Rep. Lance comes to town
Addresses crowd at town hall meeting
Wednesday, March 2, 2011 By Gene Robbins, Managing Editor

Leonard Lance endured as good as he gave last Wednesday night. This area’s congressman, elected in November to a second term, fielded questions and shared views Feb. 23 with more than 85 people in the Hillsborough Township municipal building. Mr. Lance talked about the debt and deficit, Afghanistan, health care, abortion and the economy. Many urged him to continue to stay steadfast to his votes to support his Republican Party’s passage in the House of Representatives of a $61 billion reduction in the current year’s budget. Bruce Graber of Clinton Township said the proposed reduction was a “miniscule” 1.65% of the total budget. ”(Gov.) Chris Christie cut 9 percent across the board. I’d love to see the federal budget do the same,” he said. But Mr. Lance heard from the other side of the political spectrum, too. He endured criticism from the retired Sonya Martin of Hillsborough, who ripped into Mr. Lance on multiple points. She said “corporate tax cuts not tied to job creation are unacceptable,” especially since companies’ profits are increasing dramatically yet they are not producing American jobs. Tax cuts passed in December were held hostage by the GOP, added to debt and only embellished wealthiest Americans not impacted by recessions, she said.

She said the bipartisan debt commission admonished that the economic recovery was fragile and the worst thing that could be done was to cut spending, which would mean more job loss. She said she had hoped Mr. Lance was a moderate, but was disappointed in his vote on a bill sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith of Mercer County that “further restricts access by women to legal abortion procedures.” Her barrage was met with supportive cries of “You go, girl” and “I’d vote for her.” Young and old showed up with notes. Nick Hladick, a Montgomery High student, asked about the situation in Libya and how the U.S. should react to the spreading revolutionary wave in north Africa and the Middle East. Mr. Lance said he tries to be bipartisan on affairs “beyond our water’s edge,” and that he wanted to work with the president. As co-chair of the Israeli Republican caucus, he said Egypt must comply with existing international agreements. He said he didn’t want the U.S. to stay in Afghanistan “forever,” and reminded that a “fundamental review” of involvement was coming this summer. ”I do not believe in nation building,” he said, defining it as passing on “primary responsibility” in setting up a government and national infrastructure, but said the U.S. “can be helpful.” Mr. Lance said cooperation of both political parties was going to be needed to tackle the exploding federal deficit. He added later that the “best way to lower the deficit is getting people working”. ”If we could balance the budget in five years, boy, I’d take that tomorrow,” he said.

On Social Security, he said that he thought 24-year-olds, “with three or four decades advance warning,” may have to face a higher retirement age. Pressed on his vote to cut off federal money for Planned Parenthood, he said he thought money for the group for the group was “fungible,” allowing it to shift money to keep open clinics that do perform abortions. On the issue, he said he wouldn’t make first-trimester abortions illegal, but would ban partial birth abortion and favors parental notification. ”I do not believe we can stop all abortion in the country but we must move to try to respect the rights of everyone,” he said. On legal challenges to the health care law, he said he hoped the Supreme Court would rule at an early date. He predicted a 4-4 deadlock, with Justice Anthony Kennedy casting the deciding vote. If the High Court deems the landmark law constitutional, the debate will shift to how the country deals with its cost, Mr. Lance said. If ruled unconstitutional, the health care debate will start from scratch. Pastor Steve Nash of the Christian Community Church in Hillsborough, citing his last fuel oil bill of $1,138, asked Mr. Lance what can be done to lift the moratorium on oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The congressman said he favored “responsible drilling” in the gulf and lifting the moratorium imposed following the BP deepwater well explosion and spill of the summer. Mr. Lance voted for a cap-and-trade bill in his first year, but said he would not do so again. He cited his new role as a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which he called a central place to debate the issue of energy independence.

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