Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., may be on recess with other members of Congress this month, but his appointment book sounds like anything but a vacation as he visits the four Central Jersey counties that make up his district.
The former state senator in the first year of his federal office has discussed health care at the North Plainfield senior center; stopped by the Somerset County 4-H Fair; visited a children's camp in Edison; toured a chemical company in South Plainfield; participated in a forum at the Jewish community center in Scotch Plains; and made grant announcements in towns such as Cranford, Union Township and Branchburg.
"The schedule is full, and this is really the month we're in contact with the residents of our district," Lance said during an editorial board meeting with the Courier News.
Lance said the principal issue this recess is an overhaul of the country's health care system being proposed by Democrats in Congress. Lance opposes a public health insurance option called for in U.S. House and Senate bills, which include other reforms such as an exchange for purchasing private insurance and a ban on discriminatory policies for people with pre-existing conditions.
"I think that if we go to a public option, within five years or so, most small businesses and many medium-size businesses will be forced into it," Lance said. "I think within a relatively short period of time, there will be so many Americans in it that we will move in the direction of a single-payer system. I recognize that this proposal does not contemplate a single-pay system initially."
Lance said he believes more rationing of care would exist under single-payer system ? a health care system that is entirely government run ? than under the current system. Lance also cited findings from the Congressional Budget Office that a House version of the bill would not pay for itself and would cost $239 billion over 10 years. Lance said he feels the administration does not have a plan for reining in the federal debt and annual deficit.
Lance is among the centrist Republicans known as the Tuesday Group, who propose an alternative plan that would enable small businesses to pool together for insurance across state lines, allow young adults to stay on their parents' plans for longer and impose tort reform, among other components.
Lance also traveled to Israel this month with 20 other Republican members of Congress. Lance said the only places he wanted to visit during his first term in Congress are Israel and hopefully Iraq and Afghanistan, because of their importance. Lance said he recognizes that settlements in the West Bank are an important issue, but the number one issue confronting that region is the potential of Iran building a nuclear weapon.
"I would hope the president could be stronger on that issue," Lance said. "The president has in effect given the Iranians a year to resolve the issue, and I think we should enact stronger sanctions immediately, because I think Iran is proceeding rapidly."
The congressman has voted both with and against the majority of his party in the House.
Lance voted against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the stimulus bill. Later that session, Lance voted for an energy bill that would create a cap-and-trade system for curbing carbon emissions. He added, however, that the bill needs further work as it works its way through the U.S. Senate, especially in terms of a provision regarding China and India.
"I think the Senate has a responsibility to strengthen that bill on making sure China and India are involved in curbing emissions," Lance said.