By Aaron Blevins, 1/10/2013
U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff discusses fiscal pitfalls and government operations
U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Wednesday visited Neil Fitzpatrick’s government class at Hollywood High School to inform students about his position and the current state of affairs in Washington, D.C.
He discussed the fiscal challenges facing the country, and offered a brief run-down of the deal that ended the negotiations. However, that deal will lead to further legislative action in the very near future, Schiff said.
“Many of the challenges we simply kicked down the road for a couple months,” he said.
Schiff said Congress will need to increase the debt limit in coming months, and the vote to increase the limit is expected in the next two months. The country, though, has already reached its limit, he said.
“The Treasury Department has been taking money from one area to pay for another area to give us a couple months time,” Schiff said.
When the debt limit was last raised, legislators agreed to sequestration, or across-the-board cuts to federal agencies, if more spending wasn’t cut or revenue wasn’t increased, he said. That vote is also expected to occur in the next couple of months, and federal leaders will need to find a rational way to decrease spending or increase revenue or both to avoid cuts, Schiff said.
Lastly, the bill that funds the government is slated to run out during that time, he said. The bill sets funding levels for federal departments, and if no resolution is reached, the government will shut down temporarily, the congressman said.
Schiff said the fiscal issues the nation is facing should be of particular interest to young people, since the decisions made now could affect the upcoming generations.
“We have been building up a debt over the last decade — more than a decade,” he said. “Why should you care? If my generation doesn’t pay this debt, these bills, you’re going to have to. And that will mean that a bigger part of your paycheck will go to taxes to pay these bills or you’ll receive lesser services from the government — or a combination of both.”
In typical year, most of these financial issues would not be such a big deal, but a group of conservative Tea Party Republicans are in favor of massive cuts and ran for office against the government, Schiff said. He did offer a disclaimer: He is a Democrat, so students with a different mindset should take his comments with “a grain of salt.”
“What’s different now is there’s a hyper-partisan environment in Washington,” Schiff added. “There is more bitter conflict between the parties than at any time, probably, in recent memory.”
He said House Speaker John Boehner is having trouble controlling these members of his party, which makes it “very difficult” to govern. Schiff said compromises have been easier to reach in the Senate.
“It will be a real challenge for us to get through this in the next couple of months,” he said.
Additionally, President Barack Obama has nominated several people for leadership positions, Schiff said. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) has been nominated for U.S. Secretary of State, John Brennan has been nominated as the CIA’s new director and Chuck Hagel has been nominated to be the new U.S. Secretary of Defense. Schiff said the new defense secretary will be charged with winding down Afghanistan and managing the transition as the department operated with reduced funding.
“Managing that change in the Pentagon will be very difficult,” he said.
Schiff also discussed some of the more fundamental aspects of being a legislator, such as redistricting and the number of years senators and representatives serve in a term. He said California has a lot of influence in the House, and with the experience of U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, its influence in the senate is increasing as well.