U.S. Rep. Mulvaney Starts Town Hall Series in Gamecock City
By: Nick McCormac
U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., sits on the edge of the Nettles Auditorium stage at USC Sumter as he discusses a vast array of hot-button issues with Sumterites on Monday. The second-term representative of S.C.'s 5th U.S. Congressional District broached concerns with the fiscal cliff, gun control, national debt and several others during his intimate forum with local citizens.
U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., returned to Sumter for the first time since being re-elected to kick off a new series of town hall-style meetings, touching on hot-button issues ranging from gun control to the ever-looming "fiscal cliff."
Mulvaney, the second-term congressman from Indian Land, picked the Gamecock City as the first area in the 5th Congressional District to show off a new presentation created in an effort to make big issues easier to digest.
A group of about 50 residents gathered in the Nettles Auditorium on the campus of University of South Carolina Sumter to hear Mulvaney discuss a variety of topics, including three of the countries greatest concerns:
The fiscal cliff
The issue that had many on the edge late last year was the so-called fiscal cliff - a collection of deep spending cuts and tax increases that would trigger automatically at the stroke of midnight New Year's Eve.
A last-minute deal struck between national lawmakers and President Obama delayed those spending cuts for a couple of months, and citizens making more than $450,000 a year had their taxes increase as a result of the compromise. But even with a deal reached, anyone earning a paycheck had their wallets end up a bit lighter to start off the year.
"Everybody in this room who's getting a paycheck had their taxes go up. Chances are you didn't hear about that," said Mulvaney, alluding to the end of a 2 percent payroll tax cut holiday.
While the tax issue is in the past, spending negotiations will garner headlines in the coming weeks. The looming risk is $110 billion in spending cuts a year for the next decade, which would trigger at the end of February. The military is in line to receive the bulk of those cuts, a prospect Mulvaney said worries him.
"An 11 percent across-the-board cut is not the way to do it," he said. "You could cut defense spending to zero and it still wouldn't take care of our deficit problem."
Gun rights and gun control
Following a series of mass shootings during Obama's first term - including the shooting in Newtown, Conn., late last year - lawmakers have searched for a way to help prevent such events from occurring in the future.
But the changes proposed by lawmakers so far, including banning the sale of assault-style weapons and reducing the size of ammunition magazines and clips for weapons, don't click with Mulvaney.
He said those big-ticket changes likely won't pass, but he does see some headway being made in the way background checks are done on prospective gun owners.
"I think if one thing will actually change in the next six months, it will not be a ban on assault weapons, it will not be a change on high-capacity magazines. It will be on background checks," he said.
Those changes to the background check process were just some of the 23 executive orders issued by Obama. While opponents of the president took issue with some of those orders, Mulvaney said the president didn't overstep his bounds in issuing them.
But that doesn't mean the congressman agrees with all of them. He said he doesn't understand the order for the federal Centers of Disease Control to study the causes of gun violence.
"Gun violence is a problem. There's not a person in this room who doesn't think gun violence is a problem. I don't know that people think it's a disease," he said.
A longtime proponent of doing whatever's needed to dig the country out of the financial hole it's in, Mulvaney said he continues to be shocked at how little is done to make a dent in the debt.
And if the government continues to stall in debt negotiations - it's been four years since lawmakers have passed a federal budget - another government shutdown will become a reality in a couple of months.
"We're much better at not doing things than we are at doing things. This is going to happen if we do nothing," he said.
Mulvaney reassured attendees that if a government shutdown does occur, Social Security payments will still be distributed, but welfare and unemployment payments will not.
In the meantime, Mulvaney said he's done what he can to try and stay true to his stance on deficit reduction. That included voting against sending aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey. Mulvaney said he understands why people may view him in a negative light because of that, but the buck has to stop somewhere.
"I understand we sent aid to South Carolina after Hugo and we sent aid to New Orleans after Katrina, but if we keep doing it the way we've been doing, that's how we got to $16 trillion in debt."