Coffee with a Congressman

By on May 8, 2019

Rep. Lloyd Smucker sat down at Starbucks to discuss issues pressing Congress and constituents

 

By Patrick Burns

Rep. Lloyd Smucker last week went back to Washington following his longest work visit in his district since taking office in January 2017.

The breakneck news cycles during those 27 months in the Beltway have been a bit of a blur for the 11th Congressional District Congressman — an ardent conservative and President Donald J. Trump supporter.

Rep. Lloyd Smucker on April 26 at Starbucks outside Lititz.

Smucker, 55, sat down at Starbucks outside  Lititz on April 26 to discuss some of the top issues pressing both congress and average Americans.

If there was only one constant in Washington during his time there so far, it’s been a perpetual cavalcade of steady bickering along party lines.

“Congress itself should be a deliberative body; that’s the way it was intended to work,” he said. “We’re there to represent our districts and represent the people who sent us there.”
Smucker said there is an unfortunate atmosphere of “contempt” hovering above nearly all proposed measures and proceedings. “Hate” is not too strong of word to describe the current Congressional ambiance, he noted.

“That contempt is absolutely counterproductive,” he said.
Smucker discussed a host of contentious issues, not the least of which was the Mueller Report released last month.

He supported the hot-button issue of launching the Mueller investigation on Russian election interference. However, he’s disappointed by the Democrats’ response to the findings, which were “pretty clear.”

“There were people indicted along the way when they found wrong-doing,” Smucker said. “But the conclusion at the end of the report by the individual they wanted in place — and who’ve they supported all along — was the administration did not collude with the Russians. You’d think that would be the end of it but it looks like it’s only the beginning.”

Rep. Lloyd Smucker sat down at Starbucks in Lititz on April 26 to discuss some of the top issues circulating among Americans. Photos by Patrick Burns.

As for Attorney General Robert Barr’s intension to investigate the origins of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign and the Department of Justice inspector general’s pending release of a report on the FBI’s use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants, Smucker said “there’s serious questions to be answered.”

He said multiple investigations indicate that perhaps the entire foundation of discussions about collusion was built on a false premise that high-ranking intelligence officials knew was false.

“Some of what we hear is pretty scary,” he said. “A president, who was elected through our normal electoral process… perhaps at the very highest levels of our intelligence agencies were literally trying to do what they could to remove him from office against the will of the American people.”

Smucker, who graduated from Lancaster Mennonite High School in 1981 and attended Lebanon Valley College and Franklin & Marshall and served for 25 years as president of the Smucker

Company, a family-owned commercial construction firm in Smoketown, said he’s joined other members of Congress who seek to bring back civility and mutual respect despite party disagreements.

“We know we probably can’t change the polarization in the country but we can at least set an example,” he said.

Still, Smucker said opportunities for harmony do exist, specifically on the committees he serves, which are Transportation and Infrastructure and the Committee on Education and Labor.
That means additional investment and reform in infrastructure is needed to support the growing economy, including roads, highways, bridges, airports, ports, and more.

“The good news is (infrastructure) is a priority of this administration and both caucuses in the House at least,” Smucker said.

With that in mind, there is a T&I bill that “may come together,” he said.

With victories far and few between in a divided House, Democratic congressional leaders this month said they reached an agreement with President Trump to seek a deal on a $2 trillion infrastructure bill.

Smucker’s membership on the Education and Labor Committee includes his appointment as GOP Subcommittee Chair of the Higher Education and Workforce Development committee. Obviously, there is great concern about rising college student loan debt and ensuring that schools are preparing students for the jobs of “today and tomorrow,” he said.

Smucker said the demands of the job force is likely to change dramatically over the next few decades.

“We’re talking about changing our student aid program — streamlining them, and making them available for the first time for career and technical education,” he said. “That’s going to be a significant change that’s going to solve a number of problems.”

While he wouldn’t discourage kids from pursuing a four-year college degree, Smucker noted that it’s not for everyone.

“We’ve pushed for too long, even measured our (secondary) schools on how many go on to a four-year degree,” he said. “Not really crediting someone who gets a great paying job right out of high school or goes on to military or enrolls in an apprenticeship program. So, we’re trying to change how we think about our higher education system and encourage apprenticeships and on the job training and certificate programs.”

He criticized suggestions by some lawmakers such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren who want to forgive most student-loan debts. He said that would be “unworkable” and partially blamed the rising cost of college education on “a lack of accountability” from universities, which continually see greater federal funding.

Smucker promoted the approach of some schools that inform students about what it means to take on debt.

“I’m told by some of the college presidents that they’ve learned that some students have no idea they’re even taking out a loan.” He said.

He mentioned his 25-year experience operating a construction company and the difficulty in finding enough workers. Smucker co-sponsored a bill modeled after the Pennsylvania EITC program that would provide individuals with a federal tax credit in exchange for donations to apprenticeship organizations or organizations that award private school scholarships.

“It’s a K-through-12 program where business get a tax credit for investment in scholarships and other things,” he said. “This would provide at the federal level for business investing in career and technical education and apprenticeship programs.”

That program would especially benefit smaller businesses — typically located in the Lancaster County and York areas of the 11th Congressional District — that might not have the resources to invest in such programs.

While local business owners say they’re optimistic about the economy and growth, they almost universally cited the challenge of filling jobs that are available, he said.
When asked about things that are frustrating in Washington, he mentioned the growing “debate of our economic system.” Smucker said he had “pretty strong views” in the arena of ideas promoted by proclaimed democratic socialists Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

He said the idea of a serious debate about whether socialism is a better economic system “is pretty frightening to people.”
“We still live in the best country on the face of the earth,” he said. “Our free enterprise, our capitalist system, has created more opportunity than any other in the history of mankind and lifted more people out of poverty and created more wealth…I think it works.”

Smucker, who had served on the Budget Committee for two years (2017-18), criticized the Democrat-led House, which has not even prepared a budget in 2019.

“The system is horribly broken, there’s not enough accountability there,” he said. “If you’re in control, you ought to at least lay out your priorities and tell the public what that’s going to mean in terms of cost and get it scored by the CBO (Congressional Budget Office).”

While home during the Congressional recess, Smucker held constituent meetings in the Lancaster and Red Lion district offices on issues including: environment, aging, taxes, veterans’ services, postal issues, and others.

During that time, he visited the Spanish American Civic Association to learn about their job training programs; discussed his workforce legislation with to a group of 100-plus educators, business leaders in York; held a follow up roundtable to go more in-depth on the issues; spoke to more than 100 school lunch officials from Lancaster County; attended and participated in the installation of Millersville University’s new president, Dr. Daniel Wubah; and spoke to builders and realtors of York about workforce issues.

 

Rep. Smucker’s Committee Duties

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

  • Subcommittee on Highways and Transit
  • Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials
  • Subcommittee on Aviation

Committee on Education and the Labor

  • Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development
  • Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions

Patrick Burns is news editor for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at (717) 721-4455.

One Comment

  1. Matthew Bartel

    May 9, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    When did Lloyd Smucker host “constituent meetings” in his offices in Lancaster and Red Lion? Some of us have been pleading for a town hall, with no result. Now Smucker is trying to claim he met with constituents? When was this, and how did he publicize these meetings?

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