Yesterday Congressman-elect for the fourth district of Kansas Mike Pompeo met in his campaign office with news media for a question-and-answer session. Newly-elected members of the next Congress were in Washington last week for orientation, office selection, and leadership elections.
The current Congress resumes its session on December 6th, and the plan is to be in session for two weeks — another so-called “lame duck” session. Pompeo says that a good thing Congress could do is to extend the current tax rates — the Bush tax cuts — so that the new Congress doesn’t have to deal with this issue in January. “It makes no sense to be talking about raising taxes in today’s economic environment, so I hope they’ll do that,” he said.
There are risks that the lame duck session will pass legislation like card check and other legislation favored by liberals and Democrats. But Pompeo said that voters spoke on November 2nd, that there is a set of things that voters don’t want done, and he hopes that the current Congress will honor those wishes and not pass card check or other matters that may be brought up.
Committee membership is important to incoming members of Congress. Describing the process of committee assignment, Pompeo said there is a steering committee that includes three of the incoming freshman class, and this committee decides committee assignments. It is to this body that members make their requests for committee assignments. Pompeo mentioned three committees in particular that he is interested in joining: Energy and Commerce, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Armed Services. Energy and Commerce handles issues related to the oil and gas industry, which Pompeo has experience in. Transportation and Infrastructure covers general aviation issues, another industry in which Pompeo has experience, and one very important to Wichita.
He added that no other Kansans are on any of these committees.
On the Air Force tanker procurement, Pompeo said the decision has been delayed until spring, perhaps March. He said it is time to make a decision, and that the tanker needs to be built. But the recent disclosure of proprietary bidding information being wrongly sent to each party, even though accidental, will likely mean the decision will be protested.
Between now and January 5th Pompeo said he has two offices to open and staff, one in Wichita, and his congressional office in Washington.
Asked about the one thing he’s most eager to get working on, Pompeo said that federal government spending must be brought under control. “What we know at the end of the day is that you only can take so much money out of the private sector before you begin to destroy the entrepreneurial engine that’s made America great. And today we’re there. So we have to move it back.”
It will not be easy, he said. But he believes the other freshmen Republicans that were elected along with him are serious people, with many campaigning on the same issues that he did — a “smaller, humbler federal government that was more efficient and did the right things, and didn’t do everything.”
I mentioned several polls since the election that show that Americans are skeptical about the new Congress and its ability to change things. Pompeo said that voters are right to be skeptical, based on history. But he is optimistic. Voters were boisterous, he said, adding that “Americans have found their voice.” So if the new members of Congress don’t fulfill the promises they made, or at least begin the process, Pompeo said voters will reject this group, “and properly so,” he added.
He added that voters did not elect a Republican senate, and the president still has a deep liberal agenda: “There is still a lot of resistance to smaller government, certainly in the Senate, and absolutely in the White House.” If the House of Representatives is true to what voters asked it to do, that will set up an important election in 2012 where voters can elect a senate and president. He framed the choice: “Do we want to be more statist, or do we prefer individual responsibility and free enterprise,” adding that he is confident Americans will choose free enterprise and individual responsibility.
I asked about tension between tea party activists and establishment Republicans. Pompeo said he doesn’t see the tension between the two groups. Of people who participate in tea parties, Pompeo said these are “Americans in the deepest tradition of standing up and saying ‘No, we’re not going to let our country go away. We’re going to work our tails off to reclaim it.'”
He said that many of his incoming colleagues in the new Congress are deeply committed to the ideals of the tea party, adding that he is too. There is a “new idea” now, he said, which is really the idea that the Founders had. This idea had been lost, moved away from the forefront for thirty years, even within the Republican party: “This conservative notion of states’ rights, smaller federal government, and individual responsibility is moving back to the forefront.” People who have participated in tea party events are an important part of this, he said, and he implored them to keep up their efforts.