Gibbs and Johnson decry fiscal woes at GOP banquet

From the New Philadelphia Times-Reporter -

Lee Morrison
Times Reporter

It’s a given that dealing with a soaring federal budget and deficit are crucial issues facing America. How to deal with those issues was at the forefront of remarks by Congressmen Bob Gibbs and Bill Johnson at the Tuscarawas County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner.

They spoke Saturday at Dutch Valley Restaurant in Sugarcreek. County Republican Party Chairman Doug Wills expressed his gratitude for the support.

Earlier, he said a record 171 people paid to attend, with 146 present.

Last year’s total, during hotly contested campaigns for president, Congress, state Legislature and other races, was 165 tickets sold.

He called the Nov. 6 general election outcomes “a bittersweet day” because of the loss in the presidential battle, but wins in other contests, including by Gibbs, of Lakeville, and Johnson, of Marietta. When Tuscarawas County voters supported GOP nominee Mitt Romney in November it was the first time they hadn’t backed the winning candidate for president since 1968.

Johnson, who was last year’s keynote speaker, provided opening remarks this year.

He praised the party faithful for their efforts as conservatives to “try to take our country back.”

“I’m so excited about what you folks are doing,” he said.

The level of enthusiasm was evident during an auction conducted by Wills, as Bud and Helen Lahmers of the Dover area paid $525 to purchase the book “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.” Johnson had donated it to the party. Both congressmen signed it.

Johnson warned the crowd not to expect that 2014 would be a typical midterm election year, with the political party in the White House seeing that party’s candidates defeated in campaigns for House and Senate seats.

“We’re making a big mistake” to think that, he said.

He told fellow Republicans that “we’ve lost touch with many parts of America” and that President Barack Obama has “a ground army” of 18 million people on his email and campaign contact list. Mentioning a television “attack ad” against Gibbs, Johnson said there will be much more to come during campaigns — “getting more seats in the House is the only way to accomplish his agenda” as happened early in the president’s first term when Democrats held an extensive majority.

Johnson said that with “Democrats in D.C., especially the Senate, a lot gets said, but not a lot gets done. I hear some chuckles in the audience, but it’s not a joke.”

He said the last new federal budget was passed in 2009.

“If you didn’t do your job for four years, what would happen?” he asked, which was answered by some in the crowd with “I’d be fired.”

He said America is going deeper into debt “so fast, were losing sight of what it’s doing to us,” adding that “When you see a stack of bills on the kitchen table, the answer isn’t to borrow more money.”

He criticized the political climate in Washington, D.C., which “sounds like a middle-school classroom,” and “such immaturity and unreliability.”

Johnson pledged to “continue to work hard to make change. We’ve got to make removing obstacles to jobs and opportunities our No. 1 priority. No country has ever been a better garden for growth than our country.”

Gibbs blamed the sequestration budget cuts on Obama, with much of the situation resulting from “a delaying tactic to not cut spending. I think he’s overplayed his hand.”

Listing several economic statistics, Gibbs questioned if there is real improvement. He said he believes Obama’s economic policies are wrong, and “where would we be now with the right policies?”

“I don’t want what’s happening here to become the new normal,” he said.

In an interview prior to his speech, Gibbs said he’s hearing a lot from constituents.

“They want a little less government,” he said. “They want to make sure we get spending under control. They’re worried about the future and jobs and opportunities. The path we’re on —  if we don’t get spending under control, it’s not sustainable, We could actually have a debt crisis and a collapse of our economy. People are wanting fiscal restraint, and some common-sense reforms for regulatory issues. When I talk to business people, they’re just getting hammered.”

Gibbs said that, yet this month, the House will pass a budget “that puts us on the path for a balanced budget in less than 10 years.” That’s based on a projected growth rate of 2.5 percent, and without raising taxes.”

“That will force the Senate to do a budget, which they haven’t done in four years,” he said. “And, they’re talking about raising taxes. If the Senate doesn’t pass a budget by April 15, their pay will be withheld until Jan. 3, 2015. It’s time they do their job. (The House has) passed a budget every year I’ve been there. We’ll pass another one this month and see where that goes.”

Recently, the House passed a resolution to extend the budget to Sept. 30 at the new sequestration cut levels, he said.

Although Gibbs is the focus of an attack ad regarding his supporting the budget cuts, the about 50 calls and emails per day his office receives are “almost 100 percent in support” of his position, he said.

The furor over more federal control has generated the most input from constituents. For the past several weeks, his office has received hundreds of contacts, with “90 percent in favor of not infringing on our Second Amendment rights.”