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Congressional Delegates Talk Defense Spending, Health Care At Forum

San Diego's five Congressional delegates.

Above: San Diego's five Congressional delegates.

All five of San Diego’s Congressional delegates gathered today for a forum put on by the Regional Chamber of Commerce to discuss topics ranging from defense spending to health care.

Congressman Darrell Issa, who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, recently held hearings about whether the government can force religious institutions that act as employers to provide birth control in their health coverage.

Critics said Issa didn’t have enough women on his panel, but he defended the hearing today.

"We think it was a good hearing, we think it was very unjust to imply that somehow we were slighting women," he said. "Remember, it was about the question of can you mandate anything to a church or church school."

Congressman Duncan Hunter presented his stance on a Camp Pendleton Marine who is facing a separation hearing for writing anti-Obama messages on his Facebook page.

Hunter said the military needs to decide how it will handle social media in the future.

"The Marine Corps and the military need to establish hard and fast rules for social media, because they don't exist right now," he said. "So what this Marine did in my opinion was voice his opinion to a hypothetical situation to his friends on Facebook. In my opinion, that's protected speech.

"That's what the military needs to look at, is what is protected speech and what is not. If he was talking to his friends in a bar about the same subject, he would not be being separated from his friends in the United States Marine Corps right now. But because he was on Facebook, he is, even though he was not speaking in uniform, nor was he speaking for the United States Marine Corps, he explicitly stated that."

All of the Congressional representatives addressed the defense industry and its presence in San Diego. They said San Diego will benefit as the nation begins to concentrate more on the Pacific and transfers resources here.

But Congressmen Bob Filner and Brian Bilbray also expressed concern that San Diego could be hurt if the president’s proposed $671 billion in defense spending cuts go through.

"Cutting the military budget has potential to affect us, but five Congresspeople from San Diego work very closely to be sure we stay viable in terms of our numbers of people here, the strength of the bases, some of the special units that are here," Filner said. "So we are all subject to national things. But we could do things here locally that would free us of some of those contraints."

"The challenge though is understanding that we do have new fiscal restraints, but one of the major mandated responsibilities of the federal government is national defense," Bilbray said. "There's a lot of things we do that aren't in our federal mandate, that cities and counties and states can do. But national defense is one that only the federal government can do, and the federal government really has to bear that responsibility and make it a priority. Hopefully the most cost effective way of protecting the public and our nation is what's essential.

"And we can do better, we can look at processes that actually reduce costs, but increase the resources going to the personnel and the equipment, and not necessarily being distracted by a lot of political maneuvers."

The delegates split along party lines in their views of the president’s health care law, which is currently being considered by the Supreme Court. Republicans opposed it and Democrats supported it.

Congresswoman Susan Davis said the country will have to deal with a lot of questions if the law is struck down.

"What's going away first?" she said. "Are we going to take away the credit opportunity for small businesses that you have a discount on their taxes essentially, if they provide health insurance are we going to take away preexisting conditions for children, are we going to take away women's health care, which is a big issue in the Affordable Care Act, are we going to take away the opportunity for families to put their young people, their students, on their health care? What do you get rid of first?

"So I think when people think about that, if they're not supportive of the Affordable Care Act, they may feel that this is something we really do need to have."

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