I recently had the opportunity to ask North Carolina’s 2nd District Freshman Rep. Renee Ellmers a few questions about the state of affairs in Congress in the wake of the battle between Speaker Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Reid, and President Obama over what to do with the budget for the remainder of the fiscal year. What follows are her responses, and a brief wrap at the close.
The debate over the budget for the remainder of this year was very contentious. Thereâ€™s been a tremendous amount of pressure; from the media, to the President and the Democrats (including a great deal of rancor within the Republican caucus itself), the Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1473) to fund the Government through September 30 had the attention of the entire country.
Many people have been very critical of Speaker Boehner and the process that got this deal done as well as what it actually contains. A great deal of attention has been paid to this fight by Tea Party folks and many others. A lot of Americans, both left AND right, believe they were â€œplayedâ€ by Leadership on both sides of the aisle â€“ sold a bill of goods filled with what we once called â€œfuzzy mathâ€ â€“ and they are not happy. But the vote is done now, the bill has passed, and weâ€™re moving ahead.
Q: In 2010 Americans sent a lot of new faces to Washington to change the direction of the country. Right now, people are feeling they’ve been sold out. Were they?
Congressman Ellmers – The American people are angry and they should be. We had an overwhelming mandate in the 2010 elections to stop the reckless spending, government over reach, and unsustainable debt and since my freshman colleagues and I have come to Washington, we have faced opposition every step of the way from the Administration and leadership in the Senate. Our first vote in office was to repeal Obamacare and since then have continued week after week to send forth powerful legislation to cut billions…and now trillions of dollars in government spending and waste. The problem is we are merely one half of one third of the government and because of this, we have to first block any new spending proposals and then move on to more dramatic initiatives.
Q: What happened, how are you going to handle negotiations differently going forward, and what do we all need to be paying closer attention to?
Congressman Ellmers – The real fight going forward will be the debate over the debt ceiling. While we were able to cut billions from this year’s budget during the continuing resolution an even more important battle looms over the debt ceiling.
Q: Do you think the Leadership fully understands just how strongly the American people feel about jobs, the economy (including the crisis with fuel prices), the need to reduce spending, put an end to Corporate Welfare, the Ethanol scam, unconstitutional lawmaking power in the cabinet departments, endless trillion dollar deficits, and the need for Congress to restore the rule of law?
Congressman Ellmers – I believe they do understand the frustration of the American people over the issues of jobs, fuel prices, government spending, corporate welfare, etc. They â€œgetâ€ it and they have included the Members of the freshman class in their discussions and decisions — frequently asking for and including our ideas and recommendations.
Q: Ryanâ€™s proposed budget has already been rejected by the President and the Democrats, and is being demagogued by them and the media. What is your position on Ryanâ€™s plan, and what do you want your constituents (and the American people) to know about the contents of the plan itself?
Congressman Ellmers – It is a good plan, but unfortunately the actual contents of the plan have often not matched the inaccurate description many in the public have gotten from opponents of the plan and media reports. For that reason, last month I did three town hall meetings in my district to explain how the Medicare provisions in the plan would affect seniors, as well as those 54 and younger.
Q: We know entitlements are going to necessarily be affected by whatever â€œfinalâ€ version of Ryanâ€™s plan is presented to you for a vote. Is there anything in your mind that (as the President continues to insist) is â€œoff the tableâ€?
Congressman Ellmers – I think people stop the conversation by placing requirements and demands on it before the debate has even begun. If we are to tackle these important issues and begin fixing the problem, then everything has to be on the table and everyone has to share the pain so that we can turn our economy around and stop this federal spending spree.
Q: The debt ceiling fight looms. There is overwhelming support across the country for a firm NO vote against any increase to the National debt. Will you vote against raising it? Under what circumstances will you vote â€œyesâ€?
Congressman Ellmers – The debt ceiling fight will be one of the most important battles I face during my time in Congress. This is where the debate will move from how many Billions we have cut to how many Trillions we must cut. I do not believe in going into negotiations with broad mandates but I will say that without significant cuts to the debt and government spending these talks will go nowhere. We must stop increases to our national debt and rescue our economy from collapse and now is the time to have that frank discussion.
Q: The EPA and many other Federal agencies are – in the minds of many Americans – out of control. Policies are being implemented, ostensibly through the Presidentâ€™s Czars, without going through Congress and costing Americans billions of dollars. What are you planning to do about it?
