Rep. Austin Scott was the guest speaker at the Tifton-Tift County Chamber of Commerce membership luncheon Thursday afternoon, and his speaking points included subjects that were apparently on the minds of many of his constituents: Benghazi, bills that have been passed or not passed recently and the federal budget.
"There's no other way to look at Benghazi than it was an assassination of a United States ambassador. This is one of the biggest points of contention I have with our president," Scott said.
An American diplomatic mission at Benghazi, Libya was attacked Sept. 11, 2012 by a heavily-armed group. The attack began at night in a compound where there was supposed to be protection for the diplomatic building. A second assault in the morning the next day targeted a nearby CIA annex in a different compound.
Four people were killed in the attacks, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Ten others were injured.
The debate over the events before, during and after the attacks were heavily discussed during the presidential election in 2012. Several Republican members of Congress have launched independent investigations, which are ongoing. On Aug. 6, it was reported the U.S. has filed criminal charges against several individuals, including militia leader Ahmed Abu Khattala for alleged involvement in the attacks.
"The ambassador was killed; he and others were killed with precision weapons. This was not something that came about because of a YouTube video. This was planned and those men who carried this out had the intelligence to know where our ambassador was, when he was there, and they knew exactly what they were doing," Scott said.
Scott also referenced the fact that CNN News was able to find the men responsible and talk with them at a coffee shop in Libya.
"Our own law enforcement are not able to carry out their mission in trying to bring justice in this situation. I think it is an indication of weakness for this country, and I think it hurts our credibility," he added.
In reference to the Farm Bill, Scott said, "We had a bill that we were going to pass that allowed drug testing and had a work requirement in it for people under the age of 55. If there are people on it (welfare) by choice, they don't deserve to be on it. We had an opportunity to do that, but (Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi locked the Democrats down and the bill didn't pass."
Congress is attempting to pass a completed Farm Bill for the coming fiscal year, before programs expire Sept. 30. An initial bill failed to gain enough votes in June, but the Republican majority did push through a version last month that separated farming programs from food stamps – formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – on the promise they would take up SNAP benefits at a later date.
Democrats are reportedly angry because Republicans have said they wish to slash the food stamp program by up to $40 billion, when the issue becomes a stand-alone measure.
"This wrong-headed approach will take food from the mouths of children and undermine the well-being of families,” Pelosi has been quoted as saying.
Overall, Scott said when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30 and the current break ends, lawmakers will only have eight days in Washington to discuss the federal budget for the coming year.
"At a minimum, we need 30 days just to discuss health care," he said. Scott discussed the federal budget briefly as well, targeting health care reform.
"The men and women of this country are doing the best they can to get by. When they realize they are going to have to pay for this health care that, quite honestly, many people still think is going to be free, this has the potential to be a real shock in the economic system," he said. "The only way to fix the budget is jobs. You're not going to cut the budget enough to fill it. You're not going to raise taxes enough to fill it. You're not going to do anything other than create jobs to fill that deficit. You have to get people back to work."
To contact editor Angye Morrison, call 382-4321.