McGovern keeping focus on jobs, social safety net


Staff Writer
Published: 10/26/2018 12:16:33 AM

Congressman James McGovern, who faces his first re-election challenge in years, says if he wins a 12th term on Nov. 6 and Democrats regain control of Congress, he will likely be named to chair the powerful House Rules Committee, where he would go from doing “damage control” under current GOP leadership to playing a role on virtually every bill moving through the House.

The Worcester Democrat, who is now ranking member of the House Rules Committee and the Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Nutrition, says one of his main focus areas has been the issue of inequality and the growing gap between rich and poor.

“We’ve got to be focused on getting people jobs that provide livable wages, where they could lead a secure life,” he said in a recent interview. “The majority of people on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) who are able to work actually do work, but they’re working in a job that doesn’t pay a livable wage. with adequate benefits including retirement security. And we need to make sure health care protections stay in place,” he added, pointing to Republican attempts to essentially eliminate coverage to people with pre-existing conditions that would have passed if not for the opposition of three key Republican senators.

McGovern, who is 58 and represents a district that includes Northampton, Amherst, Hadley, Hatfield and other parts of Hampshire County, as well as parts of Hampden, Norfolk, Franklin and Worcester counties, says championing the ending of hunger in this country and overseas has been among his chief passions.

But he added there are many issues that Congress has not been able to work on, from health care and immigration to rebuilding infrastructure and gun control, because of rules imposed by the Republican majority that essentially shut Democrats out of the legislative process.

“Right now, we try to do damage control the best we can,” said McGovern, who has faced only one opponent in the past six general elections. He added that President Donald Trump himself has claimed that a vote for Republican candidates in the upcoming election is a vote supporting him.

“He’s setting it up that way,” he said. “I’m running as a change agent here. Republicans control everything. I’m trying to break up this monopoly and restore some checks and balances. I want Democrats to regain control of the House so we can actually hold this administration accountable.”

Instead of operating under GOP rules where McGovern said “we’re not debating gun violence because of the process, we’re not discussing legislation that would lower the cost of prescription drugs, because of a process that won’t allow you to bring things to the floor,” a Republican-instituted process that he believes “undercuts democracy,” the Worcester Democrat says, “I want Congress to run like it’s being run by professionals, not by a bunch of authoritarians. Republicans have so damaged the institution that this Congress is the most closed Congress in the history of the United States.”

To do that, he said he wants “a Democratic majority so we can actually do oversight hearings that expose corruption and clean up Washington.”

Asked about the claim by Trump that Democrats would be quick to impeach if they regain control of the House, McGovern said, “If Democrats take control of the House, we will do professional and appropriate oversight, which is something that doesn’t exist right now. Nobody is overseeing any of the mishaps in the White House. Congress is a separate body from the Executive. We have a responsibility to do our jobs. We will do that. We have to wait see what the Mueller investigation shows.”

McGovern said that he takes pride in his accomplishments on Capitol Hill, and has introduced bipartisan legislation to prohibit all military sales and aid to the government of Saudi Arabia unless the secretary of state determines that the Saudi regime did not order or direct the disappearance, imprisonment or death of Saudi journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi. He added that he is prepared to introduce stronger legislation if reports clearly indicate that the Saudi government is responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance.

In addition to that legislative work — which he said is accomplished by “working the system” to be effective — McGovern said, “I’m proud of the constituent service we’ve done, because a big part of this job is making sure of individuals who have challenges to deal with.”

With all of the issues at play, including foreign policy, economic growth, veterans, housing and human rights, he said, a key issue before voters is decency.

“So much of what comes out of the White House and the Republican leadership in Congress I find offensive,” he said. “We have a president who acts like a bully, who makes fun of women, who makes fun of a woman who says she was the victim of a sexual assault. He has just demeaned the presidency so much. He says he wants to ‘make America great again.’ I’ve always thought America was a great country. What we need is to make America good again. That’s what this election is about.”



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