Congress should avoid another fight over the federal debt limit as it takes on that and two other thorny fiscal issues in the coming months, two Arizona congressmen say.
"My belief is that we shouldn't be playing games with the debt limit issue as we did last time," U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, D-Tucson, said in an Arizona Week interview. "When we did, the economy was harmed by that behavior."
U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, also a Tucson Democrat, agreed, saying he supports President Barack Obama's position of not negotiating with congressional Republicans over the debt issue. He spoke in a separate Arizona Week interview.
Grijalva pointed out that the debt limit is about goods and services the Congress has already authorized and used, but that it hasn't paid for.
Grijalva, beginning his sixth term and representing southwestern Arizona's 3rd Congressional District, said Democrats must look for more revenue in any budget deal and that the tax increases imposed on high-income earners as part of the "fiscal cliff" deal in early January weren't enough.
"I don't think all the revenue is on the table," he said. "We haven't really dealt with the issue of tax reform in general - the loopholes, the deductions, the derivative issue, transition fees, corporate subsidies."
Barber, who represents the 2nd Congressional District in southeastern Arizona, is beginning his first two-year term after being elected to serve out the last six months of predecessor Gabrielle Giffords' term.
Barber said across-the-board federal budget cuts, the "sequestration" measure that Congress must deal with by March, are ill-advised, and although he favors defense spending cuts, he will argue to keep full funding for the Army post at Fort Huachuca and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
Both are essential to national defense, he said, Fort Huachuca as the "headquarters of human military intelligence" and Davis-Monthan for protecting the southern border and work related to Latin American issues.
Grijalva said he will work to protect spending for social issues and doesn't want to see significant changes to Medicare and Social Security. Barber said he also does not want to see the programs cut.
The two congressmen discussed the congressional prospects for immigration reform and gun control measures passing in the 113th Congress.
Grijalva handicapped the chances for immigration reform passing this year at 50 percent and said it's a societal unification issue as well as a legal issue. He called for passage of the DREAM Act and a path to legalization and citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants now in the country.
Barber said he wants to see more resources to secure the border, especially in the Cochise County part of his district, and he agreed that the time has come for overall reform, including DREAM Act passage and a path to legalization for those here illegally.
Both said they want limits on extended gun magazines and assault weapons, and they want all gun purchasers to be subject to background checks.
Barber said he is particularly sensitive to the issue because of his background in mental health work and the fact that he was among those wounded at the Tucson shooting in January 2011, by a man later diagnosed as schizophrenic.