By Steve Woodhouse
The Pella Chronicle
---- — Though Congressman Dave Loebsack enjoys spending time in his district, he could not help but wonder why the House was in recess on Friday, March 1, instead of addressing sequestration and other lingering issues in the federal government.
“They sent us home,” Loebsack said of the House’s Republican leadership. Speaker of the House John Boehner was the one who sent the House home, but Loebsack believes the Republicans do not bear all of the blame for the lack of discussion going on in Washington.
Loebsack said he believes that President Barack Obama and Congressional leadership only met for the first time on Friday. Democrat and Republican leadership from both houses of Congress, as well as Obama, should have been working together sooner. This is something he consistently hears from his constituents as well.
The sequestration that hit Friday does not affect all areas. Defense will see less of an increase in spending in the future than some other areas, due to the failure of having a bill signed.
Loebsack thinks many people are tired of the “blame game” in Washington. He voted against the sequestration bill when it came up last year, but says that the idea of these cuts was supposed to be so severe, it would force the government to work together. His vote against the bill was a statement that he believed would not work.
“I didn’t want to be right in this case,” Loebsack said. His doubt in the politicians’ ability to find compromise does not extend to the ability for America to come together if we are struck with another tragedy. He has no doubt everyone would come together if another attack, such as 9/11 were to happen.
“I have a lot of concerns,” Loebsack said. He is most concerned about how the changes will affect military readiness in the future, and possible furloughs for federal employees may have an impact on the economy.
Loebsack was asked if the impact furloughs of government employees can have on America’s economy, is a sign that the federal government is too big. He said that whatever change in spending exists, there will be an impact on the economy, and in regard to the size of government, he believes more efficiency can be found.
“We can always do better,” Loebsack said.
One of the protected areas of funding is health care, and Loebsack believes Iowa would benefit from an expansion of Medicaid. The expansion of Iowa Care, proposed by Gov. Terry Branstad, will not be allowed. Loebsack believes that even if it could be, Iowa Care expansion would not cover as many people for as many health issues as a Medicaid expansion would.
Loebsack recognizes concern about the lack of funds available for federal spending, but he believes that Medicaid expansion would help save counties money. To try to combat waste and deficits, Loebsack said he looks over federal agencies to see if they are spending taxpayer money wisely and being cost effective. As a Representative in Congress, Loebsack believes it is his job to engage the agencies and call upon them to do the best job that they can.
A constant concern Loebsack hears is that regarding mental health. Several weeks ago, after the Sandy Hook shootings, Loebsack hosted a call-in forum with law enforcement. Officers indicated they believe the greatest challenge to combating mass shootings is mental health care.
“Mental health seems to be the one constant,” Loebsack said. In the wake of the shooting, several gun control bills were proposed, but seemed to go nowhere. The extent of the discussion regarding guns in Washington today is more focused on background checks and the amount of ammunition a gun can hold. The Congressman is guided by the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the Second Amendment, that Americans have the right to bear arms. Loebsack admits he has no idea where the discussion will go, as he is focused on dealing with mental health.
Loebsack is concerned about Iowa’s ability to serve the mentally ill, due to fewer doctors, scarce resources and facilities to care for them. With budgets being squeezed at all levels of government, this issue could get worse.
Finally, Loebsack discussed his endorsement of fellow Rep. Bruce Braley in Braley’s run for the US Senate in 2014. Loebsack was a national delegate for Braley while working as a professor at Cornell College. He, and former Rep. Leonard Boswell, believe Braley would be the best person to succeed Tom Harkin.
Congress reconvened on Monday. Loebsack was going back with goals of working on a transportation bill and trying to reinstate wrestling in the Olympics, as well as the matters previously mentioned. Following this interview in Pella, Loebsack toured Central College.