Legislators ready to get to work
Americans are ready for Congress to get down to business and so are Pitt County’s two representatives.
U.S. Reps. Walter B. Jones Jr. and G.K. Butterfield handily won their re-election bids on Tuesday.
Both agree the results of Tuesday’s elections — Republicans took control of the Senate and gained at least 10 seats in the House — are an expression of voter frustration with Washington.
Jones said he believes it is the public’s frustration with President Barack Obama’s policies that have expanded the deficit, created an untenable health care program and continue to put American service members in harm’s way. Butterfield said it is a more generalized frustration with partisanship and an inability to pass legislation that will create jobs and further improve the economy.
Both men agree the public’s frustration isn’t going away.
“Who’s to say two years from now who the public will be frustrated with?” Jones asked.
Congress returns to session on Wednesday and both men are listening to and watching the actions of the others’ respective parties to determine what if any legislation may be resolved as the 113th session winds down.
Jones, a Republican from Farmville, said he agrees with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other Republican leaders that any attempt by the president to resolve the nation’s immigration woes with a declaration of general amnesty will signal his unwillingness to work with the Republican-controlled House and Senate next year.
Butterfield, a Democrat from Wilson, said if the House leadership would take up the immigration bill passed by the Senate, the issue would be resolved.
Butterfield said he would call on Republicans to tone down the rhetoric.
“Work with us to create economic opportunity for low- and moderate-income families. Wages aren’t moving for families in the middle,” Butterfield said. “We have the ability as a Congress to expand economic opportunities. We just have to have the will to do it.”
Jones said he hopes the new Republican-controlled Congress finally will engage in a substantive debate about deficit reduction. Jones said he knows there are many programs that members of Congress and the American public want to pursue but not before the country pays down its debt to other nations.
Butterfield said such deficit discussions need to be approached cautiously.
“I’ve always said we can’t reduce the deficit on the backs of the folks who can least afford it. I’m not going to vote for policy that will affect families in eastern North Carolina,” he said.
During campaign appearances, Jones spoke about the need to replace Boehner in the new term.
Jones said Thursday he thought Boehner would retain his position, but some members have discussed their dissatisfaction with his leadership.
“It’s tough because they always say when you go against the king, you need to get the king,” Jones said.
Boehner and Jones have clashed. Two years ago, Boehner removed Jones from the House Financial Services Committee for the reported reason that Jones was not considered a team player.
Jones does not deny the charge, saying he has had to oppose the leadership on votes to raise the debt ceiling, budgetary matters and military matters.
“I have nothing against him. I think he’s a great politician, but I think we need a firm policy leader in the House,” Jones said.
As the leaders of the House and Senate shape the agendas of their respective chambers, Jones and Butterfield said they will pursue legislation for their constituents.
“We always have issues dealing with our coastal areas,” Jones said.
He said he will continue sponsoring legislation that will reverse a prohibition of beach driving. He also will pursue legislation protective the Corolla horses.
Jones said he wants to work across the aisle on issues such as providing tax credits for businesses because, like Butterfield, Jones believes the economy has not improved in eastern North Carolina.
He also will continue his support of legislation benefiting veterans and allowing ministers more political speech from the pulpit
“We are going to have a full plate. I promise you that,” Jones said.
Butterfield wants to concentrate on further development of the region’s infrastructure, be it upgrading U.S. 64 and U.S. 17 to freeway status, improving water and sewer services, adding recreational opportunities or improving schools.
“I am going to continue to do what I’ve done the last 10 years, which is fight for the people of eastern North Carolina,” Butterfield said. “But unless we have the money to invest in infrastructure, we aren’t going to be able to bring jobs in eastern North Carolina.
“We need to invest in our future, and we can’t withhold that future in the name of reducing the deficit,” Butterfield said. “If we invest in that future, more people will be employed and will be able to invest in the future and pay down the deficit.”