Fortenberry rejects government shutdown

2013-08-05T21:05:00Z 2013-08-08T14:46:04Z Fortenberry rejects government shutdownBy DON WALTON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Fielding a barrage of questions from constituents, some of whom attempted to push him to the right, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry on Monday rejected a proposal that would trigger a government shutdown if funding to implement Obamacare were not eliminated.

That plan, aimed at refusing to raise the national debt ceiling when it is reached this autumn if Obamacare is not defunded, would lead to "very significant consequences" for the country without accomplishing its goal, the 1st District Republican said at a town hall meeting in Lincoln.

President Barack Obama is not going to sign a repeal of his health care reform law, Fortenberry said.

The newest battle over an increase in the debt ceiling is likely to lead to a short-term solution in the form of a continuing budget resolution, he predicted, with Congress then engaging in budget and tax reform negotiations.

Fortenberry said he would like to avoid another round of across-the-board budget sequestration cuts that do not establish priorities.

That kind of budgeting is "an awful thing," he said.

Fortenberry's town hall session at Lincoln Southwest High School attracted nearly 250 people. 

Some members of the audience voiced support for Obamacare, but there was greater scattered applause for opponents, one of whom suggested that "we elected Republicans to fight for more conservative policies."

Fortenberry expressed opposition to comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for people who have settled in the United States illegally, and he said he wanted to restructure the health care law, which the Republican House has voted to repeal 40 times.

"There has to be a better way," he said.

Fortenberry said Congress must get a handle on federal spending.

The current string of huge annual budget deficits has led to a national debt that has reached $17 trillion and a fiscal path that is unsustainable, he said.

Asked about the partisan gridlock in Congress that has sent its approval rating plunging to 12 percent, Fortenberry said "a lot of members want to do something constructive" to end the deadlock.

There are "legitimate philosophical differences" in play that reflect the divisions in the country, he said.

The American people should hold Congress accountable, Fortenberry said.

But members should be encouraged to "work constructively, hold to their principles and try to resolve differences" without being punished for reaching across the partisan aisle to do so, he said.

Fortenberry said concerns about the National Security Agency's access to telephone records -- not actual conversations -- are reasonable.

But civil liberties and national security must be balanced, he said.

"We need to protect citizens from government intrusion and protect the country from attack," he said.

Concerns that are being voiced now are "a wake-up call" that may lead to reforms, he said, including appointment of a private advocate to argue against the government when it seeks court authority to listen to citizens' phone calls.

Reach Don Walton at 402-473-7248 or  dwalton@journalstar.com.

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