WESTFIELD, NJ - Congressman Leonard Lance (R, NJ-7) held a town hall meeting on Thursday in Westfield where he discussed important issues facing Congress and the American people.
The June 9 event was part of a series of town hall meetings that Lance has held this year; other meetings included the towns of Bedminster, Bound Brook, Branchburg, Cranford, Edison, Hillsborough, Holland, New Providence, Readington, Scotch Plains and Warren.
Lance addressed the federal deficit and budget issues by calling on President Obama to provide “a detailed mission” for current operations of the U.S. military.
“We need more information on what the mission is in Libya,” Lance said. “We also have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan; that costs the United States 100 billion dollars each year. I do not favor staying in Afghanistan forever. We need to begin removing troops.”
Additionally, the Congressman said that the U.S. needs to begin decreasing its presence in Iraq. “We have 47,000 troops there now and we need to continue handing over authority to the Iraqi government.”
Lance recently traveled to Guantanamo Bay, where he says he believes the detainees are being treated well. “We have built a courtroom there with taxpayers’ money. This is much more efficient than having a trial in New York. It is too costly to bring individuals like Khalid Sheikh Mohammad to be tried here,” he argued.
The Congressman stated that government spending should be reduced greatly if the U.S. is to be seen as a credit-worthy nation. “Personally, I always pay my bills on time. I drive a 2004 stick shift four cylinder Honda Accord,” he quipped. “Just as I do, I think it is important for our country to pay its debts on time. People look to America for its credit worthiness and we have to exercise greater fiscal responsibility.”
Lance said that he is pleased by the bipartisan efforts in Congress to decrease federal spending. When questioned about the risk of worsening unemployment from cuts in federal spending, Lance responded: “This has to be a long-range reduction. I am of the belief that businesses are not hiring because of their uncertainty about the country’s tax structure. The structure of the U.S. economy is changing and this summer Congress will be debating raising the debt ceiling.”
With regard to outsourcing, Lance said that there needs to be a growing movement to convince companies to bring jobs back to the U.S. “India and China have dreadfully lowered their environmental standards. Somehow we have to get these countries to do better.”
Within the debate on the economy, the issues of Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid inevitably entered the evening’s discussion. “Young people in their twenties will no doubt face later retirement ages. My 24-year-old son Peter will probably not be able to retire at the same age I retire. But life expectancy is higher today. Does anyone object to giving people thirty to forty years’ notice about this?” he asked.
The debate about Medicare, Lance believes, should be centered on how to reform it in order to preserve it. “The Ryan Budget will block Medicare and Medicaid,” Lance said of Representative Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan. House Republicans are planning to cut roughly $1 trillion over 10 years from Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor and disabled, as part of their fiscal 2012 budget. Lance is a strong supporter of Medicare.
An area where federal spending should be entirely removed, Lance proposes, is in funding for abortions at Planned Parenthood. “The organization provides many needed services. What I have suggested is that there should be a complete separation between an abortion facility and its other services. No federal funding should go [even indirectly] to abortions,” he stated.
A final issue of conversation at the town hall meeting focused on the country’s sources of energy. “I have voted to develop further resources domestically. We should be drilling off the Gulf of Mexico. China is already drilling there,” Lance said, emphasizing that he is the only Republican from New York or New Jersey on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
“It is important to move in the direction of renewable energy,” Lance said. “We should build some new nuclear power plants, though they are expensive. After the catastrophe in Japan, we have to be careful. We also have to mix our sources.”
Of paramount importance, Congressman Lance stated, is that people have faith that their government will solve problems in an efficient and ethical manner. “I am honored to represent you in Congress,” he said, addressing the gathered constituents. “I shall always try to represent you with integrity and to conduct myself in a manner where I hope I will continue to recognize that a public life is a public trust.”