Rep. Tim Huelskamp made a stop in Dodge City to speak with residents during Congress's spring break.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp said he will not vote for a "comprehensive" immigration bill, saying first the borders would need to be secured through incremental reform, and second, that the Obama administration would need to enforce current law before he trusted it with new laws.
It's the congressional spring break in a year where Congress will put in fewer than 60 more days on the Hill. Huelskamp has been spending his time touring the district and speaking to constituents in town hall-style meetings, including one in Dodge City, Tuesday, at the Dodge City Community College.
Not that a vote on immigration would come to the floor, anyway, with it and many other large issues being swept from the biannual election year docket, Huelskamp fumed, with a portion of his anger for the U.S. government directed at his own Republican Party leaders.
"Most people in Washington are content to wait until after an election," Huelskamp said, speaking about the national debt, which has risen above $17.5 trillion.
Next to him was a graph, 53 percent colored by the American flag, 47 percent by the Chinese flag. China and Japan each own about $1.2 trillion in U.S. debt, or about 7 percent each. Foreign governments own about one-third of the total U.S. debt, or 47 percent of the $12.6 trillion of "debt held by the public" according to the Treasury's most recent data.
The rest of the national debt, almost $5 trillion, is intragovernmental debt, primarily owed to social security.
The congressman said the national debt, and the $492 billion deficit, was "crushing."
"The problem is going to get worse," he said.
Huelskamp said the nation can no longer rely on China to fund the national budget, citing credit concerns for soybean and corn importers in China, the fastest growing import market for agricultural goods in the world.
Those crops were rejected at the port due to lack of available credit, Huelskamp said.
China is claiming certain strains of genetically modified corn and soybeans do not meet the country's regulatory requirements, a move that Dallas Federal Reserve Bank CEO Richard Fisher and other market experts have called thinly-veiled trade protectionism.
According to the Reuters news service, American corn exports to China are expected take an 85 percent hit, this year.
At times, the exchanges between Huelskamp and audience members were heated. One local manufacturing business owner told the congressman that immigration laws were preventing people who want to work and grew up in Dodge City from working.
Huelskamp reiterated his point that he would not vote for a comprehensive immigration bill until after the borders had been secured.
When asked for clarification in an email for what would constitute secured borders, Huelskamp reiterated that the borders needed to be secured and that he did not trust the current administration to enforce new laws passed by Congress.
During the meeting he said he is strongly opposed to 1986-style amnesty, the immigration bill signed into law by President Ronald Reagan that granted legal residence to about 2.7 million, and put nominal requirements on businesses to verify the citizenship of workers.
"We're not going to send them all back and we're not going to give them all amnesty. I think there is something in the middle," he said.
One audience member asked Huelskamp during one of his visits to national media outlets to push back against former Florida governor Jeb Bush's statement that often, illegal entry into the country was an "act of love."
"There is a path to legal status," Huelskamp said. "I've been through the path with legal citizenship with my two kids, and it's a mess." Two of Huelskamp's daughters were born in Haiti.
"Millions do it each year," he added. "It's not easy; I'm of the opinion it shouldn't be easy."
During the hour-long question and answer session, Huelskamp questioned the motives of the administration, particularly Attorney General Eric Holder, whom he says the House has empaneled a grand jury, a step toward impeachment.
He said the IRS has been giving too much power and was acting out of partisan spite when it seemed to give extra scrutiny to nearly 300 conservative organizations seeking non-profit status as "social welfare" organizations.
Some liberal-leaning organizations were similarly scrutinized, but far fewer in total.
Many of those groups had names referring to the Tea Party or other right-leaning political causes. Non-profits under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code are not supposed to be primarily focused on electioneering or other political causes, though a concrete definition of that has proven elusive.
Huelskamp, like Sen. Pat Roberts, said the IRS should be out of the business of determining which groups meet the criteria. Roberts has said this work can be done by a less intrusive and less powerful agency. Huelskamp, when asked for clarification, said the tax code needs to be revised to remove all discretionary power at the IRS.
"I think we need to throw out the whole stinking tax code and start over," he said.
"There's no middle class lobbyists on K Street," Huelskamp said, referring to the traditional home of influential lobbying firms in Washington. Those lobbyists have written the tax code to be difficult and to provide loopholes for powerful, entrenched industries and groups, he said.
"It's 70 years of politicians' dreams and it’s a nightmare."
Huelskamp says he continues to support the so-called "Fair Tax" plan, which is a type of national sales tax rather than an income tax. Opponents of that type of taxation, including the director of a religious charity in attendance, said flat consumption taxes negatively affect the poorer residents that spend larger percentages of their incomes compared to wealthier residents.
Huelskamp said such a plan could have tax credits or other mechanisms for protecting the poor.