Frank Guinta spoke at a New England Council event in Bedford on Thursday about the 114th Congress. (CASSIDY SWANSON/ Union Leader Correspondent)
BEDFORD — Congressman Frank Guinta (R-N.H.) is back in Washington, D.C., after what he calls a “forced retirement,” and he told a group of his peers over breakfast at the Bedford Village Inn Thursday that he’s ready to hit the ground running in the 114th Congress.
“I’m really excited to be representing New Hampshire again,” Guinta said at the event sponsored by the New England Council. “I think it’s a really unique opportunity for us to move the ball forward.”
Guinta said that it was important for delegates from around New England to work together as a region.
“It is very difficult for us to compete with the likes of Florida or New York,” he said, noting New Hampshire’s two congressional delegates. “Their delegations are significantly larger. As a result, a lot of those financial resources go to those larger states. So it’s important for New England to work together as one entity, regardless of party affiliation.”
Guinta said he and fellow Granite State delegates Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rep. Anne Kuster (D-N.H.) are prepared to set aside party differences and work together.
“We’ve got to stick together as a state, and as a region,” he said. “We do have a very strong relationship. I look forward to working with each and every one of them.”
As for his personal efforts, Guinta discussed his newly introduced Operation TAXPAYER (To Ax Persistent Abuse of Your Earned Revenue) initiative, which includes legislation designed to reduce federal offices, initiatives and programs.
“In my years in business, and as mayor of Manchester, I’ve always found one of the important things to do is to be responsible with other people’s money,” he said.
Guinta said the initiative would change House rules to require any bill that comes to the floor to be reviewed by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, which would review the bill to make sure it is not redundant of an existing federal program, initiative or office.
“The bill would have a score on it that says, ‘This bill duplicates X amount of resources or dollars,’” Guinta said following the event. For example, many existing jobs programs serve the same purpose, he said.
“Across nine different agencies, we have 18 different programs that are for job retraining, and we’re spending billions,” Guinta said. “There is a lack of oversight, and I don’t think those dollars are getting to the intended individuals. So I want to try to streamline that process, and I want to educate members (of Congress) in knowing that if you’re going to vote for something, you should know that there’s something that already exists that’s already providing that need.”
Guinta said the federal government is currently spending $250 billion annually on redundant programs.
“Our deficit is $550 billion,” he said. “If half of our deficit is just duplication of services, theoretically, if we get rid of all of those duplicative programs, we could cut the deficit in half.”
Legislation aside, Guinta told the New Hampshire Union Leader he is settling back into life in Washington, calling it “a very easy transition.”
“Your second time around, you settle in a lot quicker,” he said. “You know what your focus is. You’re much more driven on legislative policy because you know the process. You know how to effectuate what you want to accomplish. You don’t have to spend that first six months just learning Washington.”
Though the days in Washington are long and the weekly commuting back and forth to New Hampshire is taxing, Guinta said he is enjoying the process.
“It gives you the opportunity every week to talk with people, to listen to what their concerns are, and you use that perspective to try to shape the public policy,” he said. “That listening component is, for me at least, very, very important.”
He hasn’t had time to meet up with his fellow New Hampshire delegates yet in D.C., but said he runs into them often. Guinta and Kuster have plans to go for milkshakes at the Longworth Cafeteria soon, and said the two are planning to work together on a mental health bill.
“On the areas where you all personally agree and it’s in the best interest of your constituents, you should work together,” Guinta said.
“There will be areas where we disagree, and we’ll be on different ends of votes. But that should not get in the way of the positive things that we can do … for the state.”