt says the House will look for ways to cut off funding for offensive provisions in the bill by refusing to provide money for the agencies that will implement them.
“I think we have a House of Representatives that is willing to do that,” he said.
Hurt also spoke of the mood in the House in the wake of Giffords’ shooting. The Thursday before she was shot, the House held a reading of the Constitution, which Congressman Bob Goodlatte set up. Hurt read the 20th Amendment and he recalls that Giffords read the First.
“Everybody is just deeply saddened,” he said.
“I can’t think of anything more horrific,” he added, noting that she was meeting with her constituents when it happened.
Hurt sees the easy, direct and frequent contact between congressmen and their constituents as fundamental to democracy.
“We are defeated if constituents don’t come and talk with their congressmen,” he said, going on to say that he absolutely opposes anything that would restrict this.
Hurt is pleased with the man who has replaced him in the Virginia Senate, and said that he talked with Bill Stanley right after the election last week.
“He’s going to do a great job for us in Richmond,” he said.