U.S. Congressman Leonard Lance (R-District 7), who represents Hillsborough, told constituents gathered in Bernardsville Saturday that he believes improving and growing the economy is the best way to reduce America's budget deficit.
Lance detailed his positions on many issues before an audience of local Republican officials, nearby residents and even political opponents at the Bernardsville Public Library.
Lance made it clear several times during his opening statement, and while answering questions from a gathered group of at least 100 people, that he considers handling the country's economic challenges the "overarching issue" in Congress, and in the upcoming election.
"I think we have to get our fiscal house in order," Lance said.
Lance, a former New Jersey senator who lives in Clinton Township, is this year seeking re-election for a third two-year term to represent New Jersey's seventh district in the U.S. Congress.
At several points, Lance said he will oppose the expiration of former President George Bush's tax breaks, which he said will no longer be in effect for 2013 unless renewed. Lance said that two-thirds of the tax cuts went to what he described as middle class taxpayers.
He said he would oppose any tax increases at this time because he feels that reviving the economy is key to reducing the national deficit.
Lance said he also opposes raising taxes on anyone at the end of next year.
"It's going to be a terrible drag on economy, I believe, if the Bush tax cuts expire," he said.
Lance expressed strong support for a proposal by U.S. Congressman Ron Paul (R-14th District, Texas), calling for an audit of the federal reserve. Lance also said he is supporting Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination for the presidency—although he would have supported N.J. Gov. Chris Christie if he had sought the nomination—but he said that Paul provides valuable expertise in the nation's financial and mortgage lending institutions.
Lance added he will support whatever candidate is given the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidency. However, responding to an audience question from a woman who chided Republicans saying their number one goal is to defeat President Barack Obama, Lance said his goal is to address "our 1,001 probems that need addressing."
Besides the economy, he identified some of those problems as health care and sustainable energy. Lance said he supports the court repeal of Obama's health care plan, a decision he predicts will be close, but he would keep aspects of the plan in a new health care proposal, such as the need to protect Americans from being denied health care coverage because of a pre-existing health condition.
Lance said he would reduce American reliance on foreign energy sources through support of the construction of the Keystone pipeline plan—opposed by the Obama administration—to pipe crude oil into the United States from Alberta, Canada. He said he also supports "green" energy initiatives, but would not give those energy sources a competitive advantage.
Discussing foreign policy, Lance said he continues to support a strong U.S. military to continue to fight the "stateless" terrorists that continue to oppose the United States. However, he said that the reduction of troops in the mideast should help reduce the national deficit. Looking at the deficit, Lance said he would support a gradual 10-year plan for bringing down national debt since he feels America should be responsible and "pay bills," including paying the troops on time.
He said he would help preserve the social security program by raising the full-benefits working age by another year or two for those who are now in their 20s. He said he himself is in the age group that would need to work until age 66 to receive full benefits. Lance said he believes preserving Medicaid presents "a more difficult challenge."
Although many of the audience questions came from older residents, some students were sprinkled in the mix. David Gale, a senior at Bernards High School in Bernardsville, asked questions about how the congressman might be willing to tackle the $15.3 million national debt, weighing the risks of different approaches.
Lance said that he most favors the option of cutting spending. At another point, he said he favors a tax structure that would encourage multi-national companies to invest in jobs within the country, with the aim of again growing a strong economy.
Near the beginning of the meeting, Lance said he represents a district that has more pharmaceutical and medicine-related employees than any other in Congress—and that one of his proposals is to make it easier to bring to market medical devices and medicines for rare and chronic diseases.
Lance already faces opposition from other Republicans in seeking the party nomination in June, including , a businessman from Oldwick who has stressed his fiscal conservatism, and Patrick McKnight, a Libertarian candidate from Hillsborough, both of whom were at Saturday's meeting.