“What has taken hold in Washington, in at least the House of Representatives, is the idea that we are a poor debtor nation and might as well face it,” Holt explained. “We can’t invest in education; we can’t invest in research; we can’t do anything except pass legislation to reduce the deficit.”
Expressing his frustration with this “misguided” view held by some House Republicans, Holt pointed out that the United States has carried debt since the 18th century. Holt explained that despite our debt obligations, we invested in the country and “out-educated, out-innovated, the rest of the world.”
“That is what has made us successful, I think,” he explained. “It has made us more equal and equitable but also more prosperous.”
With deep national spending cuts, or sequestration, in effect as of March 1 and the possibility of a government shutdown later this month, the federal budget remains at the top of the policy agenda in Washington. Recently, the House passed a measure that would avert a government shutdown but that solidifies the unpopular sequestration process. The measure awaits action in the Senate.
“I hope and pray it does not pass the Senate,” Holt said.
One area in which Holt does see room for cuts is defense spending. Holt is the only Quaker — a religion known for non-violence — in Congress.
“We are spending as much as the rest of the world combined, friend and foe,” Holt noted, referring to military spending. “We shouldn’t be known for the efficiency of our killing. We should be known for the humanity of our ideals.”
The congressman said he supports shifting money away from the defense department, favoring other agencies that he says would use the funds more efficiently. “For example, DOD research — yes, they gave us the Internet and other things, but I think NIH funding is more productive,” he explained.
Holt also discussed his disagreement with the active U.S. drone program. “Armed drone assassinations clearly set us back in the eyes of the world without gaining in terms of security,” he said. Holt explained that he sent a note of support to Republican Sen. Rand Paul from Kentucky after Paul conducted a 13-hour filibuster last week questioning the Obama administration’s use of drones.
Holt said he has a number of priorities in Congress, working on “several things at once,” he explained. “I keep a lot of irons in the fire. You never know when circumstances may permit you to move on one.”
Holt cited gun control and immigration as issues on which potential legislation looks possible. “There are rays of hope in this Congress,” he said.