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LaHood discusses Ukraine, China, debt ceiling, student loan relief, and COVID-19 assistance fraud

U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, answers questions after a news conference Thursday in Peoria Heights.
Joe Deacon
U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, answers questions after a news conference Thursday in Peoria Heights.

U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood says he remains supportive of American assistance for Ukraine in defending itself from Russia's invasion with the war now in its second year.

“But it doesn't mean we give them a blank check. There has to be other funding sources, particularly from our European allies on that,” LaHood said this week during an appearance in Peoria Heights.

The Dunlap Republican insisted the U.S. cannot allow Vladimir Putin to succeed in a takeover of Ukraine that could have ramifications beyond just Europe.

“Remember, Putin’s No. 1 ally is China, Xi Jinping,” said LaHood. “Xi Jinping would like to see nothing else than the West lose and America lose in this war. So we can't give up on (Ukrainian president Volodymyr) Zelenskyy; this is about freedom. But we have to make sure that every nickel of taxpayer money is spent wisely, that its audited in the right way, and that our allies are stepping up.”

LaHood is serving on the House's bipartisan committee examining threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party. He said it's not a partisan issue, but rather a fully American concern.

“China has a plan to replace the United States, and they're working on it every single day. And the quicker we understand that, the better,” he said. “That means they want to overtake us economically, from a technological standpoint, and from a national security standpoint.

LaHood said Congress needs to take a leadership role in exposing the Chinese Communist Party's malign activities and find a way to encourage allies to isolate China economically.

Domestic issues

LaHood said he hopes there's a path in Washington to a bipartisan agreement on lifting the nation’s debt ceiling.

“We cannot default on our debts, that's the bottom line. But we have to convince our colleagues on the other side that we’ve got to reduce spending,” said LaHood. “We're $32 trillion in debt. We can't continue to spend the way that we're spending right now, and so President Biden and the Democrats are going to have to work with us on reducing spending.”

LaHood said he would like to see a mechanism put in place to bring down the country's debt, adding that he and his fellow Republicans are committed to standing strong on fiscal responsibility.

LaHood indicated he thinks Biden overstepped his authority in forgiving student loan debt. With the U.S. Supreme Court hearing arguments in a challenge to the program, LaHood said there’s a good chance the program will be struck down.

“I think the legal justification for what Biden did is weak,” said LaHood, a former state and federal prosecutor. “He can't do this arbitrarily; he has to come through the Congress, he has to go through the legislative process.

“If he wants to make the argument that student debt should be relieved — and again, I'm not of that opinion — but you ought to bring it to the Congress and have it debated and have a legislative solution on it.”

LaHood also said he’s pleased to see the Biden Administration cracking down on scammers who fraudulently obtained COVID-19 relief funds. This week, Biden pledged $1.6 billion to boost law enforcement manpower and support new anti-fraud programs.

“Frankly, the Biden administration hasn't done enough on this,” said LaHood. “For the last two years on the Ways and Means Committee, we've asked the Democrats to have hearings on this, to expose the fraud (and) to hold people accountable. They haven't done it.

“We’ve got to be going after people for violating the law, we haven't done that. We need to recoup that money. A lot of it's been wasted, particularly through unemployment insurance and taking advantage of the system.”

Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.