Renee Ellmers is one of the large group of freshmen Congressmen that will be taking office in January 2011. She defeated incumbent Democratic Congressman Bob Etheridge for the 2nd Congressional District of North Carolina in the United States House of Representatives.
What follows is a Right Pundits telephone interview between RP’s Beth Shaw and Ms. Ellmers on December 13th, 2010, as part of our effort to interview the incoming Freshman Class of 2011. We believe that these dynamic individuals will define Washington politics in the coming years.
RP: What issues in the campaign do you think connected most with the voters in your district?
Renee Ellmers: The health care bill was the number one issue. The way it was written, the way it was voted on and the way President Obama and Congress went about making that happen. Also important was who voted for it. My opponent, Congressman Etheridge voted for it and that hurt him in the election.
Also, we have to get jobs and keep taxes from going up in January. That is vital for the health of the economy and very important in my district, as it is in others across the country. It is important to keep the Bush tax cuts in place to remove uncertainty from small businesses and allow for job creation and economic growth.
RP: What 2 or 3 specific goals are you most interested in seeing accomplished this term?
Renee Ellmers: The same issues. We must repeal the Obama health care bill and replace it with patient centered, private insurance care that is affordable and effective. I believe that can be done when care is between the patient and their doctor. Its just a matter of working it through and finding a way to make that happen.
We have to get people back to work. We will do that when we remove the uncertainties for small businesses. When small business owners know what their taxes are going to be they will start hiring again. There needs to be no level of tax increase and Cap and Trade and Card Check need to be taken completely off the table. It is very important to see that the uncertainties for small businesses are removed so that people can get back to work. We also need to remove the inheritance tax. I call it the ‘death tax’. It needs to be repealed.
Small businesses will hire again with good legislation.
The compromise for the extension of unemployment benefits and tax cuts for two years that is currently under consideration seemed reasonable at first and would have been okay. Unfortunately, it is crammed full of ear-marks and junk legislation. I can’t support it in its current form. I hope that the new Congress will have the opportunity to have a straight up and down vote on the compromise when we get to Washington. This compromise seems like ‘Washington as usual’. That is not what the people voted for in November. The election was about getting away from ‘Washington as usual’ and these types of ear-mark laden bills. Instead, the people are looking for common-sense solutions to the very real problems that are facing us.
RP: How hopeful are you that you and the new Republican majority will be able to accomplish these goals?
Renee Ellmers: Very confident! I was a little leery before heading to Washington a couple of weeks ago. I wondered how the leadership would welcome us. With what we hear in media reports about their resistance to the new members, especially anyone associated with the Tea Party. I found that just the opposite was true. They realize that there are strength in numbers and that we are united coming in. We are a force that will work with them to promote common-sense conservative values and good legislation.
The leadership has been very open to suggestions and are being supportive. I think we are going to get along just fine. There will be disagreements and debate along the way, but that is wonderful for the country.
RP: What committees are you most interested in working on? Why?
Renee Ellmers: Agriculture is paramount for the community I represent. I’m also interested in small business, finance, science and health. I will be looking at these issues and fighting for these issues regardless of any committee assignments I might have.
[Editor update - subsequent to this interview, Ellmers was recommended for 3 committees by GOP leadership -- Agriculture, Small Business and Foreign Affairs. She will presumably take her spot on these committees after the swearing-in ceremony and subsequent new leadership vote.]
I think there are ways a Congressman can be more effective on an issue when they are not sitting on the committee. The steering committee was already in place when we went to Washington. Because of the size of the freshman class, we asked for three representatives on the leadership team. The leadership has allowed that and they are allowing these representatives to be instrumental in decision making.
RP: Has anything about the political culture in Washington, DC surprised you yet?
Renee Ellmers: What has surprised me the most is that the leadership in Washington has been so concerned that the new Congress includes family and are aware of the differences between the environment in Washington and at home. They have emphasized that having spouses with them is important. It seems to be a paramount concern that the new members have a good sense of the differences in the environments and not fall into traps where others have faltered.
RP: Nationally, does the GOP’s historic victory in the 2010 midterms give it a mandate from the voters and, if so, what is that mandate?
Renee Ellmers: The mandate is to go to Washington and cut the size of government, cut government spending and Washington’s political climate that intrudes on individual decision making. People want a smaller, less intrusive government. We are to follow the Constitution and limit government’s involvement in our lives.
RP: How difficult will it be for the Republican House majority to work with the Democratic Senate majority and President Obama to accomplish national priorities?
Renee Ellmers: I think the Republican leadership is really trying hard. They have shown an openness to working together with the incoming Congressmen. There will have to be compromises, but we can not compromise on our core principles. We must move forward in our commitment to the private sector. The leadership has shown a willingness to working with the other side. The Democrats will have to understand that we have to put pettiness aside and work together.
RP: Anything more you want to share with the readers of Rightpundits.com?
Renee Ellmers: I am going to Congress to work on preserving core Conservative values, follow the Constitution as it should be, as it was intended to be. That is limiting the amount of government. I will work to get the economy turned around.