The federal government’s many financial problems, including Medicare, require action now, according to Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn.
“It’s a dereliction of duty to do nothing,” the first-term congressman said in a late September interview.
While the House has passed a budget which he said would address Medicare’s funding woes and other fiscal issues, no budget has been passed by the U.S. Senate. Cravaack said Senate leaders should at least let their own budget fail or succeed by bringing it to a vote. He said he was unsure whether the Senate would step forward with a budget during a lameduck session.
“You’d have to ask Harry Reid,” he said. “Let the plan either fail or succeed,” he advised.
The surprise winner of the 2010 upset in which he beat 18-term incumbent, Jim Oberstar, expressed frustration at the Senate’s inaction on several fronts. He said that for House members it was like playing a game of tennis with yourself.
“We keep on serving and we’re not getting anything back,” Cravaack said.
Cravaack rejected the contention of his opponent, Rick Nolan, that the DFLer has a better perspective to represent the district because he’s lived here longer and because Cravaack’s family moved to another state for reasons related to his wife’s profession and other family concerns. Cravaack said he has documented the number of days he has spent in the district.
“It’s a hollow argument that doesn’t resonate,” he said of Nolan’s statement. “Jim Oberstar lived out of the district for decades. I’m taking care of my family.”
The former U.S. Navy and commercial airline pilot said the Medicare plan he supported does not change anything for those who are 55 years or older. For younger citizens a premium support plan would be used. He also cited Congressional Budget Office reports which maintain that Medicare will insolvent by 2022.
Another big worry, Cravaack said, is the sequestration or automatic cuts that were the outcome of a budget deal when a “super committee” failed to reach agreement on cuts. Cravaack voted against the Budget Control Act, which he said would be particularly tough on the military.
“This was a train wreck,” he said of the legislation that led to a plan for automatic cuts that will go into effect in 2013.
“You cut with a scalpel not a meat ax,” Cravaack said. “I’m very concerned by cross-the-board cuts.” Cravaack said.
President Barack Obama’s response to the death of a U.S. Ambassador in Libya was disappointing to Cravaack, stating that the death has largely gone unanswered. He said the perception of others is that the U.S. is weak. He advocated “stronger military action,” such as moving an aircraft carrier into the area.
A major key to economic recovery, Cravaack said, was small business, which the congressman said employs seven of 10 workers nationally. That figure, he said was probably higher in the 8th District. He also called for reform of the “cumbersome” tax code and streamlining of business regulations. The U.S. and state government, he said, should be partners in economic development. Instead, Cravaack said the growth in centralized government has lead to a “gotcha-type attitude” toward business. Government actions, he said are not helping build confidence in the business community and it continues to be difficult for businesses to obtain credit.
Advocating a firm stance regarding the enforcement of illegal immigration laws, Cravaack said those who are here illegally should be held accountable to the law or the laws should be changed. He said options could be explored in the case of children and those who might be serving in the military.
“If they’re (illegal immigrants) breaking the laws they should go home,” he said. “If you’re in the country illegally, we need to enforce the laws.”
Looking at the presidential election, he said he doesn’t think the race between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama will influence the 8th District very much. However, he said, the presidential election may determine which direction the country goes in the future.
“This is an important election,” he said.
Responding to Nolan’s contention that the congressman had favored eliminating the Essential Air Service EAS funds, which support air service to many moderate-size communities, Cravaack said it was part of a bargaining stance with the Senate.
Democrats, he said. had refused to consider changes to EAS so the suggestion was made to eliminate it all together. He said that neither the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport nor any other airports in the 8th District were on the chopping block. The Republican stance regarding EAS, Cravaack said, was about getting the Senate to the table.
“The Senate wouldn’t even talk,” he said. “We were negotiating mainly with the Senate.”
In his interview with the Dispatch he pointed to two bills he authored on behalf of 8th District constituents which became law.
The first involved an effort to allow Cook County to move forward on needed road work on Devil Track Road. The legislation required the agriculture secretary to release Minnesota from conditions relative to a parcel of land intended to be used by the Grand Marais-Cook County Airport. Cravaack said the resolution of that matter was a process that took about 10 years.
The second bill which became law was a Transportation Security Administration bill which calls for a system to be devised which ensures that military personnel who are traveling on orders and in uniform are treated with dignity while going through airport security. The bill’s intent, he said, is that the military personnel would be able to go through security with the same ease as registered flyers.
Cravaack noted that he authored the Buy American Steel Amendment in the transportation bill which became law as an effort to level the playing field between U.S. steel manufacturers and their foreign competitors. Cravaack, who was a member of the conference committee on the bill, succeeded in passing the amendment through committee and in passing it through the conference committee.
Another amendment he authored streamlined natural resources regulations and eliminated duplicity in state and federal regulations. The bill the amendment was a part of passed in the House but was stalled in the Senate.
The Republican lawmaker also expressed pride in how he and his staff have reached out to constituents, conducting 29 town halls, 17 teleconferences and 300 mobile offices.