Congressman Ben Lujan Part 2: VAWA, Debt Ceiling
We've been hearing from Third Congressional District Congressional Representative Ben Ray Lujan this week. KUNM's statehouse reporter Deborah Martinez visited with him at his office, and she has part two of her interview.
The third-term democrat spoke on a variety of subjects he's passionate about, including the Violence Against Women Act, which he hopes to vote on during this session of Congress:
"An important provision that's in there is additional protections for Native American women, which Republicans have said that they don't want included in the legislation; which concerns me immensely. And that's one of the areas that I'm pushing aggressively and working with tribal leaders around the United States to make sure that we're able to keep those provisions included."
Congressman Lujan says he's frustrated that House leaders have refused to allow a vote on the Senate bill that included the same protective provisions for Native American, as well as gay, transgendered and bisexual women. One sticking point for Republican opponents is the bill's provision that would allow non-native residents of reservations to be tried by tribal courts.
Another issue Lujan is focused on is the debt-ceiling debate. The Congressman says the House vote to postpone action on the nation's debt limit until May could further reduce funding for New Mexico:
"The deal that they put together was a bad deal. It was bad deal for New Mexico and it was a bad deal for the country; that's why I opposed it then. Kicking the can down the road for a three-month extension of the debt ceiling creates more uncertainty with the rating agencies and how that could impact New Mexico and businesses here, and those are games that my colleagues, I would hope, would choose not to play."
Lujan shares the concern of New Mexico's lawmakers who still don't know how much federal money will be available to build a realistic budget for the next fiscal year that begins in July, and he argues that increasing revenue must be part of any federal budget talks:
"Everyone that's concerned about what could happen to New Mexico needs to stand up to that notion of those that are not asking for a balanced approach, and want to achieve this through cuts alone. If my Republican colleagues have their way, and achieve their goals through cuts alone, New Mexico will be hurt and hurt in a way that I don't know how and when we'll be able to recover."
New Mexico receives six billion dollars of federal funding that flows to the state's labs, mental institutions, veterans hospitals and university grant programs, and state legislators say those recipients face $3.3 billion in potential cuts from Washington. Congressman Lujan brought up these issues in a speech to legislators on Tuesday.