WESTFIELD, NJ — Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ-07) spoke with The Alternative Press recently at his office in Westfield (one of two he keeps in New Jersey; the other is in Flemington). Lance, a Republican, said he communicates and meets with constituents as often as possible, often holding town hall meetings in locations throughout the district. The Westfield location is convenient to a majority of his constituents, he said.
“I very much enjoy having an office here,” said Lance, who called Mayor Andy Skibitsky “terrific.” “I’ve always supported him and I’ll continue to support him,” said Lance.
“I would encourage anyone who has a social security issue, Medicare and veteran’s issues to contact my staff here in this office,” Lance said.
When he sat down with TAP, Lance spoke about pressing issues both local and global.
“I think it’s appropriate for the United States attorney for the district of New Jersey to begin an inquiry,” said Lance. “I think that’s the appropriate role of the federal government.”
Lance favors the Affordable Care Act’s replacement, saying that the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the hours of work lost due to the act will equal the equivalent of 2.3 million jobs lost over the next 10 years.
“Seven in 10 new jobs in this country will be created by small businesses,” said Lance.
Anecdotally, he said, correspondence and comments from constituents tells him that many are not happy with Obamacare.
Lance is not hopeful that President Barack Obama will give up on the act. But, he said, “I would hope that the president might come to Congress and work with us on modifications.”
When Obama granted various amendments and extensions to the act, Lance said, “He has ultimately amended the law.”
In his State of the Union address, Lance said, the President, “in effect, he said that he would take executive action—‘The pen and the telephone.’ I would prefer that he tell the Congress what he would like to be enacted into law.”
On the economy:
The economy is not nearly as strong as he or Congress would like, Lance said. He spoke about the unemployment rate and labor participation rate as one part of that issue.
“People are discouraged and are leaving the labor market,” said Lance.
Exercising his own fiscal responsibility, Lance’s office recently returned $80,000 to the federal treasury from his 2013 congressional allotment.
“I take these issues seriously,” he said.
On Foreign Policy:
Among American concerns abroad are issues in Iran, Syria, Russia and North Korea, said Lance.
“I’m very concerned about Iran. I think it wants to build a nuclear weapon,” said Lance. Despite a recent interim agreement, “In Congress, many of us are skeptical that the Iranians will agree to a long-term agreement limiting their ability to create a nuclear weapon.”
If Iran does develop a nuclear weapon, it would be an “existential event,” said Lance, affecting allies Israel and Arab nations including Saudi Arabia.
In Syria, said Lance, “I do not favor American boots on the ground, but I do favor greater pressure on Russia regarding its client state, the current Syrian government.”
Lance called North Korea the "younger, unruly brother" of China.
“The Chinese have to be involved in that situation,” he said.
On working with Democrats:
“While we certainly disagree on some issues, there are many issues where we work closely together,” said Lance.
He cited recent work with Anna Eshoo (D-CA) to restore $85 million in sequestered user fees paid to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in fiscal year 2013. The money, he said, was paid by the companies that make medications to the FDA to bring those drugs to the market safely and effectively.
It’s an especially important issue for his district considering the number of pharmaceutical and medical device companies here. Lance called New Jersey’s Seventh District, “The medicine chest of the country and even the world.”
Lance is the only Republican from the region on the Energy and Commerce Committee—the oldest committee in Congress and an important committee to not only medical companies but also telecommunications companies, another big industry in the area.
Lance noted that he also worked with Eshoo to recently introduce the Lymphedema Treatment Act, which s eeks to close the Medicare coverage gap for equipment and therapies needed by the nearly six million Americans afflicted with the disease. Lymphedema results from damaged lymph nodes that can result in painful swelling.
On Congressman Rush Holt’s decision not to run for re-election:
“I’ve known Congressman Holt since before he was a congressman, and we’ve always had a very cordial relationship … we have worked together on several issues,” said Lance, who had not spoken to Holt since the Democrat made his announcement, but planned to do so when they meet on the floor Tuesday.
With Holt and Jon Runyan’s decision not to run again and Rob Andrews’ departure, there will be at least three changes in the New Jersey delegation of 12 representatives—and that’s assuming all of the other current delegates are re-elected.
“I think that’s the most significant change in the New Jersey delegation since 1992,” said Lance. “Congress is based on seniority, so that will be a loss for New Jersey.”
As for himself, Lance said he will seek re-election this year, and he is confident that he will be re-elected.
On Upcoming Elections:
“Politically, I think Republicans are going to continue to control the House of Representatives and I think we’re going to make gains in the United States Senate,” said Lance. “I hope we’ll go into the majority of the United States Senate—that would take a gain of six seats. It’s a steep hill to climb, but it’s not impossible this year.”