What kind of Congress do you want? | SummitDaily.com

What kind of Congress do you want?

What kind of Congress do you want? That “s the question behind all the noise in recent weeks about boundary lines between Colorado’s seven congressional districts.

A minority in the Legislature last year, through stalling tactics, got a judge to select its map that leaned toward one kind of Congress.

A majority in the Legislature this year, after voters elected a new Senate, passed SB-352 with a different map that leans toward quite another kind of Congress.

Which map you like depends on two factors. (1) Whether you think laws should be made by appointed judges or by the people’s elected representatives.

And (2) what kind of Congress you want.

I want the kind of Congress that keeps our taxes down, respects our values as Westerners and stands up for America against our enemies.

I don’t want a Congress that agrees with the New York liberals on bigger government and with the Hollywood left on blaming America.

Most Coloradans feel the same.

People in our state have generally liked Congress’ decision-making a lot better in the past eight years, with the heartland Republicans in charge, than they did in the previous 40 years with the tax-and-spend Democrats in charge.

It’s been a welcome change. That’s why I decided, as a Republican leader in Colorado, that if voters put us back in the legislative majority for 2003, one of our goals should be to blunt the Democratic drive for recapturing Congress through districts drawn in their favor.

That’s where SB-352 came from: not from a sinister D.C. plot this spring, but from a quiet decision in the public interest that some of us made 18 months ago.

Is it a decision in the public interest? Darn right. Political parties embody competing visions of what the public interest is. My party’s vision emphasizes individual freedom and individual responsibility.

We believe that approach best serves everyone, even those who might think themselves better served by collectivism.

We respect others whose visions may differ, but we make no apology for ours.

We believe it’s the right one for Colorado and the country. My party is honestly seeking the common good – as we see it – when we argue for our kind of Congress.

The other party saw hope for its kind of Congress when Judge John Coughlin took the remapping decision away from a stalemated Legislature in early 2002.

He ordered the elections to be held under a

Democrat-drawn map that could have shifted the state’s congressional delegation from four Republicans and two Democrats to three Republicans and four Democrats, based on voting patterns in previous races for president.

The Coughlin ruling not only split the Western Slope across communities and watersheds – it also made that 3rd District attractive to an Al Gore-type candidate. Besides imposing illogical boundaries in the Denver suburbs, it loaded the new 7th District with voters who had preferred Gore in 2000. The Democrats’ failure to win either seat in 2002 was small comfort. The numbers were going to favor them in time.

“What kind of Congress do you want?” was one of many questions facing me, Sen. Ken Chlouber, R-Leadville, and Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, as we entered Senate leadership last January.

We didn’t want a Congress where Dick Gephardt would be Speaker and the Baghdad Democrats would have chairmanships. We believed our constituents didn’t either.

America is better served by Congress as it is. To help keep it that way, we set our sights on correcting the many flaws in Judge Coughlin’s map – including the advantage he had handed Gephardt’s party in the 3rd and 7th Districts.

After Chlouber said this in the papers, freshman Republican Rep. Bob Beauprez, winner by a nose in the 7th, urged me to drop the idea. I politely declined.

Lamborn wanted to introduce a redistricting bill early, but I asked him to wait. We had budget deficits, a drought and a recession to deal with.

Auto and health insurance, education, transportation and public safety crowded our agenda. House Speaker Lola Spradley, majority leaders Rep. Keith King and Sen. Norma Anderson all agreed with me it had to be first things first.

Not until the final week of the session was our plate clean enough to take up SB-352 – the redistricting bill that Colorado’s Constitution directs us to pass after each census, the bill that stalling Democrats had prevented us from passing in 2001 or 2002.

They attempted to stall again this time – fair enough – but after much drama, the bill was enacted on May 7 and became law with Gov. Bill Owens’ signature on May 9.

The state will be more effectively represented in Washington, D.C., because of it.

Fantasies aside, there only two kinds of Congress to choose from – one where 3rd District Rep. Scott McInnis and other Republicans hold the majority, or one where 1st District Rep. Diana DeGette and other Democrats do.

Nonpartisanship is not an option. And that’s why SB-352 is the right map for Colorado’s congressional delegation in this decade.

State Sen. John Andrews, R-Centennial, is president of the Colorado Senate.

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