Freshman New Jersey Congressman Donald Norcross is not happy with the Republicans threat to shut down the Department of Homeland Security. The Democrat who represents the 1st District across the Delaware River from Philadelphia says the Republican leaders in the U.S. House are not showing great leadership right now.
“It’s very easy to talk about how you’re going to run things,” Norcross said. “When you want to get behind the wheel and drive the car, you have to drive it carefully.”
On Tuesday, he said he was disgusted with House Speaker John Boehner’s threats to let Homeland Security funding lapse in an attempt to roll back President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. He finds it particularly objectionable in light of the recent beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by ISIS.
“It’s shocking that we’re even having that discussion,” Norcross said. “Playing politics with the security of America.”
He said he’s talked it over with fellow New Jersey freshman member of Congress Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-NJ, who recently complained about an ostensible Homeland Security bill she was required to review in committee. Watson Coleman considered that bill to be full of anti-immigration measures smuggled in under the rubric of “Homeland Security.”
Yet for all his criticism of the Republicans, Norcross hasn’t been walking in lock-step with his own caucus since arriving in Washington. He’s among a handful of House Democrats to vote for the Keystone XL pipeline.
He doesn’t consider it a rancorous dispute with his own party. “You can disagree without being disagreeable, and come together to try to make a compromise,” he said.
The reason he supported the pipeline, he said, is because hundreds of pipelines are already operational in New Jersey and considers them to be safer in the long run than overland transport of oil. He’s old enough to remember the odd-even rationing at gas stations in the 1970s, and doesn’t regard a potential return to that kind of dependence on foreign oil as beneficial to national security or the economy. “That made a big impact for me,” he said, “where your best friend was the guy who ran the gas station because you were afraid you weren’t going to be able to get gas.”
He said the economy has been his main priority all along. But his perspective is influenced by his organized labor background, including 16 years as president of the Southern New Jersey AFL-CIO Central Labor Council.
“Very simply, it’s about labor and management working together to create new opportunities,” he said.
Norcross says he’s pleased with his committee assignments. He’s on the House Armed Services Committee at a pretty auspicious time, given Obama’s requested authorization for military force against the Islamic State.
He’s also on the House Budget Committee, which he acknowledges some might consider a bit “wonkish.” But he said he likes that assignment for practical reasons. “There’s no better way to find out how an organization works than to look at its budget,” he said.
Democrat Donald Norcross is one of three new Congressional members. The two others are Republican Tom MacArthur and Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman. New Jersey is represented by 12 House of Representatives, 6 Democrat and 6 Republican.
This post is part of our South Jersey Politics Blog