After championing progress made toward improving U.S. infrastructure and the economy, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves said some areas in Congress and nationwide are “still broken”—like the growing national debt, the ongoing health care and gun debates and rampant political divisiveness, which he calls the biggest threat to our country.
Graves, speaking today to the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge, criticized Congress’ swift decision Thursday to approve a $1.3 trillion spending bill, less than 24 hours after the 2,232-page plan was unveiled. After a last-minute veto threat, President Donald Trump signed the measure Friday, despite his administration’s efforts to scale back the federal government and national debt. Graves voted against the massive spending bill.
“The president talked about vetoing it, and I wish he would have,” Graves said. “It’s outrageous.”
But Graves told concerned audience members that lawmakers are working on some smaller-scale initiatives to curb the national debt by looking at federal anti-poverty programs and using data to identify which programs provide a return on investment and which do not.
“We spend an extraordinary amount of dollars on these programs but are not seeing the benefits,” he said. “This isn’t partisan. It’s data-driven.”
On a more positive note, Graves highlighted new construction along the interstate in the Capital Region—funded by federal dollars—as a sign of progress for Louisiana. Although the state has failed to raise infrastructure funds through a gas tax—including state Rep. Steve Carter’s local gas tax bill that was rejected by House committee Tuesday—Graves said he’s working on alternative solutions at the federal level, including plans to make the delivery process for infrastructure projects more efficient to save time and money.
“If we can improve the efficiency of project delivery models, we can build twice as many projects,” Graves said.
The congressman also touched on a number national hot topics during his Rotary speech including:
- Gun control: Graves called for improving background check systems, better collaboration among law enforcement services and more comprehensive approaches to reducing violence, rather than just banning guns.
- Health care: As insurance premiums continue to rise, Graves said the argument over devising a program to cover those costs is fundamentally flawed. Instead, Congress should look into bringing costs down.
- Partisan divisiveness: Graves voiced deep concerns over the growing political divide among Americans. He called on the audience to respect one another and to disagree without becoming disagreeable.