Jobs, Economy on the Menu for House
1/14/2012 The Daily Nonpareil
Jobs and the economy will be the focus when the U.S. House of Representatives reconvenes next week, according to Rep. Tom Latham.
Latham, R-4th District, acknowledged that it will be a difficult session with a big election looming.
“Normally, the first session is more policy driven and the second is politically driven, but I don’t know how we can be more political than last year,” he said. “Plus the president has not engaged in any legislation of sustenance and has been campaigning for months.
“It’s not about true legislation, but about posturing at this point.”
Latham passed through Council Bluffs Friday after spending the week traveling throughout the new 3rd District. Latham will challenge Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-3rd District, in the newly formed district that includes southwest Iowa.
Latham said he has received tremendous support so far in the new district. During the Republican Caucuses on Jan. 3, he said he had someone speaking on his behalf at all 384 precincts in the new district.
“I have met lots of good people. There has been a lot of excitement and enthusiasm,” he said. “We will have to spend more time to get better acquainted.”
On the financial side, Latham said fundraising has been “beyond what I could have dreamt of.”
When financial disclosures are released at the end of month, Latham said he believes he will have the most money almost one year out from the election of any congressional race in the history of Iowa.
Latham said he sees the election later this year as a chance for Republicans to take control of the House, Senate and the presidency. As for the prospects of the Republicans gaining the Senate, he said it is not a matter of if, but by how much, and redistricting should “solidify” a Republican majority in the house.
He said wins by Republic presidential candidate Mitt Romney in both Iowa and New Hampshire show his strength.
“If he can win in South Carolina and sweep the first three races, it will be hard to catch him,” he said.
Latham added that whoever wins the Republican election will have a good shot at beating President Barack Obama.
“If the economy continues as it is going and unemployment stays at current levels, it will be difficult for (Obama) to be re-elected,” he said. “Americans have lost confidence in him, and his lack of knowledge about the private sector becomes more and more apparent.”
But Latham said he will continue to work to strengthen the economy. One piece of legislature he will propose as the session gets under way would cut pay and operating funding for lawmakers if Congress fails to enact a federal budget.
“It’s outrageous that we have $3.8 trillion of spending per year and $15 trillion in debt, but last year for the second year in a row, and this year will be the third, there will not be a budget,” he said. “How do you get control of spending if there is no framework? How do you try to eliminate redundancies?”
The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 calls for a joint budget resolution from both houses of Congress by April 15, but Latham said there are no consequences if there is no resolution.
“I say lets have some consequences,” he said. “If there is no budget by May 15, we would cut funding for Congress and their staffs.”
Latham said regulations and tax uncertainty coming from Washington is also causing fear for workers and employers.
“Small businesses are scared to death; they don’t know what taxes or regulatory schemes are coming next,” he said.
A decision to move forward on the Keystone XL pipeline would also be a boon to the economy, Latham said, and Obama must make a decide the fate of the oil pipeline that runs through Nebraska by the end of February.
“It is a natural job creator; the day it is OK’d hiring will start,” he said. “There will be 20,000 direct jobs and 110,000 supporting jobs.”
Opponents of the project, which would transport oil sands from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries, fear the environmental impact the project will produce.
Latham is also concerned over the Environmental Protection Agency’s move to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. Latham said if new emission standards are enacted, between two and three coal-fired plants in Iowa would close.
“It could make electricity more expensive and less reliable which is exactly what we don’t need now,” he said. “Since the EPA was not able to pass Cap and Trade, they will do it by regulation rather than legislation.”
While the House is convening Tuesday, Latham said not to expect the session to heat up until after the president’s State of the Union address on Jan. 24.