Watertown Daily Times
January 2, 2018

Politics in 2017 was another year of movement to the extreme. The shift to fully partisan politics began years ago and accelerated during the closed door sessions that created the Affordable Care Act (also called Obamacare). Democrats’ unwillingness to engage in open and transparent bill development disenfranchised and angered Republicans and voters.

When the balance of power shifted in the 2016 election, partisanship was in full roar. The Republicans didn’t need Democratic support to pass legislation. Without the need for compromise, legislative bill development began to look very familiar to people of New York state whose $153 billion dollar budget is built in secret behind closed doors.

This is not good government. It is not even governing. It is almost decree.

Good decisions are made when input comes from different perspectives, backgrounds, ideologies, and politics. We all listen through different filters and speak with different voices. A good decision is often one that openly weighs those voices. Sometimes the feedback is considered and acted on, sometimes it is noted but ignored.

A healthy democracy must demand a vibrant mechanism and process for this to take place. America’s democracy was created in full awareness of our imperfections and was built to give voice and influence and power in a balanced way. Today’s partisan dealings threaten that balance.

Despite this partisanship and active silencing of different voices in the legislative process, our Republican congresswoman, Rep. Elise Stefanik, has shown independence. Rep. Stefanik has shown courage on several instances to stand up to the partisanship and vote in the best interests of her constituents. To vote against her party and for her district is an act in the spirit and practice of true listening and consideration.

Her vote against the Tax Reform Act was done to protect her constituents from the onerous state and property tax burdens in New York.

“I support comprehensive tax reform that provides relief for families and businesses in our district. I voted against the tax bill when it first came before the House because it did not provide enough relief for New Yorkers,” she said a Dec. 18, 2017, news release.

According to the release, “many constituents across the district contacted my offices to share their opinions on this important legislation.”

Her independence was not limited to the Tax Reform Act.

■ Stefanik has continued to side with Fort Drum and residents concerned about wind turbines affecting radar systems. She has said she would support legislation that bans turbines from being built near the base.

■ Stefanik called Trump’s decision to back out of the Paris climate accord a “mistake.” Unlike most of her party, she continues to advocate for climate change solutions.

■ She advocated for money to be reappropriated to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, despite Trump’s plan to eliminate it.

■ She keeps pushing for the East Coast missile site to be built next to Fort Drum, saying it would create jobs and help the local economy while contributing to the national defense.

Not all of her positions are perfect and politics certainly play a role in her decisions. In order to be successful in advancing legislation to benefit her constituents, she has to also cater to the Republican Party.

Managing that balance is difficult and it showed in her awkward support of the health care bill. She was not transparent on her position on the bill until the day it went to vote in the House and passed. While not transparent, she was consistent in her position that the bill required review before she could take a stance. To her credit, the review resulted in new provisions, including $15 billion for maternity care, mental health and addiction treatment.

Her vote created pushback from constituents amid fears that rural hospitals would lose money and residents would lose critical aspects of health care coverage like the uniform waiver of pre-existing conditions. Uncertainty about health care is scary and people in rural communities with less economic opportunity are right to be wary.

Come election season next year, the health care issue will have an effect on her campaign, especially during the debates. It is absolutely right that the issue come up. However, it should not overshadow her track record of independence and her drive to put the needs of her district over party.

Elise Stefanik is the type of political leader we need more of, and we hope the mid-term elections put more people like her in power who listen, actively weigh different voices and want to govern.

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