U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann (R) was elected last November to serve Tennessee’s Third District in the 112th Congress. The congressman took time on Tuesday, February 8 — right before he was due on the House floor — to answer some questions for readers in this district and beyond.
Note: the questions and answers below are not verbatim, but are edited from notes taken during the conversation.
TennesseeTicket: How is the relationship between you (and other freshmen members) and the House leadership (Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.))?
Chuck Fleischmann: The entire Republican conference has changed for the better with the influx of 87 freshmen, mostly conservatives, including myself. The House is able to take action quickly, as freshmen are working with more senior members. The Senate has a slower process.
TT: You have said that reducing the deficit is a critical priority. What steps are you taking to do so?
CF: One, I voted to roll back all federal spending to 2008 levels, with the exception of the Department of Defense. Secondly, I co-signed a pledge to cut over one hundred billion dollars from the fiscal year 2011 budget. I have studied the proposals by Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), our House Budget Committee chairman.
TT: Yes, Representative Ryan has outlined what some say is a bold plan, especially when it comes to entitlements. Do you agree with his across-the-board approach?
CF: With entitlement spending, the first thing we can do is to eliminate fraud, waste, and abuse. It is our responsibility to make sure those are not happening.
TT: Though your party enjoys a majority in the House, obviously you’re working with a Democratic Party majority in the Senate, and of course a Democrat in the White House. How is this working so far?
CF: Excellent. Democrats are feeling pressure on the fiscal reforms, because they are looking ahead to the 2012 election, and they know that the American people will continue to send the message that they sent in 2010 if Washington does not respond to their demands.
TT: How do you balance cutting so much from the budget with economic needs in your district, such as Oak Ridge National Laboratory, or the Chickamauga lock?
CF: It’s about prioritizing spending, and getting the federal government back to its Constitutional duty. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a national security concern, so that is clearly a priority. Also, I believe infrastructure, such as highways, is another area where the federal government is right to be involved. Unfortunately, I understand that work has stopped on the Chickamauga lock; this has to be addressed. The key is to programmatically fund projects such as this.
TT: What do you most want to accomplish in your first year in Congress? What will you most proudly hold up when you come home for Christmas?
CF: I hope the accomplishment for which I’m most proud will be my work on the Small Business Committee to promote job growth in the private sector. There are areas in the district, such as Union and Claiborne Counties, that need to share in the growth that Bradley and Hamilton Counties have seen. We need to lower the barriers, like regulations and taxes, that prevent small business growth. We also need to sustain existing business—we don’t want to lose any businesses.
TT: Thank you for your time. It would be great to check-in like this on a semi-regular basis throughout the session, as time permits.
CF: Thank you. I look forward to it.
Chattarati editor-in-chief David Morton contributed to the inputs for this post.