During a visit in Oro Valley last week, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Congressional District 1, talked about the first 100 days in Congress, and the continued struggles for Democrats and Republicans to agree on many of the important issues facing the nation.
Kirkpatrick, who was elected to office last year, said she’s been able to open five district offices across CD1, and saw some key legislation put in place in the first days in office.
Legislation that was particularly important to Kirkpatrick included the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, which became more difficult to pass than the Democratic Congresswoman expected.
Renewing the bill took some time as lawmakers argued over key pieces of the legislation, which also centered around advocating for rights for women on tribal land.
“I really advocated for the tribal piece of this legislation,” Kirkpatrick said. “Women are women and violence against women is something we don’t condone.”
Now, Kirkpatrick said her office is focusing on the backlog of veterans applying for benefits, but waiting years to receive a response.
In CD1, it is estimated that 60 veterans are still on a waiting list for disability and benefits claims.
The problem centers around the Department of Defense (DOD) using a paper method to supply Veteran’s Services with requested information.
A new bill, which Kirkpatrick supports, is to set a benchmark for the DOD, which means they would have a time line to provide records for benefit claims.
“The VA (Veterans Affairs) uses electronic technology very well,” Kirkpatrick said. “We just need to start improving the response from the Department of Defense.”
There is no date set for a vote at this time, the bill to improve the amount of time it takes to respond to a veteran’s claim is still going through committees.
There are areas where Kirkpatrick is not as happy with how Congress has acted in its first 100 days, as she points to the sequester that remains in effect today.
Without coming to a compromise on budget issues, mandatory spending cuts started through the sequester.
“This should have never happened. We should have been able to sit down and find the necessary compromise,” Kirkpatrick said.
In CD1, Kirkpatrick said schools will suffer the consequences with cuts to Head Start programs and even the Grand Canyon is going to have to cut its hours in the peak tourist season this summer.
When Congress approved reversing cuts to the Federal Aviation Administration after flights were being delayed, Kirkpatrick was again disappointed.
“We shouldn’t be picking and choosing which programs don’t get cut,” she said.
With budget talks coming into full swing after President Barack Obama introduced his budget proposals, Kirkpatrick said she is not in favor of many of the president’s plans, including cuts to Social Security and not scheduling any funding for needed projects in CD1.