Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Saturday, February 09, 2013 6:30 PM
U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany R-Lafayette, said Friday that approving a sensible operating budget is the biggest challenge facing Congress this year.
Boustany visited the Republican roundtable luncheon at Reeves Uptown Catering to hear state Reps. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, and Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, discuss a series of draft proposals aimed at modifying how the state crafts its budget.
On the federal level, Boustany said a House-approved bill that prevents senators from being paid unless they pass a budget could be key in reaching “some real agreement where we have a budget to operate off of.”
Boustany also spoke about “sequestration,” a series of across-the-board cuts in nearly all areas of federal spending that will occur March 1, if Congress and President Barack Obama do not take action before then.
“Unless equal cuts are selected out what we agree with, plus a path forward to further reduce spending is laid out, then we’re going to say let it happen,” he said.
Boustany said Obama sees sequestration “as a threat to the domestic programs he’s trying to protect.”
“He wants to increase spending which is wrong right now in this environment,” he said. “We’re going to use this as leverage
and really work on a long-term plan.”
Boustany said the gun control measures introduced by President Obama are “not really a solution to the problem.” Obama introduced legislation and executive actions and has asked Congress to pass a ban on assault weapons and require universal background checks on firearm purchases.
“I do believe our gun laws are fine,” Boustany said. “We just need good enforcement. What the president is proposing is a non-starter.”
The bigger issue, Boustany said, is assisting people with mental health problems.
“We should make sure mental health illness is treated like physical illness, and it’s not shoved aside,” he said.
Boustany said lawmakers should also analyze existing federal laws that allow someone with a mental health issue to refuse receiving proper treatment.
Boustany said he reintroduced the Realize America’s Maritime Promise, or RAMP Act, last month to ensure that all the money collected in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is used specifically for dredging and maintaining waterways. Only half that money is being used for those projects, and the rest is spent on other unrelated projects, he said.
Boustany said it is important to guarantee that all of the money is spent on dredging and other similar projects like maintaining the Calcasieu Ship Channel.
“Everyone knows how vital the ship channel is. That’s the reason we’re seeing the Sasol investment coming in here and why other companies are looking to locate and invest right here in Lake Charles and in Cameron Parish,” he said.
Boustany said that U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and David Vitter, R-La., are supporting the RAMP Act in the Senate.