Is Congress on the Right Track?

Judy Lloyd
President of Altamont Strategies

Earlier this month, sixty business leaders from California participated in a three-day whirlwind tour of our nation’s capital meeting with Members of Congress, U.S. Senators, pundits, and think tankers.  In all, 22 Members of Congress met with a delegation largely comprised of members of the Lincoln Clubs of Northern California, Orange County, and San Diego. This entry focuses on the House members.

What these business leaders wanted from Congress was the cold, hard truth – what are you doing to solve the economic problem in the form of job creation?

The newest member of Congress, Rep. Bob Turner (NY-09) talked about his historic win in the seat once held by Reps. Geraldine Ferraro, Charles Schumer, and Anthony Weiner.  He talked about how his district was largely made up of working families – 1/3 of which are Jewish households.  His overarching theme and the reason for his win was “jobs, the economy, and the sense that we are on the wrong track”.  His victory in a historically Democrat district that the GOP has not won since 1923 is only part of the story.  It could also force a net gain of one more Republican seat during New York redistricting.  Whatever happens, Turner is ready to try to turn things around by reforming Obamacare and Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform, a bill which has had an adverse impact on financial reform.

Congressman Pete Sessions (TX-32), Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, presided in the largest turnover in Congress since 1948.  He worked alongside U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, and Budget Chairman Paul Ryan to recruit good fits in good districts. They won by focusing on the economy.  Sessions wants “standing room only folding chairs on his side of the aisle” and seems strategically poised for even more gains in 2012.  The California Republican Party could learn a lot about winning from these guys.

Freshman Congressman Jeff Denham (CA-19) serves as a force helping to rally freshman Members of Congress in the West.  He’s helping Sessions identify those districts that have been impacted by redistricting in California and other places west.  They’re even discussing whether or not any of the opportunities for expansion will touch Bay Area counties in the “belly of the beast”.

One of the more charismatic, smart guys we heard from was U.S. House Chief Deputy Whip Congressman Pete Roskam who announced that his objective is to ensure that regulations that go through are thoughtful and to raise the level of conversation on regulations whose unintended consequences hurt businesses.  Roskam believes that the U.S. economy has the most long-term potential of any economy in the world.  He has a high view of entrepreneurs and private sector job creation.  Imagine that discussion taking place in a realistic way in California where we seem to have lost our economic footing to a more government-run philosophy that promotes regulation and hurts jobs.

Other freshmen and established members who addressed the group included Rep. Allen West (FL-22), Rep. Quico Canseco (TX-23) Rep. Frank Guinta (NH-1), Rep. Sean Duffy (WI-07), Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (WI-01), Rep. Pat Meehan (PA-07), and the increasingly popular Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-49) who is Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform.  Issa is leading the investigations of the Obama Administration on green jobs.  His committee is also investigating the Attorney General and Department of Justice communications regarding “Operation Fast and Furious”.

The sixty business leaders who met with Members of Congress saw diversity – not only in ethnicity and geography – but in “approach”.  Tea Party or not, these guys appear ready to do what it takes to change behavior in Washington and get the country back on track when it comes to jobs.  In the end, they will define what “change” means.  If President Obama continues to dismiss them, it is his failure, not theirs.

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