tv A Conversation with Freshman Representative Tom Mac Arthur R-NJ CSPAN August 9, 2015 12:10am-12:33am EDT
when i look at your background, the path you have taken and the experience and skills you bring, he said that is a voice i want at the table. as a senior whip, you are hearing the challenges, the legislation, and the bills. you are sitting there with other seniors to bring perspectives. how does this impact? what i want to do and continue to bring that skill set i have and i am so proud of the -- to the discussion of federal government. we were a freshman class of amazing people. and we have stayed really close. and a half the class trust in me. i send out a newsletter telling that what we are doing and different members and making sure we keep that closeness. host: back to the people you
represent. how long would you like to serve in the house if they keep you? you ran for lieutenant governor at one point in michigan. do you have larger aspirations back home in michigan? rep. lawrence: i am living and working my dream job. i have been given this wonderful opportunity. i want to serve as long as the people keep me there. as long as i have the fire in my belly, i was telling my staff and walking down the hall and said, i never want to lose this sense of awe. i still stand here and think about the history. i never want to walk in just feel like i am in a special place. if i ever lose that, i am going home. if i am truly doing public work and taking care my constituents, i want to stay here. host: representative brenda lawrence, democrat from michigan.
freshman 14th district. , thank you for your time. rep. lawrence: thank you. on congressional freshman profiles series continues now with tom macarthur. he talks about efforts to bridge the partisan gap in congress. his family's charitable foundation. and his them impressions of washington, d.c.. this is about 20 minutes. host: congressman tom macarthur of new jersey, can you recall the first time you visited washington, d.c.? rep. macarthur: a great question. it was when i was a kid. the first time i really remember being here and taking it all in was not long after i was married. i came with my wife and before children.
i would say 33 years ago, 32. host: just as a visitor? rep. macarthur: just a visitor. host: what surprised you as being a member of the 114th? rep. macarthur: an incredible privilege to be part of the discussion and frame the issues and move our country forward and represent people back home in new jersey and do the right thing by them. i hope it never gets old for me. host: what is the makeup of the third district? rep. macarthur: southern part of new jersey, only one district out of 12 south of me. it goes from the delaware river outside of philadelphia clear , across the state to the ocean. side, the eastern ocean side of my district, 30 miles of the most beautiful part of the jersey shore line. in burlington county as you get
towards philadelphia, a lot of farmland and beautiful country. it is a great place, hard-working people raising their families. host: as you came here as a member representing, what were some of the issues top of your mind or constituents they wanted you to address? rep. macarthur: then and now, the economy. we have had a recovery that does not feel like a recovery. unemployment numbers are going down but largely because people are dropping out of the workforce or taking part time jobs and trying to hobble together a living. it is really unfortunate but not a recovery at all. that is what the people back home most want to see if togethergress work democrats and republicans, and , get it seems done to move our country forward. host: we saw news article that said it you have a regular
practice of entering the house chamber through the doors on the democratic side area why do you that? rep. macarthur: i started to do it just because sometimes you go in one side and sometimes the other side. i stop and talk to people. and ever since which is been really most of my time, i do it every time now. i see my republican colleagues at different events, social events, political events. we convene as a republican conference. i have plenty of opportunity to be with my republican colleagues and less so with my democrat colleagues. one of the things i observed, even before i took office during the orientation process, the partisanship is built into the dna of this place. if you are not intentional about overcoming it, you slip into being a republican or democrat with very little interaction. it may seem like a simple
gesture but an opportunity to get to know people. host: have you seen other members try to make that intentional effort of bipartisanship? rep. macarthur: yeah, there are classmates of mine that believe that we were sent here to make the place work and you cannot do that if you only focus on your own party. you can get away with it some of the time on issues perhaps that have broad support across party lines. on issues where it could go one way or another, it does not cultivate real, genuine relations with people and the , i think other party those are lost moments. host: tell us about your background and the experiences that you think trained you most or qualified you most for the position you are in now. rep. macarthur: well, i always said as i was running as a businessman.
