Constituents should trump party

Millions of people across the nation watched President Barack Obama’s inaugural address on Jan. 21. Visible on TV screens were smiling Republicans next to happy Democrats. Within 24 hours, the partisan cease-fire was over.

In this era of flagrant polarization of the major political parties, it is legitimate for voters to ask, are my elected officials voting for my best interests or those that follow the partisan divide? The staff of tjTODAY felt a review of the voting records of the three
congressmen who represent the Northern Virginia region was in order.

Prominent in the voting record is the fiscal cliff bill, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. Representatives Frank Wolf (R-10th) and Democrat Jim Moran (D-8th), voted against this bill. For Wolf, this decision was not only in-line with his party’s beliefs, but also with his constituents needs because District 10 has a large portion of high-income residents from the Great Falls and Loudoun communities. Moran, whose district encompasses both Arlington and McLean, also represents a disproportionately high number of upper income constituents.

Representative Gerry Connolly (D-11th), voted for the bill. Connolly represents a large portion of Reston, Annandale and Fairfax. In his district and in Northern Virginia at large, there is a high concentration of federal contractors and federal employees. These people would be most affected by sequestration cuts, and many of their jobs would be at stake. By voting for the bill, Connolly was working solely to help these constituents.

For seniors and other students starting to embark on the college process, the price of college is an important concern. All three representatives have been working to lower
the price of college. Moran, Wolf and Connolly voted for the Student Aid and Financial Responsibility Act, which expanded Pell grants and tax credits for families with students in college. Wolf also voted to extend low student loan rates until the summer of 2013.

On immigration, our representatives don’t seem to cross their respective party lines. Wolf supports proposals to add more troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and does not believe in immigration reform until borders are secure. He also does not support the DREAM Act, which grants permanent residency to illegal immigrants who graduate from U.S. schools and arrived in the U.S. as minors. Moran and Connolly support the DREAM Act and believe in amnesty for illegal immigrants. Connolly, who has a high number of immigrants in his district, is serving his constituents by concerning himself with immigration reform rather than border control.

On Jan. 16, the president presented his plan for gun control. Virginia has some of the most lax gun regulations in the nation and after Sandy Hook, gun sales have actually gone up. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is headquartered out of Northern Virginia, after all. However, based on a recent Quinnipac University poll, the majority of Virginians, by a small margin, support tougher gun regulations.

Obama’s plan will go to the Senate before reaching the house. Virginia’s Democratic Senator Mark Warner, who is generally a strong defender of the Second Amendment and has an A Rating from the NRA, has changed his stance on gun regulations after Sandy Hook. He is now open
to consider Obama’s plan. Senator Tim Kaine, also a Democrat, supports Obama’s plan and has been a long supporter of increased gun control.

The two Democratic representatives, Moran and Connolly are in agreement with Obama’s plan and even support some NRA-backed regulations. Wolf, on the other hand, believes there are varied causes for gun violence. So, he supports targeting violent video games, not necessarily more regulations, which worries some constituents.

Those of us on the staff of tjTODAY are either 18 or will be soon. We are watching our elected officials to be sure they represent the greater good for their communities, not the partisan platforms of a polarized contingent to the far left or the far right. We hope they will vote wisely in the coming months.

(This article originally appeared in the January 25, 2013 print edition.)