Local Lawmakers Hail Speedy Work
Helen Chenoweth had her doubts when she signed the “Contract With America” during last fall’s campaign, the Idaho Republican representative admitted Thursday.
She believed proposals such as term limits, a balanced budget amendment and welfare reform were worthwhile and would be passed if Republicans controlled the House.
But promising to vote on everything in the first 100 days?
“I didn’t know whether we could pass even half the contract in 100 days,” she said.
After 92 days of activity, Chenoweth and other Republican freshman were catching their breaths after voting on the last of the contract’s 10 planks.
“It surprises me that we were able to pass nine out of 10,” she said. “All along, I felt we couldn’t get the super-majority needed for term limits.”
Even with the failure of term limits in the House and a balanced budget amendment in the Senate, Chenoweth and other Northwest Republicans believe the contract was a historic success.
For once, a group of politicians made campaign promises in the fall and kept them the next spring, said Rep. Richard “Doc” Hastings, R-Wash.
Even people who disagree with all or part of the contract can respect Congress for doing what it promised, he said.
“There is a lot of cynicism about government. I hope this might limit that,” said Hastings.
Northwest freshmen did not vote in lock step with their leaders for the entire 92 days.
Chenoweth opposed the line-item veto for the president and part of a crime bill that allows evidence to be used in criminal cases that is gathered without proper warrants. She believes both are unconstitutional.
She described the pressure from GOP leaders to change her votes as firm, but polite.
Hastings said he was surprised that many of the proposals from the contract, such as the balanced budget amendment and the line-item veto, received such strong Democratic support.
Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., and Chenoweth said they were frustrated by the way some of the more partisan debates turned poisonous.
Charges of class warfare during the tax cut debate or hurting kids while discussing welfare reform aren’t productive, Nethercutt said.
Members of Congress telling each other to sit down and shut up project a poor image to people watching the televised debates, he said.
All are slightly disappointed that the proposals that roared through the House are crawling through the Senate. But they remain confident that the Senate will eventually conclude the House proposals are right.
With the contract behind them, Northwest Republicans say they plan to devote the coming months to other key issues.
Nethercutt will concentrate on government spending as the Appropriations Committee on which he serves begins looking at budgets.
“That focuses on what the government is really doing, and gives us a chance to decide how do we get on track,” he said.
Hastings is anxious to see a plan to end deficit spending within seven years, and to pass regulatory reforms affecting the operation of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, which is in his district.
Chenoweth begins a series of hearings around the country next week on possible changes to the Endangered Species Act.
“My bonus (for helping to pass the Republican contract) is seven task force meetings,” she said.