By Lesley Toth
Republican U.S. Congressman for Minnesota's 8th District Chip Cravaack sat down with members of the ECM Editorial Board and journalism staff last week for more than an hour to answer questions.
"One of the things I'm very proud of is I think I vote my district," Cravaack said.
He shared the challenge of representing the second largest geographical congressional district east of the Mississippi River, spanning 33,000 square miles. In an effort to reach out to as many constituents as possible, Cravaack and his staff have been using every tool in the box, including social media.
"I use it as an informational tool more than anything else," he said. "Just to inform people on what's happening in Washington D.C."
Cravaack's team is also working on implementing a video town hall that could simultaneously broadcast his image as well as video of a large gathering of voters where they could speak back and forth. Although the technology exists to conduct such video conferences on a small scale, he said using it for a large group of people poses new challenges the technology has yet to address.
Until then, Cravaack has used mobile offices in which his staff is available to answer constituent questions, even when the congressman is at his office across the country.
"This has been extremely beneficial to our senior constituents because often times they have difficulty traveling," Cravaack said.
During the interview, the junior politician highlighted three bills he is especially proud to have been instrumental in their passing. One was a TSA proposal that gives returning service men and women "platinum" treatment at airports all over the U.S. The other two bills included one that allowed Cook County to go ahead with the Devil Track Road project and the other allowed Pine City to change the name of its post office in honor of a local soldier killed in Afghanistan.
On the economy
Cravaack said he opposes any attempts at passing another stimulus bill.
"We've already tried that," he said. "We've done that."
He points to a lingering unemployment rate as evidence past stimulus bills failed to reverse the trend of lackluster job creation.
"We still have a very bleak recovery," he added. "The stimulus doesn't work."
He favors extending the Bush era tax cuts as well, stating that now is not the time to increase taxes. Cravaack said he supports the House budget plan, coined the "Simpler, Smaller, Flatter" tax codes. The proposal would lower the top corporate tax rate from 35 to 25 percent, and he claimed it would "bring jobs back to the United States." The proposal would lower the top marginal individual income tax to 25 percent and the lowest tax bracket on individuals would be capped at just 10 percent. Cravaack cited regulation, higher taxes and a complicated tax code as the reasons why "jobs aren't here."
The congressman said the Polymet nickel and copper mining project that has faced years of delays due to environmental concerns is one issue he has been watching closely. Cravaack said giving the project the green light will stimulate Minnesota's economy.
"We've worked through a lot of issues," he said. "What was perfectly evident to me was these agencies weren't talking to each other."
He blamed duplicate regulatory authorities and a lack of communication for the project's delay. He also said the project could benefit Minnesota schools because some of the land eyed by the mining company in the Boundary Waters and Canoe Area are locked in school trust property.
"These state lands for 30 years should have been creating revenue for our schools," he said. "Last time I checked, our schools could use some revenue."