Tom Reed II is the Congressman for New York's 23rd congressional district. The district includes not only Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, but also a number of other counties, including the Corning and Ithaca areas.
When we consider his record, he is your standard-order mediocre member of Congress. He is a borderline Republican-in-name-only (RINO) who is coming perilously close to being a repeat of the perennially disappointing RINO Amo Houghton. No indication whether Reed is good at tickle fights as was his predecessor Eric Massa (D-NY). Clearly, Reed's RINO ways put him on the edge of deserving a primary challenge. Lucky for him, he is so much better than the Democratic clowns he has and will face that one has no choice but to vote for him.
His recent grades are quite poor, so he's been put on double secret probation. He got a 67 (D+) from the National Taxpayer's Union (a pro-taxpayer's group), a 49 (F) from the Club for Growth (a group supporting economic freedom), a C+ from NumbersUSA (an immigration-issues group opposing amnesty and the torrent of poor-and-unskilled immigrants), and a 0 (F) from the American Civil Liberties Union (an group opposing government intrusion in people's lives in non-economic areas). He even got a 52 from the American Conservative Union, 24 points below the 2013 average for Republican members of the House.
Consider the most important issue Congress faces, the federal government's out-of-control interference with our lives. On the single most important issue he has faced, he shined. He repeatedly voted to repeal and defund Obamacare.
On taxes, spending, and the debt, he has been decent but ran when it counted. In Fall 2011, he supported the Budget Control Act of 2011, which increased the debt by $2.1 trillion. In return, Congress agreed to slow the rate of growth (that is, to increase spending, but do so more slowly than the Congressional big spenders wanted). This was enforced by an automatic sequestering discretionary spending.
In fall 2013, however, after initially voting to fund the government only if it defunded Obamacare, he then ran for the hills when there was a pitched battle over the country's fundamental direction. He voted to fund the government at its current level, break the sequester-spending cap, and further run up the debt. In running for the hills, he voted with the majority of Democrats and against the majority of Republican for the same old same old. He apparently thinks that taxpayers from the 23rd district either wanted him to vote with Chuck Schumer and Charley Rangel or wouldn't remember that he did. We remember. Following his decision to cut and run, as far as I can tell, Reed said nothing when fellow RINOs Chris Collins (R-NY) and Peter King (R-NY) dumped all over Tea Party Republicans.
Reed defended himself on the basis that the Republican majority in the House had a poor strategy. But contra Reed and Collins, the RINO strategy of repeatedly funding government spending at its currently obscene level, kicking the can down the road on the debt, and allowing the Democrats to stealthily raise taxes is not a strategy, but surrender. Every year of surrender makes supersized federal government and rising tide of debt harder to reverse.
To his credit, Reed did try to rein in welfare by limiting welfare payments to a reasonable period. Specifically, he tried to put a 5-year limit on one type of welfare (Temporary Assistance for Needy Family). This program was intended to provide temporary cash benefits to poor families, but has degenerated in many states to indefinite payments. When linked with exploding numbers of people on Medicaid - one out of five Americans, food stamps - one out of seven Americans, and the Earned Income Tax Credit (welfare masquerading as a tax refund), Reed's effort is noteworthy.
On the most important foreign policy, war, Reed has a mixed record. In 2011, he voted against putting ground troops in Libya without Congressional approval. This is good as it shows that he believes that a President should not unilaterally commit the U.S. to a ground war. The same is true for the air war, but one cannot expect too much from sorry lot that comprises Congress. On the other hand, he voted against pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. This despite the fact that, as Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) pointed out, it is a terrible idea to leave troops there without an exit plan and with it then costing roughly $100 billion a year. The need to stop pouring American blood and treasure into Afghanistan and Iraq was as obvious in 2011 as it is now.
On the crucially important issue of stopping the flood of relatively uneducated and unskilled immigrants, especially illegal aliens, Reed voted reasonably well despite the fact that NumbersUSA gave him a C+ in 2013-2014 and a B for his career. He voted to reduce the enticements for amnesty and voted for a minor bill that rejected a rare type of amnesty. He is best seen as earning an incomplete as he hasn't taken a hard vote on issues such as citizenship for illegal-alien babies (anchor babies) and reducing chain migration, which favors seemingly endless family-based immigration over skills-based immigration.
On liberty-related issues, his record is poor. In July 2013, the House voted on whether to rein in the National Security Agency's (NSA) ability to collect vast amounts of data on U.S. citizens. The House was voting on whether to stop the NSA from monitoring citizens' internet activity and phone calls. After the head of the NSA lied to Congress, the country only found out about this when Edward Snowden blew the whistle. Tom Reed along with Brian Higgins (D-NY) and Chris Collins (R-NY) voted against the bill, thereby showing they have little respect for the Constitution in general and the Fourth Amendment in particular. Side note: Higgins's abysmal performance continues.
Like any slippery politician, Reed had some lame explanation for his vote, but when it got down to brass tacks, he voted for the NSA over American liberty. In Reed's defense, he recently voted to end NSA's warrantless searches of the contents of Americans' emails and browsing history and its adding a way to bypass encryption software designed to protect Americans' right to privacy.
Reed has also announced that he is opposed to legalizing marijuana and against abortion and gay marriage.
Reed benefits from yet another weak opponent. Martha "Blank Slate" Robertson appears to not want to announce her positions on the issues. Given the dominant worldview among Democratic politicians and given that she is at best a low-rent candidate, you can bank on her support for Obamacare, tax-and-spend extravagances, greater debt, more welfare, amnesty for illegal aliens, more foreign interventions, and so on. As a candidate she earns an F and that is before style-points are taken off. We deserve a better choice.
Stephen Kershnar is a philosophy professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org