County’s congressmen have high hopes as session gets started
By Josh Bergeron
WASHINGTON — From repealing Obamacare to dismantling the financial regulatory bill known as Dodd-Frank, Rowan County’s congressmen have high hopes for the pace of lawmaking in 2017.
The 115th Congress officially began this week with swearing-in ceremonies Tuesday. U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, a Republican, was sworn in for his first term as the representative for the 13th District, which covers Salisbury and much of western Rowan County. Rep. Richard Hudson, also a Republican, was sworn in for his third term as the representative for the 8th District, which covers southern and eastern Rowan.
Budd said he has a “spirit of anticipation” about getting started in Congress. Hudson said he’s hopeful and excited about what’s to come.
In 2017, the bulk of Hudson’s time will likely be focused on energy- and commerce-related topics, which are the subject areas for the only committee he sits on. Veterans health is one specific area where Hudson said he’ll focus his time. Citing a recent Wall Street Journal report, Hudson said he’s worried about whether VA hospitals have created opiod addictions.
Second Amendment rights are an area where Hudson said he plans stray outside his committee assignment. On the first day of the session, Hudson introduced a bill to expand the rights of gun owners. The centerpiece of the bill would give people with a concealed-carry license the same right in other states where the practice is legal.
Hudson also wants to see tax reform and a repeal of Obamacare this year.
If there’s a vote to repeal Obamacare, it won’t be a first for Hudson. Since he joined the House, he has voted to repeal the health care law a number of times, but a repeal never got the president’s signature. President-elect Donald Trump promised to repeal and replace the measure on the campaign trail. Hudson says a vote to repeal it will likely include a delay in the effective date as lawmakers craft a replacement.
“It’s not real unusual, but I think there’s concerns among Republicans and Democrats about people falling through the cracks,” he said. “We’re going to delay the actual implementation to make sure we’re taking care of people, like those who have pre-existing conditions and those who didn’t have care before.”
A newcomer to Congress, Budd says he has not received his committee assignments, which could dictate what topics will receive a majority of his attention. Whatever the subject, Budd said he wants to focus on reducing government regulation.
“Once we get government out of people’s way, businesses and individuals back home can begin creating jobs, and I think that’s what I’m here to do,” he said.
Like Hudson, Budd said he also wants to see a full repeal of Obamacare in 2017. Dismantling the Dodd-Frank legislation is another action he specifically listed.
“I think it’s slowing the recovery,” Budd said. “It harms good people and financial institutions that want to be helpful to citizens. By creating onerous and complex regulations, it has the problem of making otherwise good people violate regulations or creating complex work.”
Signed into law in 2010, the Dodd-Frank bill made changes in regulations for banks and financial institutions in response to the Great Recession. Trump also has opposed the legislation.
A long and complex bill, Dodd-Frank has led to a rapid increase in compliance jobs, Budd said. That’s a bad trend, he said.
For the next two years, Washington will be the beneficiary of what lawmakers are calling a “unified Republican government.” Hudson hopes Congress doesn’t descend into “naked partisanship” as a result. But Hudson says he is excited about the potential to get important bills through Congress and onto the president’s desk for his signature.
“In the last four years, the House has passed a lot of good stuff that died in the Senate,” Hudson said. “Everything kind of ran off the cliff at the end, and now we have a president who can sign these bills.”
Like Hudson, Budd said he hopes that Republicans and Democrats in Congress work together.
“I want to make sure we work well as a team and that the House stays in order,” Budd said. “One of the things that Speaker (Paul) Ryan said is ‘agreement where possible but at all times respect.’ We want to run and represent people well, but at all times we want respect.”
Hudson and Budd both expressed optimism about a Trump presidency. But Trump has drawn bipartisan criticism for some Cabinet selections of people with ties to Russia and other comments about russian leader Vladimir Putin. During the presidential campaign, Trump called Putin a strong leader and said Putin has “great control over his country.”
Ties to Russia are one area where Hudson expressed concerns about the coming year. He said “there’s nothing wrong” with having good relations with Russia as long as there’s a realization that Putin may have sinister intentions.
“I hope that Trump’s not naive about that,” Hudson said. “I think he’s already shown that he’ll be a stronger, more coherent leader on foreign policy than Obama. So, we’ll see, but it’s obviously something we need to pay attention to.”
Hudson said there’s no way to know for sure the details of Trump’s plans for the relationship between the United States and Russia.
This week marked the start of a two-week period before the presidential inauguration when Congress is scheduled to be in Washington. No votes are scheduled during the week of the inauguration, Jan. 15-21.
Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246