Congressman Ellmers – The overreach and burdensome regulations being enforced by the Obama Administration is unprecedented and businesses have been handcuffed from overwhelming regulations and have been forced to cut back on hiring and limit their growth and innovation. People have been frustrated with the lack of job opportunities and stagnant economic growth. Politicians on both sides have been finger pointing while getting nothing done. And few people know how much of an impact government regulations are having on the entire picture. That’s why next week I will be launching a new initiative in coordination with House Oversight Committee Chairman Issa. The new program called “American Job Creators” will be a major step in getting the word out and letting people know that there is a way to change all of this and it starts with showing the burdens being placed on businesses and getting people involved in removing these burdens.
Starting the week after our successful YouCut promotion, we will begin a new media blitz highlighting americanjobcreators.com and guiding both constituents and businesses to our website. The website americanjobcreators.com gives business owners and managers the chance to submit their information and how government regulations are affecting their business and how eliminating them would allow them to hire people and create jobs. I’m very excited about this and would encourage people to visit my website www.ellmers.house.gov and sign up for my E-newsletter for more information.
Q: Speaker Boehner was recently quoted as suggesting that â€œbig oilâ€ needs to pay their fair share, allowing that tax hikes or the removal of subsidies was â€œon the tableâ€ for discussion. What is your position on this issue, and the larger crisis with fuel prices?
Congressman Ellmers – Rising energy prices are having a devastating impact on not just families and businesses, but our economy as a whole. For me, the issue comes down to a simple relationship between supply and demand- we have an abundant supply here and tapping into that home-grown resource will drive down demand and lower costs…it’s economics 101. At the same time, I believe in an “all of the above” approach to our energy concerns. This includes nuclear, oil and natural gas, solar, wind…anything that will allow us move in a responsible manner while keeping costs low. I, along with my colleagues in the House, will continue to put pressure on President Obama to take immediate action to alleviate our supply burden by lifting the current ban on off-shore drilling now and focus on driving costs down.
Q: What do you, in particular, and you as a group (Freshmen Congressmen) need from all of us, not just those from your district, to enable you to go against Leadership when it is the right thing to do? How do you think that these interviews will help further the goal of returning to constitutional, limited government? What are the issues you are focused on this week, month, and year, and what kinds of support from us would help the most?
Congressman Ellmers – We need people to stay engaged and not get discouraged when things donâ€™t happen as quickly as they would like. In 2010, the American people saw that their actions could make a real difference when they elected a Republican majority in the House. In 2012, they can continue to build on that success in the Senate and White House, but that will only happen if they stay informed and active. To get the latest information about the progress we are making in Washington and what your readers can do to help me, they should follow me on Facebook and Twitter and on my website, and sign up to receive my E-newsletter.
I appreciate Rep. Ellmers taking the time to respond to my questions, and thank her very much for her honesty and forthrightness in the answers she provided. The take away from this conversation is straight forward enough; engage and participate, and work together with your elected Officials rather than just yelling and screaming or blindly cheering them on without a close and thorough inspection of the issue(s). They need us to be engaged, but they need us – even more – to stay in the fight.
They need an honest dialog with the American people; one that is open, constructive, and forward thinking. There is never going to be universal agreement on matters of politics and policy, but the better educated we (and our readers) become, the more likely it is for us to accept whatever outcomes our Politicians produce precisely because we helped them to produce it.
Over the next few weeks there will be a great deal of Congressional activity around the issues of raising the debt ceiling, and the greater ongoing fight over the 2012 budget (the President’s version having failed in the Senate by a vote of 0 For, and 97 Against). We all need to pay very close attention, working through our elected officials in Washington, to make sure Congress acts in accordance with the will of the American people…and with our best interests in mind.
[Freshman Congressman Renee Ellmers represents North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District in the US House of Representatives. Renee serves the Second District on the House Committees on Agriculture, Foreign Affairs and Small Business, where she Chairs the Subcommittee on Health Care and Technology.
Renee became involved in politics after Obamacare passed, and after attending a Town Hall meeting where then-Rep. Etheridge spoke on behalf of the legislation. She became an outspoken critic of Government-run health care, leading-ultimately-to her successful run to replace Etheridge. According to WhoRunsGov Ellmers was quoted as saying this about her political ambitions: “I do not plan on making this my lifelong career. I want to come, be effective, help get things stable and then pass the job to someone else.”
[Crossposted at BigGovernment]