BY JONATHAN POLSON
Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-1) spoke to students at the University of Mary Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 5 during Visiting Instructor of Political Science Abigail Jones’ American government class.
After junior Nicole Tardif introduced Wittman, he immediately launched into a discussion on what he called “the madness that’s happening just up the beltway.”
Wittman spoke on a variety of issues, focusing on the overall functioning of government in light of the recent shutdown.
“One of the elements where Washington has broken down is how we do business,” said Wittman. “Our responsibility is to make sure the government functions and one of those functions is the budget.”
Wittman supported a clean continuing resolution (CR) in last month’s budget conflict, which would have provided an opportunity to keep government open while continuing debate.
“This process has gone astray,” said Wittman.
In the last legislative session, only four appropriation bills were passed by the end of the session in July. Appropriation bills are passed along with budgets in order to define where money is spent. According to Wittman, he went to the house floor for the past two years in July, proposing that they remain in Washington until all work is done and appropriations are passed.
“People were negatively affected across the board, especially in this area,” said Wittman. “One of the big concerns is the impact of a sequestration on our nation’s military.”
Wittman discussed how failing to pass appropriations that dictate military spending can result in detrimental cuts. According to Wittman, the recent sequestration caused $700 billion in military cuts. “Another $500 billion in cuts would be catastrophic,” said Wittman.
“We should always make sure that we properly resource the men and women that put themselves in harms way for our country,” said Wittman, who is also chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Readiness.
“My job is to make sure our military is ready for whatever it has to face,” said Wittman. “We can have a debate about the size and scope of the military, but not one that jeopardizes the men and women that serve the country.”
One student inquired about Wittman’s views on military secrecy and how it relates to readiness.
“We need to make sure we can maintain a strategic advantage for our military on the battlefield,” answered Wittman, stressing the importance of ensuring U.S. enemies do not know specific strengths and weaknesses of the armed forces.
On the topic of higher education payment, Wittman discussed his belief that students should pay attention to the current economy and study for jobs that are in demand.
“42 percent of the professionals who gained a college degree are not working in the field that they got the degrees,” he said.
According to Wittman, a focus on trade jobs can allow some students to avoid the difficulty of higher education payment and student debts.
Wittman answered student questions for about half an hour, discussing a wide range of views, including his belief in the importance of technological advancement, working with Virginia counties on utilizing public education funding effectively and finding alternatives to the Affordable Care Act.
Sophomore political science major Ellen O’Brien said she enjoyed Wittman’s speech and found value in the chance to openly discuss policy with the congressman.
“I thought he was a very informative speaker who really seemed to care about us and our questions,” said O’Brien. “Although I don’t agree with some of his views, I still felt as though I could ask him questions and get actual answers from him instead of soundbites.”