The republican incumbent in a tight three way race for Congress in Central New York has picked up the backing of an Onondaga County veterans' group. Ann Marie Buerkle is being challenged by former democratic congressman Dan Maffei and Green Party candidate Ursula Rozum. YNN's Bill Carey says Buerkle has worked hard to support veterans and the Pentagon.
ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- Ann Marie Buerkle won in 2010 by fewer than 700 votes. With another tough race ahead, every endorsement counts.
“So I want to say thank you to Linda Chew and the Veterans Party for this highest honor. To be their candidate for Congress in 2012,” Buerkle said.
The Veterans Party had spoken to both major party candidates for Congress. In the end it was no surprise that their endorsement went to Congresswoman Buerkle. One key factor? Buerkle serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
“She has more of an ability, in that committee, to help all of us, I think. The fact that she was a nurse and an attorney, she can interpret the law, she knows about health care, and I think she's the best choice,” Veterans Party Chair Linda Chew said.
In her nearly two years in the House, Buerkle has also been a strong supporter of defense spending, even in the face of mounting deficits that she and other conservatives have made their prime issue.
Buerkle said, “The legitimate function of the government is national security, is keeping us safe as American citizens, is keeping our homeland safe and free.”
Currently, the U.S. spends one of every five budget dollars, about $695 billion a year, on defense. That's more than the other top 10 military powers combined. China, for example, spends about $120 billion a year on defense and Russia $52 billion.
“Defense does not account for the yeoman's share of the debt. The debt that this nation faces is because of the entitlements. If you look at the budget and the percentage that's spent on the military, it's a reasonable portion of that budget,” Buerkle said.
And, in fact, spending on social security, Medicare and Medicaid is twice that of defense. The congresswoman also warns that cuts in defense will mean potential cuts in services to those who've served in uniform.
“And anything that hurts our veterans is not the way to go for this nation,” Buerkle said.
Buerkle says the focus needs to be on other areas of discretionary spending, areas that she says are ripe for cuts.
Buerkle and other republicans have been critical of the Obama Administration's call for half a trillion dollars in defense cuts. Those cuts would take effect over a 10 year period, meaning the annual impact will be closer to $50 billion.
Under a budget control act approved last year, unless republicans and democrats can agree on a package of spending reductions, automatic across-the-board cuts will take place, including even deeper reductions for defense.