- By Dan Veaner
Reed is a conservative whose biggest issue is bringing down the $16+ trillion national debt. He currently serves on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. He was among the majority of Republicans who voted against reopening the government on October 16th. This week he talked to the Lansing Star by phone from Washington about that and many other issues he wants to address in a third term.
Lansing Star: The reason I wanted to interview you so early in the campaign is the negative campaigning that is already heating up. According to your party Robertson's fundraiser was hosted by a past sex offender and she falsely and illegally accused Reed's campaign of hacking her Web site. The Democratic party is accusing you of using campaign funds to pay property taxes and a pattern of late property tax payments. I get daily releases from the Republican and Democratic parties with new accusations, telling us why not to vote for the opposing candidate.
But nothing about why we should vote for either candidate. So I'd like to start by giving you an opportunity to respond to your opponent's party's accusations and then talk about the things you would do in Washington to improve things.
Tom Reed: I appreciate that question. I've said from the get-go it's interesting to me that the political season has started as early as it has with the negative campaigning. It seems that my opponent and the D-Triple C (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) are going to go down the path of mud slinging and negative campaigning.
From my perspective, I'm just going to focus on doing the job for the people of the 23rd Congressional District and put my record out there. It's a record of being accessible, and always responsive to the people back in the district and bringing their voice to Washington. And let the people decide.
The politics will take care of itself. If you do the right thing and you represent people by listening to them and doing the hard work that needs to be done here in Washington. That's what I'm going to continue to do. As to any of the accusations, we've always been transparent with all of the people on the issues. We don't hide from that, and we're going to continue to just move forward.
I think the thing on everyone's mind right now is the government shutdown. You voted against reopening it, but what would it have taken for you to keep the government open in early October, and again because it's going to come up in another three months, I think?
What would it have taken for you then, and what will it take in three months to keep the government open?
Where I was with the government shutdown -- and I voted four times to keep the government open, and then seventeen times to reopen the government based on common areas that I think we all agree on. Things like veterans' benefits and other things like that that would have prevented as well as taking care of the situation.
When it came to this last go-around I simply was asking, do we need to change the culture of D.C.? That's where I dropped my own bill that dealt with the continuing resolutions to say let's repeal the special treatment for members of Congress that they receive under Obamacare in regards to our contribution for health insurance under the exchanges. Treat us no differently than any other American. That, to me, was a reasonable step in the right direction, and it's a cultural change in Washington that must occur. I was willing to keep the government open in exchange for that simple reform.
It demonstrated to me, Dan, that Washington, D.C. has a long way to go in regards to the cultural shift that needs to occur here. We're going to be continuing to be a voice. I came down here in November of 2010 to say, 'enough is enough.' If you can't even work with us to remove the special treatment for members of Congress that they get solely because they are members of Congress, to me that means the institution in D.C. is still trying to maintain the status quo and not deal with the real world issues that are before us.
Given the size and makeup of our district and the level of Nate Shinigawa's experience in national politics I don't think I was the only one who was surprised at how close the last election was. You had 51.9% and he had 48.1% of the votes. It's only a 4% spread. It was surprising. Were you surprised?
No, I wasn't surprised. Obviously we learned a lot from the last campaign. We're going to make sure that we are hitting the ground earlier in this campaign. We learned a lot of things in regards to organization. We already have a full time campaign manager. We're really engaged on the ground and we'll continue to work on the campaign to make it stronger earlier in the cycle.
As to the outcome of the last election... it was a tough night to be a Republican in New York State. President Obama won the presidential election. I think that had a lot of coat-tail effects across the country, especially in New York where there was no Romney campaign to speak of. You know, they kind of wrote off New York. So I think that's going to be a much different field in our favor in the next go-around.
Also, we'll be working real hard and continue to work hard. I think that will be a winning combination going forward.
Are you opposed to the Affordable Health Care Act?
Can you say briefly why, and whether you think it will genuinely help people or will it impose more burdens on already strained taxpayers? And what is good in it and what is bad in it?
The whole Obamacare policy and 3,000 pages worth of statutory tax debt, to me, is more about government control of such a personal situation as health care in America. Whenever you do things of the nature of government control, price control, you damage that which makes it a strong health care industry in America.
