I often hear these folks talk a lot about the “good ole days” when Republicans and Democrats could negotiate with one another and pass bipartisan legislation to move our country forward.
But here is what they conveniently forget. While these legislative proposals were indeed supported by both Republicans and Democrats, it was often because they were loaded up with each party’s special interest earmarks and pork barrel spending. It was not uncommon for members of Congress to vote in favor of legislation, not because they supported the bill, but because they supported their individual pet projects. And the legislation that party leaders said was moving our nation further? Well, it turns out all it did was further our nation’s debt.
Unfortunately, both parties were complicit in this scheme. In fact, there came a point in time where it was nearly impossible to distinguish the two parties from one another. The policies being put forth by Republicans frequently did not live up to our party’s fundamental tenets of responsible spending and limited government. As a result, the American people removed Republicans from power in the House, Senate and White House.
Of course, under President Obama and the Democratic Congress, we saw government go from a level that accurately could be described as excessive to a level completely beyond what the framers of our Constitution could have ever imagined. In fact, the level of government created by the Obama administration, along with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid, threatens the future of our democracy.
But who could voters trust to restore government back to its proper role when both parties were complicit in creating the problem?
In 2010, Republicans took back control of the House of Representatives. But many of us elected that year could certainly not be classified as your typical Republicans. The class of 2010 was given a clear message by the voters who sent us to Congress: the status quo is no longer acceptable from either party. The American people expected us to go to Washington and work for them — not special interest groups, not party leadership and not political election organizations. And that is exactly what we did.
We said no more to the automatic debt limit increases. We eliminated special interest earmarks. We required members of Congress to cite constitutional authority before introducing legislation. And now we are saying no more funding for Obamacare.
Our hardline stance on these issues has certainly frustrated many career politicians on both sides of the aisle. They found they no longer have the carrots or the sticks to get these new lawmakers to fall in line. That is because we care little about the prizes that were once bestowed by party leaders to loyal members of Congress. Rather, the only thing we truly care about is representing our constituents and doing what is right.
And we have found that listening to and acting on behalf of voters in our districts leads to rewards that are much more intrinsically valuable than anything that could be given here in Washington. I am talking about respect, trust and the ability to go home after a week in our nation’s capital and look our friends, families and constituents in the eyes and say, “I did what I thought was right.”
So when the political talking heads go on television and ask why this new breed of conservatives will not abandon their effort to strip funding for the president’s health care law, the answer is really simple: We believe it is the right thing to do because our constituents believe it is the right thing to do. They are our guide.
I am not in Washington to win a popularity contest or make friends. I am here to put our country back on the right track. Believe me, I do not like always having to say no. No more than a parent enjoys disciplining a child. But someone has to be the adult in Washington.
Tennessee voters recognize the perils we find ourselves in as a nation. They understand that tough decisions are required and we need leaders who are more interested in getting things right than just getting along. This logic may confuse some of those who make politics their profession, but I promise it makes perfect sense to the folks that truly matter — my constituents.
(Editor’s Note: This guest “Viewpoint” was written and submitted to the Cleveland Daily Banner by U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tennessee, who represents the 4th Congressional District.)