the things that have shaped me and made me able to function and placefunction in this because it is a human , environment are not just business but further than that. i grew up in a middle-class family. my dad was a mid-level government worker. my mom was a stay-at-home mom with five kids. it was a pretty lively house. my mother was a very liberal democrat and my father was a very conservative republican. he has moderated a bit through the years, he is 85 now. my mom was a democrat and my father was a republican. we argued religion and politics around the table. i think it shaped me a lot. and i say mom, the mom that raised me. my birth mother died when i was four of cancer and my father had no insurance. i watched him work at least two jobs.
for most of my upbringing, three jobs. i did not know it but to pay for family to stay together and have a life. it took him until i was about 19 to pay off medical bills from my mother's death and she died when i was four. i watched his work ethic and it shaped my work ethic a lot. i got married out of college, 33 years ago. my wife and i had our first child was born with special needs. and that kind of grew me up fast. i was in my early 20's. we had to make a decision that nobody wants to make which is what to do. we found out in the fourth month of the pregnancy if she lived, grace, would have severe handicaps. that shaped me a lot in life. we had grace and she lived to be 11 years old. very, very difficult when she
died. very dark couple of years. we had adopted a child and another child about a year and a half after passed. -- after graseck past. grace passed. those are the things that make a person a person. the things that make me feel compassionate when i see people struggling. my life has not been all roses. and i think government cannot do everything but the government can certainly help. when i look at issues like health care or immigration or job creation and economy, all of the issues whatever you might think of for me, it is trying to find were government can help real people have better lives. host: given your background, your experience with your mom and health care, is obamacare getting it right?
rep. macarthur: unfortunately, i think not. i think free market is better. the intent is good and i think there are things i will keep -- i would keep like coverage for the kids up to 26 i think is good. pre-existing condition coverage is important. these are things that came out of the insurance industry and things insurance companies can model. i support that. i also believe we should have safety nets for those with no access to coverage. i think the federal government is the wrong place to do it. i think state plans like that would be a better place. i saw it. i mentioned i was in business and as the other major thing that shaped my life. host: insurance business? rep. macarthur: i got out of college and fell in love with my first job. i investigated insurance claims in the new york housing authority. it was an eye-opener. i grow been a farm town working on a neighbor's dairy farm and i
was transplanted into manhattan. investigating claims in the project. i really found it interesting. i ended up going into management and ultimately had a chance to run a very small company. and grew that from one office, 100 or so people to thousands of people. and i saw some things that helped and hurt. i saw where state and federal actions enabled us to do things and where it made it more difficult for us to do things. i learned to work with other people whether they agreed with me are not. that is how you get business done. sometimes i made acquisitions. i sat at the table with somebody was my opponent in the marketplace. and figured out what they wanted and needed so we could do a deal together. those things i think combined
with the things that have shaped me personally have given me the ability to actually get things done. that is what i hope to bring. host: politics became something of all calling for you became a mayor. rep. macarthur: i've always been interested in public policy and governments role. i studied history and focus on american social history of political history. and yeah, i ran for local office and actually became a local councilman and a deputy mayor and mayor. i really liked it and felt i was pretty good at it. i have solved some problems that have been unsolvable in a town, a small town, not small but midsized of 26,000 people. and then when the seat opened up, i decided i had something to offer and ran for office.
host: go back to your family for a moment. you and your wife set up a charitable foundation. what motivated that and what do you do with that foundation? rep. macarthur: my wife runs it. i am the secretary and treasurer. she is the leading person in that. we started to do well in business. i grew up with a sense that when you have been blessed, you have a responsibility and a joy in helping other people. we are trying to find out what to do with the things we had and we decided to create this foundation initially to help children. we named it igh charitable foundation. and maybe i will take a moment and tell you about the name. it is telling for how we thought about it. when i first suggested buying my
company from its owners at the time, i had the first meeting with them and i was running it already. they owned it. they were interested and i came back. you put your notes into a file and i gave a codename because i do not want to put acquisition of york. i gave it a codename igh. by the time i was done with the acquisition, i had file cabinets of these files, and it stood for in god's hands. i thought it was so far beyond my ability to buy a company. i did not have the money. i borrowed half of the money from the owners. we named the foundation that and wanted to focus on kids that were in difficult circumstances that might feel uncared about and wanted to remind them that they are in god's hands, too.
