As Frank Guinta prepares to set up shop on Capitol Hill for a second time, he says is looking at the big, national picture but also focusing on New Hampshire-oriented legislative initiatives.
“We’re trying to get a head start on legislative initiatives we’d like to jump on in early January and February,” Guinta told the New Hampshire Journal in a telephone interview Monday. “Participating in the orientation process allows me the opportunity to work with other members to discuss our legislative priorities and agenda.
“We’re looking at both the national and New Hampshire perspective,” Guinta said. “We haven’t finalized yet what our first four or five pieces of legislation will focus on.”
Guinta said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has already served notice that the House can expect to be in session for six consecutive weeks after the 114th Congress is sworn in in early January.
A top concern of the Republican majority will be a “tax overhaul” bill, Guinta said. He said he is interested in legislation that will provide for equal pay for men and women, and he said he will work to reverse what he views as New Hampshire having been “neglected” in the past during the appropriations process.
He said another priority is to file legislation to improve the mental health services delivery system in New Hampshire. He said he is reviewing currently pending legislation on that subject.
And, he said, he is working with U.S. Rep.-elect Gwen Graham of Florida on legislation that would address fisheries and the fishing industry. Guinta also said he wants to address continuing problems related to the Great Bay.
Guinta defeated Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in the Nov. 4 election after the two met for the third consecutive 1st District U.S. House campaign. Guinta defeated her in 2010 before losing to her in 2012.
He said the transition so far has been cooperative as the two staffs work to address open constituent cases.
Guinta, during his first term, served on the House Budget; Oversight and Government Reform; and Transportation and Infrastructure committees for about 18 months. He had to give up those three committee assignments when he was named to the Financial Services committee.
He said he will not receive new committee assignments until December, but has “conveyed to the leadership that I’d like to serve in the best capacity possible for the State of New Hampshire.”
Last week House speaker John Boehner warned President Barack Obama not to proceed on a unilateral basis with a plan to give a pathway to citizenship and halt deportation for millions of illegal immigrants.
“It’s a key issue,” Guinta said. “And a lot of how it will be dealt with will be predicated on what the President does. If he moves unilaterally, it is not going to sit well with a lot of incoming members and with Congress in general, at least on the Republican side.
“I suspect there might be bills that go through Congress that could restrict some of the decisions he made, or modify them,” said Guinta. “I do believe that if he truly wanted to get immigration reform accomplished, he should have done it during his first two years in office when he had a Democratic House and Senate. Without the majority of Congress, the President has now become very political and seems to be putting forward a political agenda.
“I don’t think it’s good for the process in Washington by doing these things alone.” Guinta said. “It’s not sending the right message.”
On the Republican side on Capitol Hill this week, “The mood is upbeat, but we are also focused on wanting to have some legislative accomplishments,” Guinta said. “There is a real sense that we have an opportunity to convey what the American people want, which is action.”
Guinta said he expects the House to be more visibly unified on big issues than in the recent past now that the Senate will also be under Republican control.
He noted that despite appearances on major issues, the Republican conference has been, overall, unified. He said that in the last session about 385 bills were passed by the House, and 95 percent of them were passed on a bipartisan basis.
The Middle East
The latest beheading of an American, Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig, by Islamic terrorists – confirmed by the Obama administration on Sunday – has spurred anger on Capitol Hill, Guinta said.
But he said Obama “needs to have an authorization vote” before continuing to engage militarily in Iraq, “and that would require a more specific outline from him. We still don’t have a clear goal and objective, many feel.
“What the direction should be is two-fold,” Guinta said. “Americans are being killed in a way that is as horrific as could possibly be imagined and we hae an obligation to make sure that does not happen again. But to do that you need a sound strategy.”
He said Obama’s decision last week to send 1,500 additional military personnel to Iraq as advisers “is not going to meet the goal and objective of eliminating and eradicating ISIS.”
He said he would be in favor of a “strong multi-country coalition,” including the U.S., “who are willing to put troops on the ground.”
Repeal and Replace
Guinta also said he expects the House and the GOP-led Senate to put forward legislation that repeals and replaces the Affordable Care Act.
“The President will not sign that legislation,” Guinta said. “At that point the various policy committees” with jurisdiction over various parts of Obamacare, will present pieces of legislation address areas of the law that the GOP majority feels need to be replaced.
“I suspect we will be busy with Obamacare for the entire term,” he said.