By Christinia Crippes
Republican congressional candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks remembers during the height of the health care reform skirmish last spring that Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, continued to work in a bipartisan manner on the bill on behalf of Iowans.
She also remembers some party members in Iowa criticized the 30-year Senate veteran for his efforts. Despite the possibility of facing criticism herself, if elected to Congress Nov. 2, Miller-Meeks intends to follow in his footsteps.
"I think when the Republicans voted in lockstep with their party to allow the bridge to nowhere to be authorized, that's wrong, that level of spending, and they got voted out of office in 2006 because of it," Miller-Meeks said, referring to the controversial $398 million Alaskan bridge proposed in 2005 that came to epitomize federal earmark spending. "And now with the Democrat majority, they will be held accountable for their votes that went against their constituents."
Miller-Meeks, who considers herself an independent conservative, hopes to be one of those to hold her opponent Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-2nd District, accountable for his votes in favor of health care reform, the bank bailout and the stimulus bill.
"The fact that he votes 97 percent of the time with his party; our previous representative did not," Miller-Meeks said. "Is this a voice that reflects Iowa and Iowa values? To me it's not. If it was, I wouldn't run."
During an interview with The Hawk Eye, Miller-Meeks said she would have voted no on the three major pieces of legislation Loebsack supported. But that's not to say Miller-Meeks thinks nothing should have been done on those issues.
"Are there things that I would agree with in the health care bill? Absolutely," Miller-Meeks said, before naming a few, including a provision that keeps adult children on their parents' insurance until they turn 26 and preventing insurance companies from dropping people's policies once they become ill. "I have arguments with a bill that's 2,400 pages that on one read that they voted on that exempts certain congressional legislative staffers, that creates 112-odd new agencies to administer health care, that doesn't bring costs down.
"And again, doesn't make it affordable, doesn't make it portable and still doesn't give us universal access."
As for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or the bank bailout, Miller-Meeks said she's unsure the avenue taken was the best method for aiding in the nation's economic recovery.
"I think perhaps there was a little bit of panic, quite honestly, between (then Treasury) Secretary (Henry) Paulson and President (George W.) Bush, and that there are probably other methods that we could have done to stabilize the financial system at that time and to have gotten credit to businesses, which is that's where the problem lay," Miller-Meeks said.
Loebsack has said that the bank bailout vote was his hardest in his nearly four years in office, though ultimately believed it was necessary. According to the Associated Press, the program that ended Sunday is projected to lose about $66 billion of its $700 billion investment.
Loebsack also recently touted the success of the stimulus bill, formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and challenged detractors to visit with those employees whose jobs were lost or saved due to the federal investment. Miller-Meeks, however, is not convinced of the program's success.
"How you interpret that data and that information in the past, we've never looked at the number of jobs saved as an indicator of economic growth," Miller-Meeks said. "What we have looked at is the gross domestic product; what we have looked at is in the unemployment rate, so I like to see us in the guise of bipartisanship, to look at the same numbers as data, regardless of who happens to be in the White House."
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus raised the level of gross domestic product between 1.7 percent and 4.5 percent and increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million. Despite that, though, the 2nd District's unemployment rate is at 7.65 percent and the nation's is at 9.6 percent.
Above all, if Miller-Meeks is elected, she said she will follow a four-point checklist for determining whether to vote on any legislation, starting with whether the legislation is within the guidelines of the Constitution. She will then ask herself whether it is good for her constituents or something they want, whether it serves the district or the state, and then finally whether it will serve the country.
"If you look at things in that context, then it helps you to guide the discussion and the dialogue and you remember that you're there to serve," Miller-Meeks said.