By Sabrina Bates
MVP Regional News Editor
Where is the money and how do we get it back are two questions U.S Rep. David Kustoff, congressman for Tennessee’s 8th District, said will be the focus of study for committees currently under organization by the House and Senate.
The legislative session kicked off with appointments of leaders, committees and subcommittees when Congress convened at the beginning of the year.
Kustoff was recently assigned to the Subcommittee on Tax, Subcommittee on Trade, and Subcommittee on Social Security within the House Committee on Ways and Means for the 118th Congress. The Committee on Ways and Means is the oldest committee in the United States Congress and has jurisdiction over taxes, trade, healthcare, Social Security, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and support for low-income families that need work.
During a recent phone interview, Kustoff said Homeland Security and oversight committees are going to be tasked with finding money appropriated for the border wall and PPP loans. The congressman said one of the first acts when Pres. Joe Biden took office was to halt construction of the border wall between the United States and Mexico, which began under former Pres. Donald Trump.
“I’m all in favor of lawful migration. There is a right way to enter this country and a wrong way. Those who enter the wrong way put a strain on infrastructure and public resources,” Kustoff said. He referenced pleas from the mayor of New York, who is seeing an influx of migrants into that city. In addition to the strain on resources, Kustoff said there is a rise in fentanyl and sex trafficking cases attributed to illegal border crossings.
He explained he has visited the border wall twice, once under each president. There aren’t enough border agents and piles of construction materials are stacked on top of one another. He said there is a 500 percent increase in illegal crossings from December 2021 to December 2022.
“I voted on taxpayer money to pay for the wall. … With construction stopped, where is that money and how do we get it back? Committee hearings in the next couple of months will determine that,” Kustoff shared, adding there will be accountability and people will be held responsible.
An oversight committee will also be asked to investigate money appropriated during the COVID-era to determine if funds were used for its intended purposes. If fraud is determined through Personal Paycheck Protection loans for businesses, Kustoff said Congress will look to get that money back.
Another focus of oversight committees is an investigation into China and potential manipulation of supply chains that have added to nationwide inflation. Kustoff alluded to China’s theft of Americans’ intellectual property and purchasing of agricultural property in this country.
“We want to make good on these promises and that constitutes forming committees to investigate these important issues,” Kustoff said.
Kustoff said when Trump was in office, this country was more energy-independent than in years’ past.
“For the first time in a long time, we were producing more oil than we were importing. We need to become more energy-independent again and create more American-energy-independent jobs,” he added.
The war between Russia and Ukraine is nearing its 12-month mark. Kustoff said the U.S. must be conscious and careful with U.S. tax dollars. The nation has provided some equipment and aid to Ukraine and there are imposed sanctions on Russian oil. Kustoff said Congress is seeing a push-back by Russian militia against its own government.
Through legislation passed in 2017, certain tax cuts will begin to expire in 2025. Kustoff said these cuts will need to be addressed in the next two years as household costs have gone up for a lot of Americans. He said the Federal Reserve has signaled it will raise interest rates once again to help combat inflation.
“The Fed will use all of the tools in their box. You’ve been to the grocery store and you know what you are paying for products. People may be making more money now, but it’s not keeping up with the increased costs. … We need to stop wasteful spending and dial back federal spending,” Kustoff said.
In reference to West Tennessee, Kustoff lauded Gov. Bill Lee and state legislators for securing Ford Motor Company’s commitment to BlueOval City, currently under construction in Stanton. He said they did a good job of marketing the Megasite in Haywood County and local officials are now evaluating infrastructure and where potential auxiliary companies are going.
“The circles from this investment will extend throughout all of West Tennessee. While the fabric of the region may change, this is a really good thing with good jobs for West Tennesseans,” Kustoff shared.
Tennessee’s 8th Congressional District comprises Carroll, Chester, Crockett, Dyer, Fayette, Gibson, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Henry, Lake, Lauderdale, Madison, McNairy, Obion, Tipton, and Weakley counties. It also contains a large piece of Shelby County, including the eastern part of Memphis, half of Tipton County, and a small piece of Benton County. Contact Kustoff at his Washington D.C. office by calling 1-202-225-4714.