HELENA – U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg was told repeatedly Friday at a listening session that the increasing federal debt needs to be controlled — an concern that easily topped the Helena crowd’s list of worries.
Rehberg is wrapping up another week of traveling the state with a final stop Saturday in Libby before he heads back to Washington D.C. for a vote on emergency education aid that just cleared the Senate. He said the federal debt issue is a recurring theme at most stops.
“People are really, really starting to get concerned,” Rehberg said after the listening session.
The Montana Republican said he wants the federal government to freeze spending this year, and not wait until the next fiscal year as President Barack Obama has suggested.
Rehberg gave kudos to Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer for showing it can be done by cutting spending 5 percent this year in Montana in order to make sure the state budget remains balanced.
“You are going to have to start making the tough decisions, and you want to start doing it now,” Rehberg said.
Rehberg has held 13 listening sessions this week. He said he plans to hold more later in August once the House wraps up the vote on the emergency spending bill, which Rehberg opposes in part because it will raise the nation’s debt.
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s office says the senator will soon be scheduling public events of his own for later in the month after he finishes some work on his farm. U.S. Sen. Max Baucus’ office said he too will be announcing some public events during the August congressional recess.
Rehberg said he predicts Republicans will make gains in the midterm elections mostly because people are tiring of spending increases.
Rehberg, fighting back against criticism that the nation’s debt also increased when his party had control during the Bush administration, said Republicans were beginning to make headway on that issue. He predicts it would be a high priority if Republicans get a working majority again.
“It is a big deal and it is going to come home to roost pretty quick,” Rehberg said. “Now is the time. The decisions get tougher the longer you go.”
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