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At schools, Stutzman touts spending cuts

– Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, said Friday there should be no sacred cows when it comes to federal spending cuts.

“I think everything should be on the table,” he told about 30 students in a classroom at Harrison College. “There’s places to cut within the military. There’s reforms that need to happen within Social Security and Medicare.”

Stutzman said the $16.4 trillion national debt is “the greatest threat that I see” to the U.S. economy and job prospects for Harrison graduates. His audience included students in health sciences, business and criminal justice.

He noted that military spending has risen from $260 billion a year to nearly $650 billion since 2011.

Stutzman sounded more cautious about curtailing military spending when talking with reporters after his visit to the for-profit college. He said he opposes President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary in part because Hagel has endorsed Pentagon budget reductions. In 2011, the former senator from Nebraska said the Department of Defense “has become bloated.”

“We need a strong military. We need an efficient military,” Stutzman said. “But to go in and just start slashing in areas that we need to make sure we can protect ourselves I think would be unwise. So I don’t think he’s a good choice.”

And he said $500 billion in military spending cuts scheduled to start taking effect March 1 should be spread among federal agencies.

Stutzman and the Republican-run House voted last week in favor of extending the national debt limit until May 19. The extension was approved Thursday by the Democratic Senate.

“I felt like we need to force the Senate to pass a budget,” Stutzman said Friday. “We can’t plan financially if we don’t have a budget in place.”

The Senate has not approved an annual federal budget in nearly four years. The debt-limit extension requires both houses to produce budgets for fiscal 2014 by April 15.

Earlier Friday, Stutzman visited Lakewood Park Christian School in Auburn, where, he said, students asked him about gun control.

Stutzman, an opponent of gun-control legislation, told reporters after his Harrison visit that efforts to curb gun violence should focus on mental illness.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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