I don't see the promises that have been made... you know, the President says you can keep your health insurance if you want it, for example. We're hearing across the district that that is not the case. We're hearing people repeatedly told that their insurance policy is being cancelled. They're also being told that premiums are going up because of how expansive Obamacare is. There's going to be a price tag with it.
One of the things that's frustrating is that a lot of the people on the other side that advocate for it say, 'Well, you're gong to get taxpayer subsidies and that will make your health insurance cheaper.' Well taxpayer subsidies mean tax revenue. That means hard working taxpayers have to foot the bill. In my opinion our tax burden in America, from the local level all the way up to the federal level, is huge and significant, and it's killing the economic power and the middle class, and those that have to pay the bill.
For all those reasons I'm opposed to it. I also believe that we can do better. We need to be focussing on things that are more patient and doctor centered reforms.
There are things in the Affordable Care Act that I do like that I think can be part of a package of reforms to help in the health care arena. Things that deal with pre-existing conditions, allowing children to be carried to age 26. I've been supportive of those and will remain supportive of those reforms.
The other area that I'm interested in pursuing is how we reimburse providers to move away from a fee-for-service based system into a more capitated-based model. You reward efficiency and quality rather than rewarding more services and inefficient delivery of health care. We focus on that and change that model in and of itself. You use the competitive forces in American health care, and that contains costs and drives down costs and makes us more competitive.
Coming from the city that is the home of Mars rovers I have to ask, how supportive are you of NASA? Here's where I'm going with this: does the US need an inspiring big goal like Kennedy's ten years to the moon? In the current political atmosphere would it have a chance of lasting ten years to successful completion like Kennedy's did?
I think the vision for America that wee need to be focusing on is about job opportunities and strengthening the private sector. It is a private sector-based economy that, in my opinion, will lead us to the greatness of America that allows people to enjoy the American opportunity that generations before us have , fortunately, been able to take advantage of.
So it's not governmental mission. We should look at what has made us strong. What's made us strong is our focus on U.S. manufacturing. Making it here, selling it there. Our focus on a strong private sector where individuals control their own destiny, rather than some big government-run type of goal or program.
On the NASA part, are you supportive of it in general?
Yes, I am supportive of it. There are areas of government spending that we've been supportive of. That's just one that we're not opposed to. And we'll continue to be a partner in that investment.
In Lansing we are suffering first hand the fallout from the energy debate. A strong lobby is opposing the repowering of the Cayuga plant with natural gas, which is the town's only hope of averting an immediate and dramatic tax rise. Are renewable alternatives practical today or is gas a credible interim solution for our local Cayuga and other coal-fired plants across the nation? And especially across New York?
We've been dealing with this issue first hand right in your back yard in Lansing with the repowering project there, as well as in Dunkirk on the other end of the district. There's a repowering proposal before the PSC that we've weighed in heavily on.
It's concerning to me that my opponent appears to be opposed to both projects. She's submitted her idea of having both facilities run by biomass sources, even though that has been vetted and proven to be not practicable in regards to those facilities.
To me this is about jobs in the short term. It has immediate implications to local communities that they're gong to feel when these facilities are shut down with the loss of jobs and the increase on the tax assessment that has to be picked up by the local taxpayers in an environment where we've already tapped out our hard-working taxpayers, in my opinion. So it's troublesome that my opponent is working so hard to be opposed to these projects.
We have weighed in. We've weighed in heavily with the PSC. I am optimistic that those facilities will be repowered utilizing natural gas.
That gets to the next issue that you touched on, Dan, natural gas development in America. I co-chair the U.S. Manufacturing Caucus, a bipartisan caucus here in Washington, as well as the Natural Gas Caucus, a bipartisan caucus focused on natural gas development.
And I'll tell you natural gas is part, in my opinion, of a comprehensive energy policy where natural gas can fulfill some short and mid-term goals and requirements in regards to that comprehensive energy policy that will ultimately lead us to an independent state for America where we can rely on our own energy resources. We will have the feed stocks for U.S. manufacturing. We'll have low cost utility rates that make U.S. manufacturing competitive. At the same time we fulfill those mid and short term needs of our energy demands.
I do believe that you need to have a commitment ot alternatives and renewables at the same time, but you have to be reasonable in your approach. That's what I'm trying to be, as opposed to my opponent who seems to be very extreme on the issue. She is adamantly opposed to natural gas development, and she's adamantly opposed to any type of fossil fuel based economy.
