‘People are looking for certainty in their lives,’ the congressman says, and, as he seeks re-election, Pearce says he is reaching across party lines to try to ‘bring widely divergent groups together’ to focus on policy and ‘the common good’ instead of politics.
“The truth doesn’t change across time,” says U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce. “Major troubles occur when we don’t follow the Constitution.”
This was the congressman’s reply to my question about whether the United States needs another constitutional convention to update this important document. Although not spoken, his answer was a definite “no.”
Pearce believes strongly that the United States has taken a turn away from the intent of the U.S. Constitution. He wants to see a more literal use of it as a guide for government and the people. He cited Article 1, Section 8, which lays out the powers given to Congress.
Among those powers are still-relevant things such as the ability “to borrow money on the credit of the United States” and citations that involve the military and post offices. Perhaps less-relevant is the power to grant letters of marquee – a document that lets a nation hire mercenaries to retaliate for it against another nation.
As for a constitutional convention, Pearce simply doesn’t seem to believe one is necessary. All that’s necessary is a return to a more literal reading of the Constitution.
‘100 percent focused on the current job’
My 30-minute conversation with Pearce covered a lot of other areas, mostly in brief, and often he cited examples of the work he has done or is doing to help get the nation back on course.
Pearce, who faces a challenge from Democrat Evelyn Madrid Erhard this year, was first elected to the N.M. House of Representatives in 1996. A native of Hobbs, his background is in the oil business, where his father worked as a roustabout. Roustabouts are general maintenance or construction workers, and Pearce said he came from a working-class background.
“When I was in the oil business, I found that there were so many regulations that they were choking off the oil business,” Pearce said. “I could see that my kids and grandkids were not going to have the same benefits that I have had, and that is when I decided to run for state Legislature.”
Pearce said he quickly realized the state Legislature was not the place to try to change the laws and regulations he felt were inappropriate, so he began thinking about running for Congress.
“We were on a trip to France. My wife had just come back to our hotel. She spoke about Joe Skeen (former congressman) retiring due to illness, so we decided to run for that office,” Pearce said. “In 2002, I won a five-way primary and then started to try and work for change.”
Pearce is no longer in the oil tool business, and says he is “100 percent focused on the current job.”
It appears he will try and stay with that job for a while, and has no interest, at least at this time, in running for higher office, such as U.S. Senate, an office he sought unsuccessfully in 2008.
“I’m not thinking much beyond this election right now,” Pearce said. “It is one day at a time.”
Trying to ‘bring widely divergent groups together’
Pearce has received a lot of attention, good and bad, for his support of the Tea Party. He is a member of the Tea Party Caucus, a group of about 60 representatives and senators whose group is “dedicated to promoting what it considers fiscal responsibility, adherence to the (Tea Party) movement’s interpretation of the Constitution and limited government.” Groups such as these are sometimes seen as a move by the Republican Party (all caucus members are Republicans) to hijack the Tea Party movement, according to an article in Politico.
And perhaps it is just coincidence, but the oil and gas industry has been financially supportive of those involved with this caucus, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Pearce said he believes Tea Party activists and their supporters share a lot of the same views held by everyone else. He mentioned his work with others in district besides Tea Party members.
“I’ve spent two years out speaking to a lot of other groups, all for the common good, about two strong points,” Pearce said. “The first is about retirees and how their money is disappearing, and the second is about young mothers who are worried about their kid’s futures. Things are getting much harder for them because of Washington’s politics.”
“One thing we’re trying to do is bring widely divergent groups together, and trying to be more rational. Not all of those we are working with are Republicans,” he said. “What’s going on is hard on both parties. We’re more interested in policy rather than party policies. People say that the two parties don’t work together, that we (Americans) elect people who look like us, and that we don’t sit down to talk to neighbors.”
Pearce said such thinking is inaccurate and perhaps myopic. He thinks it will change over time.
One of the other things Pearce feels might help bring Congress back together is a small group of representatives who meet quarterly.
“We’re reaching across party lines, doing things such as working on a new tax return bill and other objectives,” Pearce said. “It might be a model for the country, something that could really work.”
He continued – “We’re working across the aisle for immigration reform, looking for the best ideas for the country, and trying to prove that through our actions.”
When asked, Pearce noted Massachusetts Congressman Michael Capuano, a Democrat, as one of the first to get on board with the new group.
My conversation with Pearce turned to the troubles at hand, most especially, of course, the economy and jobs. Over the last year or so, Pearce has sponsored several job fairs in towns around the district, something of which he said he is very proud.
“We’re trying to establish a working base, and the job fairs have jobs that are available that day. We keep hearing that there are no jobs available, and the truth is that there are some,” he said. “We’ll continue to do the job fairs, as they have been successful.”
Pearce has been seen by the left as one of the most environmentally unfriendly congressman in the country, but he seemed unfazed by this and noted his efforts to keep the dunes sagebrush lizard off the federal endangered species list, which put him at odds with many environmentalists.
Pearce said such protection for the lizard “would have killed jobs.” Keeping the lizard off the list was also supported by Democratic U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman, who generally pride themselves on their environmental work and votes. About 90 percent of the lizard’s habitat does remain protected through other agreements.
Pearce also spoke of his participation in a widely publicized and mostly symbolic tree-cutting ceremony in Cloudcroft last fall, which some said was illegal but Pearce said was done to “restore commonsense forest management to New Mexico” and bring power back to local governments. Otero County commissioners said their efforts were to “show the world what an acre of forest land should look like.” The tree-cutting ceremony focused on the possible devastation of the area by wildfire.
Pearce, who has criticized the Forest Service lately for its handling of wildfires, said he wants to continue working with the agency to “make forests healthier.”
Still talking about issues related to the environment, Pearce said he attempts to work for alternative energy, not as main source of power, but as one to enhance the current sources — gas, oil and nuclear.
“We have 5 million acres in New Mexico that could be used for wind energy, but we still have to have oil and gas. We should be energy independent, but the regulations are shutting us off from that,” he said. “We need a commonsense balance, and we just need to start that right now.”
Taxes were another brief subject, with Pearce noting that the United States has the second-highest corporate tax rate in the world. It’s 38 percent, and it’s actually the third highest behind Japan and Cameroon. When weighted, the U.S. figure falls to about 27 percent, which is on par with much of the rest of the world.
Still, Pearce said the corporate tax rate is one reason the United States loses jobs to other countries.
Taking a break
Although he has little time for himself, Pearce does take a break now and then and enjoys walking in the desert, traveling, reading and baseball.
“I read a lot when I shut off the phone,” he said.
Pearce is a member of the congressional baseball team, and he said he likes to help teach young people when he is at the batting cages.
Pearce laughs heartily when I note that there is a Major League Baseball player of the same name. Baseball Pearce had been batting .254 for the Baltimore Orioles but was released from that team. He now plays for the Houston Astros.
Congressman Pearce quipped – “He is probably getting more hits online than I do.”
‘People are looking for certainty in their lives’
Pearce said he is still not giving up on repealing “Obamacare” and is working to get a balanced budget amendment passed. Both remain on his to-do list if he wins re-election. He said he wants to provide some certainty in America.
“People are looking for certainty in their lives, Pearce said. “If they had more ‘certains’ about what was going to happen, it would surely improve things dramatically.”
Jeff Berg is a Santa Fe based freelance writer who would like to thank the people who donated to NMPolitics.net for making this article happen!