He complimented Bradley County on its local economy, which is atypical to the rest of Tennessee and much of the United States. There were still concerns about the housing market and issues surrounding banking.
“We had a lot of concerns and questions about our upcoming health care law and what we can expect both as employers trying to provide health insurance and employees questioning if they are going to get to keep their insurance,” DesJarlais said.
“Many of the issues were national issues that are going to impact us all.”
He said nothing will have a bigger impact in 2014 than health care. Sequestration will most likely take place, but its affects are still unclear. That depends upon departments and agencies.
“What we know at this point is there are a certain amount of cuts that have to take place,” he said. “As far as how those cuts are prioritized is going to depend somewhat on the Department of Defense. I expect they will do the right thing and protect the troops and their families.”
Legislative assistant Dayne Cuttrell explained sequestration in a separate interview. He said that unless Congress acts before March 1, sequestration will occur.
According to him, the automatic cuts will take place as a result of the failed super committee in 2012.
He said sequestration automatically cuts $85 billion from the federal budget. Fifty percent of the cuts will come from the military and the other 50 percent will come from discretionary spending.
“Agencies are now beginning to understand and outline where those cuts will be in the various departments and agencies,” he said Friday afternoon. “Obviously, the president and others are trying to come up with a new plan to get rid of the sequester.”
Press secretary Robert Jameson said sequestration does not actually cut any budgets, but the $85 billion reduction only slows the rate of growth from the previous year. The federal government will spend about $1 trillion.
“We’re not really cutting anything. We’re just slowing the rate of growth,” Jameson said. “The House of Representatives has already passed two pieces of legislation that would replace sequestration with common sense spending cuts. The Senate, at this point, has not passed any legislation that would replace sequestration.
“The president has been calling for a tax increase and a balanced approach, but he hasn’t really laid that out. The Senate needs to act. It’s a reoccurring theme that the House passes legislation and the Senate, rather than take it up, modify and work with it, does nothing and that, I think, is the frustration we have at this point.”
DesJarlais said the consensus of businesspeople at the Chamber meeting was that government is too big and everyone feels overregulated.
“We need to find a way to get government out of our lives and let the private sector work,” he said.
Congress, he continued, must find the will to make changes.
“Our backs are against the wall. We can’t continue to put things off. I think people are going to see that through this first round of cuts,” he said. “It’s going to become real that we have to finally recognize once and for all we have a spending problem.”
The congressman said the House would pass a responsible budget in April. He hopes there will be one from the Senate so the two chambers can hammer out the first budget in four years.
“We have another debt ceiling in May that will give us a leverage point to enforce this budget. I’m kind of giving an arbitrary deadline of June 1 to see something meaningful come out of Washington,” he said.
DesJarlais said Americans understand the national debt will harm future generations. They are willing to take steps and have adult discussions. But, he said, people would not be so willing to give up their earnings if they saw how money is being wasted in all areas of government.
“The federal government is failing to take tax money and pay down the debt. Anything that comes in the form of increased revenue is spent.
“The new tax increase the president asked for generated about $60 billion in tax revenue a year. We turned around and with the stroke of a pen; we sent $60 billion to fund Hurricane Sandy relief. There was no offset for this,” he said.
He is not opposed to hurricane relief. However, the top priority now is to get the federal government to admit there is a spending problem and then make sensible spending cuts across the board.
He said the previous Congress was an example of party politics over policy and posturing by both parties.
“In the 113th, we’ve got to realize we need to come together and solve some of these issues,” he said. “In the first two months of this Congress, I see a little more spirit of cooperation and I hope that’s a sign of things to come.”