To me that's going to be a clear distinction between her and I, that the voters will get to choose between.
I want to ask you about unfunded mandates. On the local level it's getting to be truly awful. When I go to our local school district meetings and see what the budget gap has become because of the combination of mandates and reductions in aid and revenue from our power plant. It comes from the top down. The federal government mandates the State, the State mandates counties, and the counties mandate the towns, and so on. What is your take on unfunded mandates and, if you think they're a bad idea, what will you do to reduce or eliminate them?
This is exactly where I think there is going to be a clear choice between myself and my opponent in the upcoming election, on this issue because I believe in a limited federal government. I believe in a federal government that is constrained by the Constitution to focus on those things that the federal government should focus on: national security, interstate commerce, things of that nature as opposed to an expansive bigger government that my opponent generally supports.
When she indicates that she is not just supportive of Obamacare, but wants to go even further and support a single payer health care system in America -- that's more government, bigger government, more mandates that Washington, D.C. is going to be putting on our local and state governments. I think out record has clearly demonstrated to the voters that I believe that the government that's closest to the people is the government that governs best. That's where you'll see our record routinely and repeatedly supports policies that limit the scope of the federal government and the mandates that come out of it.
Because I agree that these mandates that are being pushed down by bureaucrats out of Washington, D.C. to Albany, and then from Albany to the counties, and from the counties to the local communities in the village and city and town governments -- it is putting a burden on our hard working taxpayers in a way that they think a 'one size fits all' package out of Washington is going to be equally applied in Lansing New York as it is in Los Angeles, California. That's got to stop and that's got to change. We're a strong believer in limiting the role and the scope of the federal government.
It is not easy for 'young legislators to get a bill passed. From the outside looking in, it looks like the more tenure you have the more chance you have of having bills passed and getting things done. Is that a fair analysis?
Obviously in any organization the more relationships you form, the more experience you have, the stronger you will become if you use that relationship building in a positive way. And I think I've done that.
We have ascended to the Ways and Means Committee, the fastest that we can find of any member of Congress who wasn't appointed outright as a freshman member, in their first year in office. My serving on the Ways and Means Committee has been extremely beneficial to the district and to others because it is the committee with jurisdiction over tax policy, health policy, trade policy... you name it and it comes to the Ways and Means Committee.
And we're going to continue to grow those relationships in that position that we've been able to succeed in. That can only bode well for the district because it puts us in a position to advocate much more effectively as we grow in those positions.
In the year leading up to the election how much are voters going to see on actual issues and how much obscured by negative campaigning? If you could name three, what are the top issues you want to begin addressing right from the get-go -- I know it's hard to project a year ahead because anything could happen and it always does -- but if you could name three things, what would your top issues be that you would want to jump in and start addressing in a third term?
We're going to continue our commitment to U.S. manufacturing. I truly believe we have an opportunity before us in a make it here, sell it there marketplace, a marketplace that we focus on making the American market competitive. We are going to be in a position to capitalize on growth opportunities in U.S. manufacturing. I firmly believe that and that's something we spend a lot of time on.
I'm also very committed to our energy independence, because not only will it lead to a U.S. manufacturing renaissance, but it will also change geo-politically, our national security position across the world. And it is possible.
The reports that I've seen and things that have been documented in regards to the nature of the fuel sources that we have before us, both fossil fuels and alternatives that are coming on line... we can do it. That is a national goal such as you referred to about our mission for people to go to the moon. I think if we join hands and become energy-independent, that is something we can accomplish and have far-reaching impacts.
The third point that I am focussing on is to really get the debt under control. It's taking us down as a nation. Seventeen trillion dollars worth of debt. $55,000 per child born today in America that starts his or her life owning to the federal government. That is not sustainable. It jeopardizes everything that we stand for. I'm going to continue to downsize this government and get it in a position where it lives within its means.
So those three points are interchangeably my top three priorities.
Is there anything we haven't discussed that you want to talk about right now?
I look forward to the upcoming year and a half. We'll put our record up against anyone. It's about making good policy, being consistent, and accessible, and listening to people as you represent them. I think we have demonstrated to people of the 23rd Congressional District that we're willing to do the work because we believe what we're doing in Washington. And that's trying to change the culture of D.C., get it to live within its means, and get people back to work.
You do that and we have accomplished what I came to Washington to do. That's not to maintain the status quo, but to solve these problems once and for all.