Berg: Washington ‘is still broken’Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., said Wednesday that he began campaigning for his first U.S. House term two years ago because “things weren’t working in Washington” as lawmakers approved “out of control spending,” bailouts and a “government takeover of health care.”
By: By Ryan Johnson, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., said Wednesday that he began campaigning for his first U.S. House term two years ago because “things weren’t working in Washington” as lawmakers approved “out of control spending,” bailouts and a “government takeover of health care.”
Berg was among the wave of Republican candidates elected to the House for the first time last November as the GOP gained control of one chamber of Congress. They’ve been able to make progress since then, he said, but Democrats in the Senate and President Barack Obama continue to block the “real reforms” that the country needs.
“No question, Washington was broken two years ago,” he said. “Right now, the debate has started to change, but Washington is still broken.”
During a Wednesday speaking appearance in downtown Grand Forks, Berg elaborated on Monday’s announcement that he will run for the U.S. Senate in 2012 and took questions from an audience of more than 50 local Republicans.
Berg said he has helped sponsor and pass legislation in the House that would make necessary cuts to federal spending, repeal last year’s health care reform legislation and help America break its dependence on foreign oil.
But Senate leaders have refused to take up the Republican bills, he said, instead opting to play “political games with America’s future.”
“The future of our country really hangs with the Senate’s willingness to start listening to the American people,” he said. “And it really depends on the Senate to listen to those people and understand the need to stop this unsustainable spending and think about our nation’s future.”
‘I can’t change’
Much of Berg’s remarks echoed statements he made on the campaign trail last year as he successfully challenged Democratic incumbent Earl Pomeroy and became the first Republican representative from North Dakota in three decades.
He said the state’s booming economy, even during the worst of a national recession, is because of the “North Dakota way” of controlling government spending and encouraging private sector job growth and innovation.
While the state was able to get out of a “huge deficit” in 2003 by reigning in spending, Berg said some lawmakers in Washington instead are trying to deal with the nation’s fiscal problems by spending and borrowing more money.
“This didn’t happen by accident,” he said. “The reason we are where we are is because of a lot of solid decisions by leaders in North Dakota that have made difficult decisions on the short-term to improve the long-term.”
Berg also discussed his attempts with House Republicans to repeal “Obamacare,” the sweeping health care reform legislation signed into law last spring. He said he and his wife Tracy, a family medicine physician in Fargo, see the bill as a “takeover” of health care that will burden patients and small businesses while raising costs.
“We have to make changes in health care; we have to improve health care,” he said. “But we can’t do it with a government takeover of health care.”
The House passed a bill almost five months ago that would repeal the health care reform legislation. But Berg said Senate Democrats have refused to take it up just as they’ve done with other Republican bills this year.
“The bottom line from my perspective is to change that culture in Washington, we have to change the Senate,” he said. “That’s why I’m running because I think that’s where we need to change it. We need to change it with North Dakota ways and North Dakota philosophy.”
Berg said many lawmakers are more concerned about re-election than doing what the country needs, which is why politicians promise to increase funding and programs even though the government can’t afford it.
But Grand Forks business owner David Waterman warned Berg that switching from the House to the Senate would mean he’d face even more pressure to side with party leaders and compromise on his positions.
Berg said he makes his decisions in Washington based on what he feels is “right for North Dakota” and “what’s right for our country.”
“If that means that I’m not re-elected, I’d rather be 80 years old and know that I stood firm, that I’ve done the things that the Republicans and the conservatives and people who have supported me for 25 years know I’ll do, than to try and change,” he said. “I can’t change.”
Ryan Johnson is a reporter at the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.