Our nation’s capital is truly a remarkable place. Representatives come from all corners of the country, elected by the people and sent to represent them in creation of the laws that govern us all. The Constitution grants Congress the solemn responsibility to organize the executive and judicial branches, raise revenue, declare war and make all laws necessary for executing these powers.
Sadly, gridlock has become all too common in Washington as a focus on the few things that divide us dominate attention over the many things that unite us. I hear this at town-hall meetings across our district, and I can assure you, I share these frustrations, but I do not believe we are beyond hope. I believe in working together, regardless of party, because we are public servants first, and Republicans, conservatives, Democrats and liberals second.
I return home every weekend, to hear what real Americans in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes have to say. It’s why I’ve held nearly 150 town halls where all attendees have a chance to express their thoughts, concerns and ideas to their representative in Congress. That’s what the Constitution’s framers intended.
I have taken concrete action in my short time as congressman. First, I joined the NO LABELS coalition. This group seeks to bring people of different partisan and ideological beliefs together to find solutions. We may have philosophical differences, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be building trust and respect. Signing on to NO LABELS means you are willing to sit down with anyone, regardless of party, and work to find solutions. I was also pleased to join the informal bipartisan “Go Big Coalition” of lawmakers supporting a compromised deficit-reduction plan. Because of this, USA Today included us in their list of “bipartisan heroes” during the annual debate over the budget.
My motivation comes from my kids, Autumn and Will. They deserve a better America. Because of this, we need to stop fighting, and start fixing. One piece of legislation that I have spent a lot of time working with both Democrats and Republicans is the Revitalize American Manufacturing Initiative (RAMI) bill, co-authored by myself and Rep. Joe Kennedy from Massachusetts.
Rep. Kennedy is a member of one of the most famous Democratic families in the country, and we don’t agree on a lot of things. But what we do agree on is the need to work together at the federal level to set the table for private sector growth in manufacturing. We have seen bipartisan support for this legislation reach the White House with 90 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House and broad industry support. This is a jobs bill that will benefit the 23rd Congressional District and the entire country. This shared goal is becoming a reality and will put people back to work and bring both sides of the aisle together — it can be done and it should be done to care for this generation and the next.
Voters are frustrated with intense partisanship in Washington, and rightly so. As a former kindergarten teacher, I’ve seen this all before — the petty squabbling, the all-or-nothing approach to every problem. Teachers spend a lot of time helping people learn to get along, and that’s the attitude I’ll bring to Washington.
I have a record of working across the aisle. I was elected chair of the Tompkins County Legislature four times with bipartisan support each time. I appointed committee chairs from both parties, depending on who was best for the job. Under my leadership, we created an independent, bipartisan commission that redrew county legislative districts; Tompkins County was one of only two counties in the state to do so.
I’ve helped to bridge other divides as well. When I was first elected, intermunicipal squabbles had devolved from finger-pointing into lawsuits. In the 12 years since, we’ve turned that climate around to create an all-county Council of Governments, which now tackles challenges collaboratively. Together, we built the state’s first intermunicipal Health Insurance Consortium, which has saved taxpayers millions. I was instrumental in creating the Housing Fund, a public-private partnership to stimulate and support affordable housing development. I am proud that I’ve been part of this collaborative climate, solving problems for our residents.
I also will break with my party to stand up for what’s right. I voted against the SAFE Act and pledged to repeal it. I knew that it went too far curtailing civil liberties while not doing enough to reduce gun violence and make our neighborhoods safer.
In contrast, my opponent claims to be a bipartisan legislator — yet he has taken to the air to disparage thousands of his own constituents. These are people who pay his salary, and it raises the question: Does Rep. Tom Reed represent all of his constituents, or just the people with whom he agrees?
Reed’s words are bad enough, but his actions are worse. This is a man who threw a tantrum and voted to shut down the government because he didn’t get his way. In the words of a Buffalo News editorial, Reed “was content to set off another recession. He also voted to begin and then, on the brink of fiscal disaster, to continue the shutdown. And then … he tried to squirm out of the noose into which he had cheerfully stuck his head. And the country’s.” And for his “work” during that shutdown, he had the audacity to take his own paycheck.
Reed’s actions during the shutdown are the tip of the iceberg. He is part of the radical opposition to bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform. He has voted for free trade agreements that harm American workers, making it easier to ship jobs overseas. And that’s not the worst of it — he supports tax breaks for wealthy people like himself, paid for by raising middle-class taxes by $2,000 more a year.
Reed is now desperately trying to paint himself as a moderate, to cover up his extreme record. His votes, however, tell the real story.
Extreme partisanship doesn’t create jobs. Our working families need an independent leader who puts aside party labels to find solutions. I have a record of leadership that bridges party, public-private, and intermunicipal lines to solve problems, and if elected I’ll bring those skills to Congress.