Originally Published: September 2, 2011 9:55 p.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY - U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar offered his town hall audience tutorials on the federal budget and deficit during a town hall Thursday before fielding questions from the audience for more than an hour.
The audience of about 50 people was full of Gosar supporters, judging by the 11 comments and questions posed to him.
Gosar asked if the audience supported the budget proposal by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan that House majority Republicans approved, and about one-third of the people raised their hands.
Gosar voted for that budget, which Ryan says would reduce the deficit by $5.8 trillion over the next decade, mainly with deep cuts in discretionary spending and reversion of the Medicare program into private insurance vouchers. Ryan's plan also would reduce top corporate and individual tax rates to 25 percent.
Gosar criticized the Senate for not approving any budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The Senate has rejected the House and presidential proposals, although it voted in favor of creating a bipartisan congressional commission to recommend a deficit reduction plan by Thanksgiving.
Gosar received his loudest audience claps of the night when he said he signed onto a letter asking that every meeting of the special commission be conducted in public. He said he is committed to a "kiss and tell" style of conduct while in office.
He defended his vote to raise the federal debt ceiling by as much as $2.4 trillion to allow borrowing to continue into 2013. The approval included a call for at least $2.4 trillion in spending cuts over the coming decade, including $900 million worth of immediate cuts.
Republicans can't make all the cuts they want at once, he said, because the country needs things like roads and other infrastructure.
"Folks, we're robbing Peter to pay Paul but that's where we're at," Gosar said.
The only way this Congress can force a future Congress to cut spending is through a balanced budget amendment, Gosar said. Such an amendment would require approval from a two-thirds majority of each house of Congress and three-fourths of the state legislatures, which could take several years.
Gosar said the key to jobs in the 1st Congressional District is its natural resources, citing his revival of a bill to approve a federal land exchange in southeast Arizona so a copper mine can develop at a popular recreation area. Local Indian tribes and others oppose it, and Gosar's predecessors were unable to get the exchange approved.
Gosar also cited job opportunities for processing timber burned in the state's largest wildfire this summer in eastern Arizona. He didn't have any specific proposals to increase jobs in the Yavapai County region, but asked the audience for ideas.
The huge rural 1st Congressional District also is an important agricultural base and water supply for metro areas, Gosar said. He didn't mention one of rural Arizona's other major industries, tourism.
When people complained about the way Congress operates, Gosar repeatedly reminded them that Republicans control only the House.
"Once again, we're one-third of the federal government," the freshman congressman from Flagstaff said before expressing his frustration with the way Washington operates.
"I want a cattle prod," he said. "You have no idea how dysfunctional it is. I don't even sleep at night any more. It's like another universe."
He joined more than one audience member in strongly criticizing the Obama administration for the "Fast and Furious" law enforcement operation to catch major gun traffickers on the Mexican border. A congressional investigation has produced evidence that the feds lost track of approximately 1,400 guns linked to the operation.
Gosar serves on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee involved in the congressional investigation.
"They were after new regulations on long guns in Arizona," Gosar charged. "They didn't care if someone died."