Arkansas Second District Rep. Tim Griffin (R) held one of the first town hall meetings in the country after the recent Congressional vote on a debt ceiling extension fielding questions from constituents displeased with his vote from both sides of the political aisle.
Griffin met with about 60 voters at Philander Smith College in downtown Little Rock and explained his rationale for the brokered debt ceiling compromise saying he didn’t want to "roll the dice" with the nation’s financial fragility.
"I was worried about August 2nd," Griffin said in reference to a projected deadline for defaulting on U.S. debt. "I was worried about the impact that it was going to have on world markets, our credit rating and even our interest rates we pay on our loans on our debt. If that goes up a little bit, it will erase a lot of the things we’ve been trying to do to get our budget and our spending in order." (see video below)
Conservative voters aligned with the TEA Party movement have been critical of the budget and debt deal. Some in the audience expressed reservation with Griffin’s vote, which mirrored all of Arkansas’ federal officials. Democrats have also criticized the vote as not resolving the crisis and going too far on potential spending cuts.
Griffin told the group that it was "the right vote, the lesser of two evils."
The debt ceiling solution was approved by both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Obama. The bill outlines measures to cut government spending more than the $2.4 trillion debt limit increase, mandates spending caps on future budgets, and lays the groundwork for a future vote on a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Part of the debt ceiling compromise would also create a "Super Congress" – a large bipartisan, bicameral committee – to make tough spending decisions on future budget proposals. Griffin said he thought the concept would work.
"It’s really a joint committee and we have a lot of joint committees. It does have bigger responsibilities than a lot of the other committees have. I think it can (work). If it doesn’t there are going to be significant cuts. I think that will be an incentive for it to work," he said.
Thursday night’s Philander Smith forum was billed as a jobs creation discussion. Griffin talked about debt reduction being a part of that solution as well as regulatory reduction, patent protection, new energy exploration, and tax reform.
He said that while he was against tax increases, he supported increased revenue collection from the federal government if it involved significant corporate tax reform. Griffin advocated a flatter tax rate structure combined with closing loopholes.
"Fundamental tax reform of income and corporate tax, close the loopholes, lower the rates… I think that is a recipe for job growth, for creating jobs," Griffin said.
The Congressman is home for the August recess. He said that he would be holding an additional 11 town hall meetings this month across the district.
You can view Griffin’s post-town hall comments below.