2nd District incumbent Terry says time to change course

Terry leads White in fundraising

Published Saturday, October 30, 2010: By Don Walton, LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR

OMAHA -- They've finished the invocation and "God Bless America" and the Pledge of Allegiance.

And as soon as all the bonhomie at the Omaha Suburban Rotary Club luncheon settles down, Lee Terry is ready to roll.

"Despite what government does, we will prevail as a people," the congressman begins.

"I worry we are getting further and further away from our founding ideals."

Terry voted against the Obama administration's health care reform plan and its economic stimulus package and he considers its cap-and-trade carbon emissions reduction proposal another government reach too far.

"Stop villainizing the job creators," the Republican congressman says.

"Stop the spending."

Tackle the trillion dollar annual federal budget deficits that are driving up the national debt.

Extend all the Bush era tax cuts that are scheduled to fade away at the end of the year.

"Don't allow a tax increase on Jan. 1st."

That's the way to create jobs and help fuel economic recovery, Terry says.

If he had his way, Terry says, Congress would "go back to the 2008 level of spending," slamming the brakes on budget growth.

But the nation needs to make an institutional decision to resolve the issue once and for all, he says.

Enact a constitutional amendment to require the federal government to balance its budget every year.

That's the message.

* * *

Terry has represented metropolitan Omaha's 2nd District for six terms, since 1999.

Before that, he was a member of the Omaha City Council for eight years.

Although he represents the only competitive congressional district in the state, Terry has dispatched a series of Democratic challengers over a dozen years.

Two years ago, he successfully swam against the tide when Barack Obama won the district and picked up one of Nebraska's presidential electoral votes.

The 2nd District is composed of Douglas County and portions of Sarpy County, including Bellevue, La Vista and Papillion.

Although Omaha has tipped Democratic, Sarpy County Republicans always have been there to ride to the rescue when needed.

This year's match against Democratic nominee Tom White, an Omaha state senator, has been more competitive, contentious and personally combative than Terry's typical challenge.

Going into the final days of the campaign, Terry appears confident. Not cocky, but reassured by signs that this non-presidential year's turnout tips in his favor.

"Those who want a change in the direction of the country are going to be there," he says during an interview at Anthony's, the sprawling steakhouse on South 72nd Street.

"Republicans and conservatives are really fired up.

"It's a clear choice for voters," Terry says.

"If you like big spending, big government, Pelosi, vote for Tom White," he says.

"If you want to go in a different direction, stop spending, secure the economy, vote for me."

White says he would have voted for the health care reform law and the economic stimulus plan, but he has criticized Congress for not taking strong action to control rising health care costs.

Terry would like to repeal the health care law and replace it by opening access to large insurance pools with benefits modeled after the plan that covers federal employees.

Terry's effort to tie his Democratic opponent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been an ongoing campaign message for Republicans this year.

* * *

While he joined his House Republican colleagues in forgoing requests for appropriations earmarks for his district this year, Terry says he'd work to assure federal funding for two huge projects that are pending in the district.

Funding for the proposed new StratCom headquarters complex at Offutt Air Force Base needs to come through the military budget, rather than as an earmark, Terry says.

"It's in the five-year military plan and we need to make sure it stays there," he says.

Terry says he's prepared to propose "starting a new program of federal assistance" for cities like Omaha that face a federal mandate to embark on a huge sewer separation project.

Two hundred cities are affected by clean water mandates from the Environmental Protection Agency, Terry says.

"It's a necessary project," he says. "It's not only an environmental issue, but also a health issue in some areas of north Omaha and south Omaha.

"But it's a federal mandate and we will need federal assistance."

* * *

It is "almost counterintuitive," Terry says.

But the likelihood that this year's congressional elections will narrow majority control, or even produce divided government, may lead to more cooperation in Washington, he says.

Terry is answering a question posed at the luncheon by a Rotarian who wonders why a divided Congress chooses to engage in partisan gridlock rather than work cooperatively to solve the nation's problems.

Now, Terry says, Democrats hold such supermajorities in both houses that Republicans have been rendered "essentially irrelevant."

And that has meant little, if any, cooperation, he says.

That could change if pundits correctly assess a more evenly divided House and Senate after Election Day, Terry says.

"When it's close, we've understood we had to work together," he says.

And the president, he says, is more likely to "work both sides."

* * *

Time to change course, Terry says.

"With the direction this country is going, I worry whether the economy will be robust enough for future generations," he says.

"The stimulus plan ignored the private sector and grew the public sector."

Meanwhile, the health care reform law placed new burdens on job creators, Terry says.

Increased federal spending, huge budget deficits and a soaring national debt are "a drag on the economy," he says.

And, on top of that, Terry says, the economy is burdened by "overzealous regulatory authority."

All of that impacts the nation's ability to compete globally in a rapidly changing world, he says.

At stake is the future, Terry says.


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