Butterfield: Time to cross the aisle
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield said bipartisanship does not exist in Washington, D.C., anymore.
“We have to get back to a time when Republicans and Democrats worked things out together,” Butterfield said Tuesday during a community forum in Greenville. “That is the only way we can accomplish anything.”
Butterfield, the Democratic congressman from the 1st Congressional District, hosted a community discussion “Forward Together” Tuesday night at the East Carolina Heart Institute, 115 Heart Drive. About 200 people attended. He recently hosted a similar event in Durham to speak with residents of his district.
“Members of the U.S. Senate serve six-year terms,” Butterfield said. “But the Founding Fathers gave members of the U.S. House of Representatives two-year terms so we would stay close to the people we represent ... I’ve been doing this for almost 13 years and it has been my honor to go to Washington each week and represent each of you.”
Butterfield on Tuesday discussed some of the political challenges facing Democratic representatives in Washington, D.C., which are increasing due to infighting within the Republican Party.
“Republicans now are in complete control of the government on a federal level,” Butterfield said. “There are 240 Republican representatives in the U.S. House and 40 of those are members of the Tea Party, whose ideology is to cut the federal deficit no matter the cost.
“It takes 218 votes to get anything passed in the House,” he said. “So in order to reach 218 votes Republicans have to reach out to members of the Tea Party instead of reaching out to those of us across the aisle. That’s a shame, because if they reached out to Democrats for votes, they might be surprised.”
Butterfield said the Tea Party’s emphasis on budget cuts puts many health care and education programs at risk.
“The government takes in about $3 trillion in revenue every year and spends about $3.5 trillion,” Butterfield said. “Which means adding about $500 billion to our deficit each year. But there are two ways you can balance a budget ... you can decrease spending or increase revenue.
“No one wants to have a discussion about increasing revenue but that’s the discussion we need to have,” Butterfield said. “We have millionaires and billionaires making insane amounts of money and paying very little in taxes ... we cannot cut programs that benefit low-income families to give tax breaks to the rich.”
Butterfield responded to written questions that were submitted by the audience during Tuesday’s event. One question asked Butterfield how Democrats pass legislation in a Republican-controlled House and Senate.
“We don’t,” Butterfield said. “At least we don’t pass any serious bills. We submit bills all the time but they get referred to a committee and that is where they stay.”
Another audience member asked Butterfield if he thought that funding for food stamps likely would be cut under a Republican-controlled Congress. Butterfield said that members of the Tea Party have made several unsuccessful attempts to reduce funding for food stamps.
“Food stamps are always on the chopping block,” Butterfield said. “So yes ... the possibility is real that a bill could get through that would reduce or eliminate that funding.”
Butterfield told guests on Tuesday that the best way to prevent the elimination of the Affordable Care Act or various aid programs is to get politically involved.
“You have to be engaged ... make sure you vote and everyone you know registered to vote,” Butterfield said. “Make sure that your voice is heard.
“There are many people in Washington, D.C. that are swayed by public opinion,” he said. “You are public opinion.”