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Courier Post - Lance: Economy Priority for New Congress

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Location: Washington, DC

Courier Post - Lance: Economy Priority for New Congress

An incoming New Jersey House member agreed with his soon-to-be colleagues on Tuesday that reviving the economy should be the top priority for the new Congress and President-elect Barack Obama.

Leonard Lance, a Republican from Clinton Township in Central Jersey, also said he wants to serve on House committees that deal with the economy and the budget.

The 56-year-old lawmaker said he doesn't want Congress to borrow more money to pay for a second batch of economic stimulus measures that Democrats want to enact before or soon after President George W. Bush leaves office.

"It has to be fully vetted and there has to be an examination of where the funds will have to come from," Lance said in a telephone interview. "I am not comfortable with deficit spending, and I think we have to move in the other direction, toward balancing the budget."

But Lance, who said he supports the recently enacted $700 billion rescue package for the financial services industry, acknowledged Congress might not be able to balance the budget in 2009. Lance was a fiscal moderate when he served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 1991 to 2001 and in the state Senate beginning in 2002.

He beat Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Stender to replace retiring Rep. Mike Ferguson, R-New Providence, in the 7th Congressional District.

New Jersey will have another new face in Congress come January: Democrat John Adler, who beat Republican Chris Myers in the 3rd Congressional District to replace retiring Rep. Jim Saxton, R-Mount Holly.

The new Congress will consider a stimulus package to supplement the first measure approved earlier this year. That $168 billion measure sent tax rebate checks of at least $300 to most taxpayers, but lawmakers say it wasn't enough.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine has lobbied Congress to pass a second, $300 billion measure to build roads and schools and increase federal aid to states.

Democratic leaders are also pushing to increase aid to the U.S. auto industry.

Obama says he will sign a second stimulus bill soon after moving into the White House.

Lance will have enough time soon to consider such weighty matters.

This week, he and more than 50 other freshmen are learning more procedural matters -- how the House works, what ethics rules govern House members, and how to set up a congressional office.

Lance won't know precisely where his office will be until a lottery is held later this week, but he's not holding out for posh digs.

He added that he and his wife plan to rent a small Washington apartment and commute to their New Jersey home on weekends.

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