ATLANTA — Congressional hopeful Stephen Simpson said Sunday he would consider cuts in some benefits for retirees as ways to balance the budget.
Simpson made his comments in a half-hour grilling from reporters at an event put on by the Atlanta Press Club and televised statewide by Georgia Public Broadcasting. It was to have been a debate for the 10th Congressional District Republican nomination, but incumbent U.S. Rep. Paul Broun said he had to participate in Naval Reserve drills.
There are no Democrats or other candidates in the election, making the GOP nominee the automatic winner.
In fielding questions from the panel of reporters, Simpson said he would be willing to consider cuts to any federal program, including raising the Social Security retirement age to 68.
After the debate, he said that even as a military retiree he would be willing to take a 1 percent benefit cut per year to help balance the budget.
Simpson also told the television audience that he would consider higher premiums for the military-retiree health plan TRICARE and ending a federal subsidy for commercial passenger service to airports in Athens and Macon as possible cost-cutting options.
“In every walk of life, we’ve got to be able and pitch in and do the right thing to get our budget balanced,” he said.
Simpson acknowledged his stance could draw flack from retiree-advocacy groups.
He ducked a question about whether he would vote to re-elect Republican John Boehner as U.S. House speaker.
“I assure, I will vote to do the right thing,” he said.
When moderator Scott Slade gave him a chance to question the empty microphone reserved for Broun, Simpson blasted Broun for having 12 ethics complaints. The latest, he said, were allegations that Broun improperly reimbursed himself with $167,000 from his campaign funds for personal items, including laundry.
“I would expect, as he normally does, (Broun would say) it’s someone else’s fault,” Simpson said. “Mr. Broun has more ethics violations than the entire Georgia delegation combined. Leaders take the responsibility. Leaders accept the blame.”
Asked whether Broun had done anything in office that he agreed with, Simpson instead attacked the congressman for voting against legislation that the Republican-controlled House passed designed to hold the interest rate on student loans low.