Former rep. discusses federal spending cuts
by Megan Thornton
February 27, 2013 12:00 AM | 1417 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Former Congressman Bob Barr speaks about the current state of the government at the Rotary Club of Canton’s meeting Tuesday.  <br>Staff/Samantha M. Shal
Former Congressman Bob Barr speaks about the current state of the government at the Rotary Club of Canton’s meeting Tuesday.
Staff/Samantha M. Shal
CANTON — With sequestration looming, former congressman Bob Barr addressed Canton Rotary members Thursday, reflecting on a more cooperative time in national politics and his hope that national leaders look to past examples of bipartisanship to move the country forward.

Barr kept it simple on his thoughts regarding the $85 million in federal budget cuts set to take place Friday.

“The sky is not gonna fall if the sequester goes forward,” he said. “You’re talking about a very small cut in the increase in spending over the next couple of years, is all.”

Barr said the problem is not a revenue issue, but a spending one.

“There needs to be some cuts and maybe this will shock the system so the majority of the system will make some cuts and not just slight decreases,” Barr said.

Barr said Washington is lacking the partisanship exemplified by former President Bill Clinton and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

“Without personalities like that that will light a spark and kind of knock some heads a little bit up there, it’s hard to see how it’s going to change,” he said.

However, Barr holds out hope the nation’s leaders will come to a compromise.

“Sooner or later people realize that they have to come together and you can actually get some things done,” he said.

Barr said Gingrich and Clinton, despite being on opposite ends of the political spectrum, were alike in many ways in terms of their political outlook and skill.

“Both of them realized that it was fair game to play to your base, to your groups that supported you and in the House, to bring votes that were important to your constituents and (Clinton) realized he needed to do that as well,” Barr said.

He added that both leaders were able to take credit for the agreements made.

“That was what really made the system work,” he said. “They were very, very good politicians. But you have to have a certain willingness and a certain flexibility in that process to make it work. And that does not seem to be prevalent, if there at all, even below the surface of Washington right now.”

Barr said he was recently in Washington, D.C., and ran into two former colleagues — one Democrat and one Republican — at Reagan National Airport.

“Both of them said exactly the same thing— that it’s not enjoyable up there,” he said.

One of the complaints from Barr’s Democratic colleague is that President Barack Obama “doesn’t pay attention to his own party in the House,” he said.

“He’s very, very divorced from the legislative branch, even in his own party,” Barr said.

Barr described Clinton as a “political animal” who “loved to glad-hand,” noting the difference between the two Democratic presidents.

“There was a working relationship within the Democratic Party between Bill Clinton and the Democrats up on the Hill,” he said,

“This particular president, I’ve never seen anything like it, he doesn’t seem to enjoy working with colleagues in his own party.”

Barr also noted the stark division within the Republican House, noting tremendous background and demographic differences among the members.

“The extent to which those differences in the different groups within each party’s caucus has sort of taken hold and frozen things in place is very unfortunate,” Barr said.

A Rotarian asked whether the 24/7 news cycle had an impact on the lack of political cooperation. Barr said he believed that to be part of the cause.

“We have more and more information out there and more and more outlets. ... We seem to have a lot more information but much less knowledge and much less understanding,” Barr said.

Barr will also speak Thursday at the Holly Springs Depot at 6:30 p.m. The depot is located at 164 Hickory Road in Holly Springs.

The event is presented by Georgians for Healthcare Freedom, a newly formed statewide group seeking to abolish the Affordable Care Act.

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