Congress must slash its spending or risk smothering the U.S. economy with debt, Republican U.S. House candidate Garland "Andy" Barr warned Friday.
Barr, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, spoke during a taping of WKYT-TV'S Kentucky Newsmakers program. The show will air at 11 a.m. Saturday
Criticizing Chandler's recent votes for additional spending, Barr said he would oppose future economic stimulus packages and extensions of jobless benefits unless they are paid for with existing funds. Government spending and regulations get in the way of the free market, he said.
Asked what would help the economy, Barr said, "I think freedom. I think free enterprise. I think everything the government is doing is creating problems for the economy because it's creating uncertainty."
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Barr called for a curb on budget earmarks by members of Congress, splitting from GOP elders like U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., who send billions of dollars to projects they favor through earmarks.
Earmarks distort federal spending because they divert money from agencies' identified needs for the pet projects of lawmakers with seniority, Barr said. Although Kentucky has benefited from this to a degree, Barr added, voters understand the cash spigot must be closed.
"I think there's a difference this year," he said after the taping. "People are palpably concerned about the deficit. Our debt is spiraling out of control."
On other issues, Barr:
■ Said he wants strong er U.S.-Mexico border security to stop illegal immigration. But he disagreed with Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul, who has called for children born in the United States to illegal immigrants to be denied U.S. citizenship. Barr, who teaches constitutional law at the University of Kentucky, said the 14th Amendment to the Constitution grants citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil.
■ Opposed the sweeping overhaul of financial regulations signed into law this week by President Barack Obama. The new law will burden banks and does not address the reason for the recession, which is the over-leveraged housing market caused by the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, he said. The CRA encouraged banks to loan in the low-income neighborhoods of their communities.
■ Challenged Chandler to 16 debates, one in each county in Central Kentucky's 6th Congressional District.
In response, Chandler spokeswoman Jennifer Krimm later said, "Congressman Chandler looks forward to debating the issues this fall in a forum which will be accessible to all of the 6th District."