Randy Hultgren represents the 14th district of Illinois. The conservative Republican aligns with the Tea Party, similar to 8th district congressman Joe Walsh. Both men may have to battle it out for the primary nomination next Fall.
Ward Room Blogger Ted McClelland sat down to talk to Hultgren about jobs for the country and his job prospects, too.
Q: What are you hoping to hear from the president tonight in his jobs speech?
A: Back in August, I met with hundreds of employees and employers in the district. There's uncertainty out there, and that is paralyzing small business, which has created and will create 65-plus percent of our jobs, so we've got to bring some certainty back to them. I did talk to some small businesses that are ready to grow, but because of uncertainty coming out of Washington, specifically tied to health care, tied to regulation and tied to taxes, it's causing anybody with any working capital just to hold on to it, or if they're hiring somebody, hiring a temporary worker, which does nothing to turn around the confidence, or gain consumer confidence. I'm hoping the president will have heard some of the same things I've heard, that government isn't the answer, it's in a lot of ways the problem of why people aren't hiring right now. I just heard a statistic today that 14 million are unemployed. That's like the whole state of Pennsylvania. People who've been out of work more than a year, that's 4 million people, like the whole state of Kentucky.
Q: What are your proposals for creating jobs?
A: I'm co-sponsor of the REINS Act, that says if there's an impact on small business by regulation, it needs to go through Congress to be approved. Right now, we're seeing a lot of lack of definition in legislation that allows regulators freedom to be able to do whatever they want to do. The budget that we passed through the House in April is something I supported that has some real reform in our tax code, addressing the situation of corporations like General Electric not paying any taxes. I had one small business owner, great guy, a teacher who started up a business in his garage, in eight years it's grown to over 100 employees. He talked about one specific situation, the frustration he's had recently where he had a temporary worker who was a horrible worker, had to separate from the guy, so as retribution, this guy called OSHA and filed four faulty claims against this business owner. OSHA came in, unannounced, shut down the entire operation for hours, found nothing of the four alleged complaints, but happened to find one pallet that was misplaced and fined him $1,000. It's this adversarial relationship.
Q: Some people have argued that the long process of passing the debt ceiling bill created some of the economy uncertainty that you're talking about. Why did you vote against that bill?
A: There were three different bills that passed through the House. I voted for two of the three. I was frustrated. I wish we had dealt with this in January or February. We were still dealing with the fact that there was no budget passed last year. My commitment was, if we're going to raise the debt ceiling, I believe we need real cuts now and caps on future spending, and we need a structural change, and I honestly believe the final bill didn't have that last piece to it. I also have some real struggles with this supercommittee. I think that's our responsibility, all of us as members of Congress, to be going through the committees we serve on, finding areas where we can find some reduction. I didn't want to see our nation default. That's why I voted for the two bills earlier. But I had made this commitment, and I felt like this was a failure of a key component that was necessary for raising the debt ceiling.
Q: You're affiliated with the Tea Party, is that correct?
A: They've been supportive of me. They didn't recruit me to run. I've been a conservative involved in public service in 12 years down in Springfield before this.
Q: Even the Tea Party admits there was out-of-control spending during the Bush Administration, but this group didn't emerge until Obama became president. Why is that?
A: I think there were groups out there that were frustrated. I just think it kind of reached a crescendo. I think the frustration national media have is trying to make this a national group, where for me, it's much more similar to my local Lions' Club. What I see from them is people who are passionate about our country. Most of them have worked hard. A lot of them are retired, have always voted in elections, but never been more involved in public service or politics, and this is an avenue for them to be able to have an impact on making sure that their representatives are held accountable.
Q: Your prospective primary opponent, Joe Walsh, has said he's not going to be at the president's speech tonight. You are. Why is it important for every congressman to be in the House tonight?
A: It's part of our job. I respect the office. I disagree with different people who have held that office. The fact is, we need to find ways to work together. I think it's important for me to hear the president's ideas, hopefully find some things that we can work together on. The items that we're going to passing that will impact job creation need to go through the House, they need to go through the Senate, and they need the president to sign them. When I served in Springfield, the entire 12 years I was there, I was in the minority party, so I could not pass anything with bipartisan support, without building relationships. People are tired of personality battles, or who shouts the loudest. They want solutions.
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