U.S. Representative Ed Royce (R-Calif.) held a round of town hall meetings in Buena Park and Placentia Saturday and reported on the state of affairs in Congress. Royce currently holds the seat for the 40th District, which covers Fullerton, Placentia, Buena Park, Cypress and Orange.
Royce began the meeting with a large graph which highlighted the federal budget deficit. Recent years were highlighted with a red spike that emphasized government debt incurred under President Barack Obama.
Royce said that many nonpartisan economists are in agreement that the current spending path that the government is taking is unsustainable. He added that there is a problem today in Washington in reaching an agreement that will move towards a balanced budget.
In 1995, a Republican Congress was able to reach an agreement with President Bill Clinton on a deficit reduction that eventually brought the budget back into a short-term surplus. Today, Royce said, negotiations have not gone as well.
“Getting an agreement to move us back towards a balanced budget is much more difficult now than it was back at the time when President Clinton and the House Republicans reached an agreement,” said Royce. “Not a lot of people liked that agreement, but the bottom line was that we kept pushing for it in the House and Senate and got it to the president’s desk a couple of times, and it got vetoed … Finally we worked out an agreement that brought us back into a balanced budget.”
In 2011, Congress was in a stalemate when negotiations got heated as to whether they should raise the debt ceiling or not. Royce said that House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama, along with the president pro tempore, had reached an agreement on how to tackle the budget. However, when Obama went back to Nancy Pelosi in the House, negotiations stalled again.
“Collections are way down because we are in a recession,” Royce said. In order to get back to a more balanced budget, he said, “The economic rate of growth has to be about 2 percent.”
Royce said he and his colleagues in Congress are making efforts to draft bills that will spur economic growth.
“We’ve got a situation where we’ve got more people out of work by millions of people,” he said.
He said a bill currently went through the Senate that will remove restrictions on how start-up companies find new investors and that the bill will make it easier for companies to obtain Initial Public Offerings (IPO), which will help them get listed publicly to attract new investors.
“In the ‘90s, half of the IPOs in the world were in the United States — millions in California,” Royce said.
Tightening regulation on a company’s finances, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, have been detrimental to getting the U.S. to pick up on economic growth, he said.
Sarbanes-Oxley came about as a reaction from Congress to the Enron and Worldcom bankruptcies, in which companies gave false financial reports in order to defraud investors.
Recently, a hot debate topic in Washington has been on the Keystone Pipeline, a proposed project that would run oil from Canada to refineries in the U.S.
“The biggest fight in the past few weeks has been on the Keystone Pipeline,” Royce said.
He said Obama has stalled negotiations on the bill, largely on political grounds. Canada began to lose patience, and instead pushed through an agreement with China to build a pipeline that flows westward to Vancouver that would send oil to Asia. He said that in this political season, everyone is maneuvering their positions on oil drilling. Everyone in Washington is looking to take credit for recent advances in U.S. oil production.
“There is 20,000 direct jobs connected with this pipeline project, I’ve held several hearings on this. And indirect jobs, according to the Chamber of Commerce, are 200,000 … If we could lift the ban on offshore drilling, we would have additional jobs.”
According to Royce, the president is waiting until after the election season to approve the pipeline so that Republicans won’t score political points in 2012. He said these positions will put the United States at an economic disadvantage against Asian countries.
“We will not be able to prevent Alberta or Canada — they are going to pursue getting that product to market. And our withholding at the border, with our traditional ally, which we have really inflamed their passions, does nothing except to give an advantage to our economic competitors,” he said.
Royce also brought up the topic on engagement with uncooperative countries like Iran and North Korea. He said war should not be a primary option that leaders should pursue, because history has proven that tough economic sanctions have been able to topple regimes.
He gave a story about a North Korean defector who was involved with the country’s nuclear development. Through him, the U.S. found out that North Korea was bankrolling its nuclear program with fake hundred-dollar bills printed by a bank in North Korea.
North Korea had to resort to doing this because its currency, the won, is so devalued that it would be nearly impossible to make transactions on the international market. In response, the U.S. cut off international access to the bank counterfeiting the bills, which effectively stifled North Korea’s nuclear program.
He said that past leaders like President Ronald Reagan and former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were good at creating high unemployment in countries like the Communist Bloc that were able to bring about regime change in the region.
Royce said that pro-western propaganda broadcasts helped to topple the Soviet Union and similar broadcasts can be effective in Iran.
After the town hall meeting, Robert Lauten of Brea was outside greeting people in hopes of winning the Republican primary in June to challenge California’s U.S. Senator, Diane Feinstein.
Lauten said he came to the meeting to ask Royce about banking reform because he is on the financial services committee.
Lauten’s platform for his Senate run is centered on bringing back the Glass-Steagall Act, a President Franklin D. Roosevelt-era banking reform that was done away with in 1999 by Republicans in Congress. The purpose of this is to eliminate Wall Street derivative bubbles, which can implode the global economy.
“Globally, it’s 25 times the gross domestic product of the planet,” Lauten said in reference to derivatives.
This year, because of redistricting, Royce will be running for the 39th District rather than the 40th District seat he now holds.
“The 39th (District) is three cities in Orange County and the rest are outside of Orange County,” said Gina Zari, a Royce campaign official.
Because districts have shifted around since the last election, his constituency has changed drastically.
“A considerable amount, about 70 percent actually,” Zari said, “It moves up into LA County and up into San Bernandino County.”