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U.S. Congressman Billy Long donned his auctioneer hat Tuesday in front of the Springfield Rotary Club, helping generate donations for a local cause, before offering remarks on the latest from Washington. KSMU’s Scott Harvey reports.
Following the fundraiser, the Representative from Missouri’s 7th District told the group that last Friday’s overwhelming approval of a Senate bill to allow the Federal Aviation Administration to avoid furloughs was unnecessary. A result of sequestration, the air-traffic controller cuts kicked in April 21 and resulted in numerous flight delays. The bill will allow the FAA the ability to shift money around in its budget and eliminate the need for furloughs. But Long says the agency already had the authority they needed to move the money around themselves.
“The FAA could have done everything on Friday, and the day before and the day before that, that what they now claim they can do. So I didn’t see any reason at all to try and agree that it needed to be done because it didn’t need to be done,” Long says.
He was one of 41 House members to vote against the bill.
As for the entire sequestration discussion, Long, who sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee, feels southwest Missourians are absorbing the cuts just fine.
“The people that I’ve talked to seem to be doing well. In fact, when I go out at restaurants when I’m here in town, people come up to me [and] they wanna see more sequestration, not less. So I think that’s different than it could be in some parts of the country. But yeah, we haven’t seen any major real affect here at all.”
Meanwhile, the Defense Department, which is working around deep sequestration cuts of their own, is contemplating how to deal with growing tensions in Syria, where the country’s civil war is in its third year. With preliminary evidence suggesting Syrian forces may have used chemical weapons during the conflict, some leaders are wondering if that warrants U.S. intervention. But White House officials say they need more concrete evidence. Congressmen Billy Long says he’d like more information as well before making a decision.
“You walk off the House floor five days a week… and three days there’s fighting men and women from our country there with no arms and no legs, and brain injuries that we stop and talk to coming off the House floor. It really gives you cause to pause and think about before you get involved in another Middle East war.”
He also says it’s important to know who you’re helping, adding that he wouldn’t want those services getting in the wrong hands and hurting more in Syria, or even that country’s neighbors in Israel, America’s democratic ally in the region.
The Congressman also weighed in on the Army’s 2020 Force Restructure Plan, with Ft. Leonard Wood among the bases that could be impacted, with as many as 3,900 positions cut.
On Wednesday, Missouri’s U.S. Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill sent a letter to U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh expressing concerns over a possible reconfiguration of the Army's Brigade Combat Teams at Fort Leonard Wood. While not located in his Congressional district, Long says he plans to learn more about the issue, telling reporters Tuesday he had yet to discuss the topic with his fellow Missouri House and Senate members. He did note that while he would hate to see such cuts from an economic standpoint, there’s “gonna have to be tough decisions made.”
For KSMU news, I’m Scott Harvey.