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Principle over politics

POSTED: December 23, 2011 7:00 a.m.
The House is close to adjourning for 2011, but getting here has not been without a fight.

It has been a pleasure and a privilege to represent Kansas in Congress this year. I have learned a lot working for you in Washington, but the best instructions I have received on my trips home every weekend during Session and in more than 70 town halls across the Big First. Those who have gotten in touch with my office or attended a town hall fortunately have not been shy when it comes to giving their guidance!

When I entered Congress a little less than a year ago, I did so with a commitment to the good folks of the First District of Kansas that I would fight for our shared values and goals: to restrain the federal government in our day-to-day lives, to curb excessive and out-of-control spending, and to promote and protect life and families. Throughout the course of this year, I have written you each week about votes the House has taken and how such votes uphold or undercut our shared values.

While sometimes it is preferable to throw in the towel for the sake of "just getting something done," you and I both know that is the easy way out. No one ever said this would be simple. Though the government teetered on the brink of "shutdown" a couple of times this year, there was significant reason: America has $15 trillion in debt and has run trillion-dollar deficits for several years in a row, yet some think we can get by without making a single change to the reckless spending and borrowing that created this problem. Every time today's "leaders" punt on the opportunity to cut spending, they agree to further indebt our children and grandchildren. This is the real crux of the problem: current politicians gain at the expense of the future. It should not be about the next election; it should be about the next generation.

There are times to compromise, which is why I supported the year-long extension of the Social Security tax holiday this last week. Included with it were provisions to force the President to make a decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline (which will create about 20,000 new jobs), reform unemployment benefits in order to preserve them for those who most need them, and renew important elements of the tax code that help small business. With 25 million Americans out of work or looking for more work and many families just getting by, this legislation satisfies many immediate needs.

But there are times when you can only stand firm, which is why I voted against a $1 trillion-plus "megabus" of a spending bill. When the House passed its budget in April, it established a firm spending cap. But this spending cap was quickly ignored and enlarged just a few months later with the August debt limit increase. And last week, this even higher level was also breached - so much for spending caps! When a family is ear-deep in debt, one can't simply increase spending time and time again. But it's more than this lack of credible spending discipline that drew my opposition.

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Because the Senate has failed to take up more than two dozen jobs bills or pass a budget in nearly 1,000 days, the only way for the House to make changes is with its power of the purse. While there were many things to like and support in this spending bill, I could not stand idly by while the House conceded legislation we have passed upon demand of the American people. In this bill, Planned Parenthood will continue to receive nearly $300 million of your tax subsidies. Doctors, nurses, and pharmacists will still lack permanent protections from being forced to perform or provide medical procedures that conflict with their religious, ethical, or moral beliefs. The privacy-threatening federal database envisioned under Obamacare will go forward. And massive new job-killing EPA regulations were not thwarted.

"Principles over politics" is the guiding philosophy for our office and I believe it is one most Kansans try to practice, too. Unfortunately, politics is all too often the game of here and now in Washington. The challenges America faces are the result of years of putting the present ahead of the future. It is my hope that when my colleagues return home for the holidays and hear from their constituents, they will hear the same things I am likely to hear from you: do not give up the fight for our shared values.

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