For the second time this year, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, stopped in the Killeen-Fort Hood area to meet with officials about issues affecting residents.
During a roundtable discussion Tuesday, Cruz answered questions from more than 40 area officials at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.
Representatives from Killeen, Fort Hood, Harker Heights, Copperas Cove, Belton and Bell County attended, as well as officials from two school districts, area hospitals, chambers of commerce and business leaders.
Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin said he was impressed by Cruz’s knowledge and ability to speak on the variety of topics discussed.
“He answered with honest statements,” he said. “It was really refreshing to hear someone speak so knowledgeably.”
The mayor said Cruz was able to answer questions from officials on topics ranging from the Affordable Care Act to Impact Aid to the military and defense budget issues such as tuition assistance, base realignment and closure, and future security threats.
“What most impressed me were his viewpoints, which seemed to be reasonable, logical and based on facts, not from some wild-eyed wacko,” Corbin said, referencing some of the media attention surrounding the junior senator.
When Cruz returns to Washington, D.C., next week, the National Defense Authorization Act will still be in the Senate waiting for a vote.
The senator supports several amendments to the bill, including one blocking the potential of a base realignment and closure committee until the military reviews all overseas base closure opportunities. Local officials have been outspoken about the potential benefits of a BRAC for Fort Hood and Central Texas.
“I appreciate hearing from community leaders here, some of whom express support for a BRAC. I should note those sentiments are markedly different than the sentiments I’ve heard from community leaders surrounding other military bases in Texas,” Cruz said. “My responsibility obviously is to represent the entire state and to focus at the same time on national interests.”
Tuition assistance — which pays tuition costs for military members — has also been a hot topic as defense spending was heavily impacted by sequestration and October’s government shutdown.
Roughly 36 percent of Killeen’s Central Texas College tuition revenue comes from active-duty military personnel enrolled in the college’s courses around the world.
Thomas Klincar, the college’s chancellor, attended the roundtable to share its importance.
“I urged Sen. Cruz to be proactive in protecting education benefits for our military members and veterans as Congress works out defense appropriations,” he said. “He will rely on the advice of our top military leaders to determine how defense appropriations are best employed.”