Ever since the Tea Party began in 2009, whenever there is discussion about a newly elected Republican everyone has the same question on their mind: Is this guy the real deal or is he more of the same? After all, the goal of most of the liberty groups that have formed over the last three years isn’t to elect Republicans, but to elect principled conservatives and libertarians.
Because of that, I was excited when I got the opportunity to interview one of the new Republicans elected in 2010 – Rep. Bobby Schilling of Illinois. Unfortunately, being the tech wizard that I am we had some technical difficulties with the video that couldn’t be fixed. So as much as I would love to post that, I have to settle for posting an article giving you my thoughts about the interview.
(In the interest of full disclosure, Rep. Schilling is not the Congressman for my district now, but he will be next term after redistricting. This is the first time I had the chance to speak with him, but I like the Congressman and will be voting for him in November.)
During our conversation, Rep. Schilling made one comment that gives us a great idea of where he stands – he mentioned individual rights. I can’t remember the last time I heard a member of Congress bring up that topic voluntarily but it needs to happen more often. When I asked him if there were people in the House of Representatives fighting for the Constitution he said there are some, but:
“We need some backup and we need it in a big way […and] we’ve got to get someone in [the White House] who is going to actually respect the Constitution of the United States and respect individual freedoms, which this guy (Obama) does not do.”
The other comment Rep. Schilling made that really stood out to me is that he chose to reject the Congressional health care and pension benefits. I did manage to some video of the speech he gave to the Rockford Tea Party just prior to our interview, so here is a 2 minute clip of the highlights (the part about rejecting Congressional benefits comes at 1:00):
In my mind, rejecting the Congressional health care and pension plans are among the most important actions he could take to demonstrate that he’s the type of person we want representing us. There are two reasons for this:
- It shows he doesn’t want to be a part of the elite political class in Washington D.C. One of the major problems we’ve faced for decades now is that we have a core group of politicians who believe that being in Congress entitles them to special treatment – that it makes them a little better than everyone else. If we are ever going to get this country moving in the right direction again, we need to have citizen legislators. This means no special privileges for members of Congress.
- It’s a fact of human nature that people will tend to do what’s in their own best interest before they worry about others. So the best way to ensure that our government doesn’t become oppressive is to make sure that politicians are live under the laws they pass. Because Rep. Schilling refuses to take the Congressional health care and pension, that means he will be personally affected by Obamacare and Social Security. That personal interest will give him an big incentive to work to fix those problems rather than using them as political footballs.
During my time with the Congressman, I didn’t do a “gotcha” test of his Constitutional knowledge – largely because that wouldn’t be fair and doesn’t really prove anything – so I can’t comment on how well he truly understands the document. He may know nothing or he may be a Constitutional scholar – I just don’t know.
However, it was clear to me that his respect for the Constitution was genuine and the he sincerely intends to defend it in the House of Representatives. This is critical because if we bring a Constitutional concern to Rep. Schilling’s attention, I believe we will have a sympathetic ear that is willing to listen. That’s not a small thing in an era where a recent Speaker of the House responded to questions about the Constitutionality of Obamacare simply by saying, “Are you serious?”
Several times during the interview Rep. Schilling stressed the fact that the Republican leadership in the House checks each bill to ensure that it is Constitution before it can go to the floor for discussion. We can certainly argue about the Republican leadership’s interpretation but the bottom line is that we have been successful in making the Constitution a factor in the legislative process again. We are beginning to move in the right direction and I believe that Rep. Schilling will help keep us on that path.