Representative Rob Wittman of Virginia’s 1st District spoke at the College on Tuesday on impacts of the recently passed budget and major issues facing the 1st district and within the nation’s capital.
“The bill was a mix of reductions in spending and one of the largest reductions in our nation’s history, which is a good first step to ensuring our nation’s viability into the future,” said Rob Wittman.
The next major battle in Congress will be the over the deficit ceiling. Recently the Standard and Poor downgraded the status of the nation’s debt outlook to a negative rating.
“May 16th is when the US is estimated to reach the debt ceiling. There are discussions as to what conditions should be met for the debt ceiling to be raised and as to how we can curve this debt downward,” said Wittman. Some possibilities for these conditions are a constitutional amendment that would ensure a balanced budget, or structural changes that address the statutory requirements for spending.
If Congress does not raise the ceiling by the 16th, Treasury is expected to take some sort of action to delay this intersection until July 8. After that date, the US will default on its debt obligations, which would be the first instance of this since the Great Depression.
Wittman also talked Virginia’s redistricting process, which has become an issue because of the current plan’s splitting of the Historical Triangle. Some members of the audience objected to this, since VA-1 is sometimes referred to as the Nation’s First District because of its inclusion of the earliest settlements within the 13 colonies. Wittman agreed that the First District should continue to encompass these three, but reminded the audience that he was not involved in the process.
Even if the First continues to include the entirety of the Historical Triangle, the district will extend far beyond historical boundaries: some plan’s have the first reaching further into Prince William Country and potentially Fairfax County, others have the district reaching across the James River for the first time.
Wittman touched on two issues related to his positions in the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Arlington National Cemetery has not been able to extricate itself from a variety of scandals; headstones with errors were found as erosion control devices on the banks of the Potomac, a $16 million project to digitize records at the cemetery has yielded little result, and there ever more reports of unmarked graves and misplaced headstones.
As chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Wittman pledges to continue working to amend these issues.
“Arlington Cemetery is a national treasure where our heroes go be interred , respected, and honored. It is beyond reproach the way that the Cemetery is run and it is nowhere near how it should be run. An investigation of the operations showed they bordered on corruption,” said Wittman.
“People need to be held accountable for this mismanagement.”
Another primary concern for Wittman is the sustainability and viability of the Chesapeake Bay.
“I always talk about the Chesapeake Bay in terms of jobs and the economy. It is an economic engine: a more productive bay creates more jobs in almost every sector of the economy,” said Wittman.
“Previously, Virginia was always one of the top 3 seafood producing states, now Virginia isn’t even in the top five. Seafood used to be one of Virginia’s top five economic producers in terms of dollar value, it is no longer. To improve this, we need to have a cleaner bay and by making wise resource decisions.”
Wittman and Virginia’s two senators, Mark Warner and Jim Webb, have two similar bills aimed to increase accountability of groups working towards preservation of the Bay. Their Chesapeake Bay Accountability and Recovery Acts aim to track all money spent on the Bay.
“While the EPA did lose funding, the cuts were not specific to the Bay. House Resolution 1, which would have cut all Federal money to the Bay was not a part of the budget that passed through Congress,” Wittman responded to a question on the EPA’s continued ability to protect the Bay.
“As part of the recently passed budget, many of these organizations will be receiving nine months worth of money to spend in six months, so if they spend it judiciously, there should not be concern about funding for the Bay until the 2012 budget comes up.”