09/04/13 — Butterfield pledges to focus on electric, rail

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Butterfield pledges to focus on electric, rail

By Josh Ellerbrock
Published in News on September 4, 2013 1:46 PM

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Impulse General Manager Jeff Wharton talks with U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield during his factory tour as an employee works nearby.

U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield spent Tuesday in the southwest end of North Carolina's 1st Congressional District touring IMPulse in Mount Olive and attending an N.C. Radiological Society meeting in Goldsboro.

And some good news was passed on, at least for IMPulse.

IMPulse's product -- the overhead infrastructure for electric transportation systems, such as trolleys and electric trains -- got a new ally in the congressman who said he would push for expansion of electric transportation systems, especially the upgrade of high-speed rail infrastructure under a federal proposal.

As for the rest of the American public, the news was less than cheerful as Butterfield laid down the upcoming debates in Congress -- the budget, Syria, the budget again and then immigration.

"So that's the great debate that's happening in Washington right now: How do we responsibly reduce the deficit? We can't even deal with the debt until we get the deficit under control. And so we're trying to get a budget right now for the next fiscal year," Butterfield said.

Congress currently has eight days to pass a budget for the next year, but Butterfield says that is unlikely. Instead, Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution. If not, the federal government faces a shutdown.

Passing that continuing resolution may be a problem, though, as some in Congress try to use continuing resolutions as bargaining chips.

"They want to make a point that the government is in a crisis," Butterfield said. "Yes, we need to get the budget done, but we need to do it in a responsible way."

But now, even the budget argument has been put aside as Congress wrestles with how to respond to the alleged chemical attacks by Syrian Dictator Bashar Al-Assad.

"Do we just close our eyes and just say, 'It's Syria's business. It's the business of the Middle East, and it's none of our business?' Is that who we are as a country? It's a crime against humanity -- do we just let it alone, leave it be or do we respond? That's the moral question that we'll have to answer in the next few days," Butterfield said.

"We probably need to respond in some appropriate way, but we can't do it alone. America can't be the Lone Ranger -- the sole country responding. We got to have allies."

"Do you put boots on the ground? Absolutely not. Nobody's suggesting we put boots on the ground. (Sen.) John McCain is not doing it. The president is not talking about it. You should not expect to see any boots on the ground."

Instead, the discussion is looking at diminishing Assad's ability to use chemical weapons by employing cruise missiles, Butterfield said. Currently, there are five carriers in the eastern Mediterranean point equipped with cruise missiles that have the precision to strike at chemical weapon stockpiles, he said. Whether to use them or not is still an unanswered question.

"If we go in, will we agitate the situation where they want to retaliate even more against the West?" Butterfield said.

After the Syria vote, which Butterfield says will wrap up sometime within the next week, Congress will return to the budget question as the deadline for the continuing resolution looms closer. And then in October, the vote to increase the debt ceiling will force Congress to take another look at budget concerns, Butterfield said. Again, that vote will most likely be used as a political talking point.

"There are some people that I'm serving with in Congress who say that America should not borrow another dime. That we have reached our limit -- we should not borrow another dime regardless of the hurts or the pain it inflicts to our future. We should not borrow another dime, and they're pretty serious about this thing. They're not putting a political spin on it. They, in their heart of hearts, believe that we need to do something extraordinary to make their point about the debt."

Butterfield pushed for a number of different ideas to deal with the debt -- fixing both Social Security and Medicare to become solvent, increasing taxes for "those who can afford to pay more," increasing the tax base and focusing on education.

Some of those solutions, however, such as bringing jobs back home from overseas and maintaining a strong educational system require more investment to achieve. Just cutting discretionary spending and freezing the debt ceiling won't fix the problem, Butterfield said.

"We cannot balance the federal budget by cutting discretionary spending. It is an impossibility," he said.