U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones told Havelock business and community leaders Thursday that next year would be a “crossroads” for America.
Jones, the Republican third district congressman, addressed about 70 people in a non-campaign stop at the annual Federal Update Luncheon hosted by the Havelock Chamber of Commerce at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center.
Jones touched on topics ranging from budget sequestration to overseas spending in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“I think 2015 is going to be a crossroads year for your country, and I think 2015 will be much worse than 2014,” Jones said.
The 10-term congressman said whether he was re-elected in the fall or not, the first thing Congress would grapple with in 2015 is the budget and the automatic spending cuts of sequestration that he said have had big impacts at Cherry Point and military installations across the country.
“I think there will be an effort to have another debate on whether sequestration should be in place or whether sequestration should be repealed,” Jones said, adding that he did not vote for it.
Sequestration caused furloughs for employees at the Fleet Readiness Center East aircraft repair facility and others at Cherry Point in 2013. This year, the base rebounded by catching up on work that could not be completed in 2013.
“Even in these very difficult budget times, the future of FRC is as strong as I have seen since I have been in Congress,” Jones said. “The future of FRC looks great and it should be great, but if we can’t pay our bills in Washington, D.C., it’s going to impact everybody.”
Jones was critical of the amount of money the United States spends overseas when the nation faces infrastructure and other needs.
“We spent in Iraq and Afghanistan $1.6 trillion. That’s not paid for. That’s off the budget,” Jones said. “I’m not an isolationist, but when I see the needs here in Havelock and throughout the third district, why do we continue to spend money in Afghanistan? I am sick and tired of my country, your country, borrowing money from foreign countries, from foreign governments to build roads in Afghanistan and schools everywhere else but right here in Eastern North Carolina. It is time that this country awakens to the fact that you are a debtor nation.”
Jones said he feared that even more money would be spent if a 10-year strategic agreement is signed with Afghanistan.
“That’s 10 more years of fixing their streets and their roads and having a few more of our military to losing their legs or maybe their life spending millions of dollars that we don’t have, and it’s a waste,” Jones said. There needs to be outrage. There needs to be people across this nation saying to fix our problems first, protect our lands first and let the rest of the world take care of itself.”
The comment brought applause from the audience.
Jones told the crowd that he has asked House Speaker John Boehner to call for a debate and vote on expanding military force in Iraq as it relates to air strikes against ISIS, an Islamist militant group responsible for the recent beheading of American journalist James Foley.
“The situation in Iraq is a grave one and before sending our uniformed men and women into danger we owe it to them and the people we represent to fully debate the matter and have a vote,” Jones said.
He was not clear about a solution.
“They are absolutely out of control from the standpoint of their hatred for anyone else but those in their group,” said Jones. “My belief is that we should do what is necessary but not more than is necessary.”
Jones said while he voted in 2002 for the Iraq War that led to the toppling of dictator Saddam Hussein, he regretted his vote and has consistently sought to curb the scale of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Maybe some of these dictators know more about their countries than we do,” Jones rationalized. “If Saddam were still in power, maybe we wouldn’t have ISIS. He would have control over his country. If we had problems we would be able to deal with him about it, not with 10 different jihadists groups, which you can’t deal with anyway.”
Jones was asked if he supported the impeachment of President Obama.
“I would not vote for Mr. Boehner’s money to go to the federal courts to sue the president over the issue of presidential executive orders. I think it’s a waste of one to four million dollars, and it’s not going to go anywhere,” Jones said. “I think that’s a decision that needs to be made by the House and the House would not make that decision. That’s why I think that the lawsuit is frivolous.”
The congressman was asked whether any bills had been introduced to deal with the issue of mental illness as it relates to gun violence.
“I think we in Washington and those in North Carolina need to work together to rebuild the mental health programs in our state and in our nation,” Jones said in a comment that earned applause. “We do have a lot of crazy people in Congress, by the way.”