First District Congressman Tim Huelskamp laid bare the inner workings of how Congressional representatives get and keep committee assignments to those who attended a town hall meeting Monday in Hillsboro.
During the give and take among the 25 to 30 people in attendance, he said Congressional committees are rated A, B, or C, each one requiring members to raise money for their leaders and national political parties.
“A” committees, which he didn’t list but are deemed more influential, require each member to raise $750,000 every two years. Members of “B” committees are required to raise anywhere from $250,000 to $500,000, and “C” committees somewhat less than that.
The more money raised by a member, the more likely they are to get a seat on a desired committee, he said.
Huelskamp said he was removed from the agriculture committee because he didn’t vote the way Speaker John Boehner wanted him to. With a new Speaker in place, Huelskamp said he expects to be back on the ag committee this fall. He is serving on the steering committee that makes committee appointments.
Huelskamp said Environmental Protection Agency overreach has united Congressional Republicans. He said they vote a strict party line on regulations deemed unreasonable and detrimental.
The Waters of the United States proposal, which aims to regulate standing water whenever and wherever it occurs, was a concern to some in attendance. One was concerned it might eventually affect bodies of water that are used for recreation in Marion County.
Huelskamp said the House of Representatives can withhold funding for enforcement, and some states have sued the federal government for overstepping its bounds.
One constituent was concerned about unfunded mandates that put burdens on small communities.
“Proposed regulations need broader financial analysis,” he said.
Huelskamp said government agencies are required to provide financial impact statements for rural towns and communities, but they ignore that without penalty.
A constituent asked about changes to Social Security recently announced by the Obama administration. Huelskamp said $30 billion is being transferred from the Social Security trust fund to a disability fund.
“Unless we make changes, funding won’t be secure for those on Social Security or near retirement,” he said. “We should expect to work longer, but we haven’t had a chance to vote on it. The government now is paying more out than it is taking in in Social Security taxes.”
Members of the audience shared good things and bad things about Obamacare. One woman was happy that her daughter and granddaughter could be on her health care plan. Others cited high deductibles and wait times to get approval for medical procedures.
Hillsboro Community Hospital administrator Marion Regier said people not being able to pay their deductibles is causing bad debt to grow.
Huelskamp said he hasn’t seen a good alternative to Obamacare, but Kansas has few health care insurers, and they are now losing money.
A veteran thanked Huelskamp for his role in promoting VA Choice, which allows veterans to access local hospitals. There are 70 hospitals in the First District.
“It makes access a lot easier,” the veteran said.
“How can we make a difference?” someone asked.
Huelskamp suggested contacting him to share specific concerns or personal stories about how government rules and regulations have affected their lives. He said letters are the most uncommon form of communication and garner a lot of interest in the office.
“The election cycle is the best way to make a difference,” he said.