After a busy weekend in Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, visited Central Texas on Tuesday to update his constituents on the status of the government shutdown and benefits of the tax cuts passed last month.
He also answered questions about what the House is doing to help the military during a lunch Tuesday with members of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce. About 70 people attended the luncheon.
Prior to the lunch, Williams met with several area veterans and their spouses to hear their concerns about what the soldiers, veterans, retirees and their families are currently facing when it comes to training, quality of life and Veterans Affairs benefits.
The government shutdown, Williams said, was “an embarrassment.”
“From my standpoint, I was saddened and disappointed that certain people took it upon themselves to play the military as a pawn,” he said. “Frankly, putting the military against those who are here illegally should never happen in America. But I don’t believe we’ll see those kind of dynamics on Feb. 8 that we saw (Monday).”
Williams added that if the government had not been reopened, he would have joined U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, in having his own pay withheld until the military was paid.
“I think it’s only fair that if we were going to continue to get paid, and the troops weren’t going to get paid, then that’s not a very good business model to us,” he said.
The three days of government being shut down cost the American people approximately $6 billion, he added. “How about we just put that (lost money) down here at Fort Hood and build some barracks? Improve the runways and hangars?”
Williams said that the budget put together by the House — which has yet to be worked on in the Senate — includes an additional $100 billion for the military for training, vehicles and equipment.
One of the veterans who had the personal meeting with Williams, retired Army 1st Sgt. Tony Smith, said the chance to talk to the Congressman was beneficial for the troops, veterans, retirees and their families in the Fort Hood area.
“Anytime we have a problem, Congressman Williams has always been there for me,” he said. “I serve a bunch of veterans as a veterans service officer for Coryell County, and anytime we have a problem I give them his number. If we have any problems with the VA system, he’s the one who looks out for us. We call him and his office will call the VA hospital (in Temple), and they will find out what the problem is. If they don’t, then he will come here personally to find out. I’ve seen him do that.”
The Congressman also spoke about the national debt.
“I think the debt is maybe the biggest crisis we have in America,” Williams said. “I know from the military standpoint — I’ve had a lot of you tell me — it’s a big concern for the military. We have a $20 trillion debt in America, and I tell you there is no appetite — Republican or Democrat, except for a few of us — who want to reduce this debt.”
By the year 2030, Williams said he can see interest rate rising up to 8 or 9 percent on the national debt (currently at 3 percent), meaning the U.S. Government will be using 75 percent of the gross domestic product to pay for the national debt.
“When you get to that figure, you don’t have a military. You don’t have the police. You don’t have an economy,” he said. “That is where we’re heading, and that’s based on these rates.”
Some of Williams’ priorities moving forward are to provide further tax cuts, continue getting rid of needless regulations, get the military out of sequestration and getting an actual budget passed, he said.
“I think the government should do three things: They should collect my taxes, defend my borders ... And get out of my life,” Williams said. “And if we would do that, we would be a better country for it.”