at the time, we focused on children and we build a school in africa that lost both parents to aids. and we did work in india for young girls being prostituted very young. their mothers were prostitutes and they are growing up in the red light district and wanted to get them out. we have given away now over 2200 wheelchairs in memory of our daughter grace. as time has gone on, we felt the need to do other things. we did a lot with disaster relief assistance. a lot with wounded warriors. and began to going to other directions. we still do a lot with children. and it has been a great privilege to be able to see kids getting help, people getting help. host: we are catching you in a couple of days before the end of the session.
before the august recess. light legislative day. what is a typical day for you here in the house? rep. macarthur: long. there is a mix of official duties like being at hearings or briefings and relationship building, i will spend time with other members. and try to get to know them and them me. getting my mind around the issues i am voting on. and while it is hard to get deeply involved in every issue, i will not vote on an issue without knowing why i am voting the way it is. even a suspension caused the rules have been suspended. even those, i have a need to understand what i am voting for. i will spend time on that. there are some political responsibilities beyond the official office.
we have to leave government property and go do that. there is a lot, a lot to it. host: how is your relation with the speaker boehner and his team? rep. macarthur: it is good. the speaker has been incredible helpful to me. when i was running and since in terms of giving guidance. i have spoken to him on a number of issues and he is been helpful politically and outside of the duties. host: your district is a tossup district. do you think leadership understands the political calculation you have to consider as you prepare for the next round? rep. macarthur: they do and i make sure they understand. i am a republican for a reason and so i vote in a way that a republican would vote much of the time. there have been key votes where i cannot support my party's
direction and tried very hard to make those known as early as possible. because i just think it is important part of being on the team. host: you say you are republican for a reason. your dad was conservative republican. your mom was pretty liberal. what about your mom's political views or your memory of her that you appreciate or you agree with? rep. macarthur: a few things. my mom had a healthy skepticism about the use of power. because it can corrupt and be abused. and i, i am very careful about the use of power. i was in my business and in this position. my mother believed government could be a force of good. i think sometimes maybe more so. i think she thinks there are things government should be
involved in are things i think are better left to the individual or state or local government. i certainly appreciate her strong conviction that government can help. and in fact, that is one of the reasons america is a wonderful country it is because of the form of government we have and how it has been implemented. host: if you had to give a grade to the government and hurricane sandy and fema? rep. macarthur: fema did some things that were incredibly helpful to the people in my district. if you have not been there, it is hard to imagine the devastation. houses that floated away. roads impassable. gas lines under the road that were bubbled up. fema did help. but there has been great disappointment as well.
it is 2.5 years later and there was evidence of fraud that came out where engineering companies were mismarking reports so fema could get out of paying the claims. fema knew about that in 2013 and -- in august 2013 and came to light a couple of months ago. that is atrocious. there has been, from my perspective, not enough accountability. for that reason, i called for the director's resignation because i felt they had really dropped the ball. i feel like they did a terrible job of helping my constituents understand the programs they were eligible for. in some cases, small business administration was making loans to individuals and normally they support businesses. they were supporting individuals and they were aggressively
offering them but never told the people if they would be ineligible for grants, the main kind of grants that allow people to rehabilitate and lifted their homes. i got thousands of people now who are ineligible for the grants they need. in fact, i have proposed legislation that would eliminate that. it would make a loan which has to be repaid in a secure not considered a grant which makes you ineligible for other grants. host: as you sit behind your desk, do you sometimes dread the knock on the door by your constituent? or is that a part of your job -- rep. macarthur: i never dread it. it is one of the greatest privileges. we have two offices. one in each county. i hired staff specifically to focus on serving those constituents. i wanted people able to get to know the federal bureaucracy
that had compassion for people that would not get frustrated and have been really proud of what we have done. we have helped veterans and people on social security that have been fighting in some cases for years to get the justice. because we got involved, people get checks for a few thousands. one case where we got somebody a check for $40,000 that had been denied to them. i never dread at that. it is what informs my proposal of legislation. most of the bills i've proposed have come out of interactions with my constituents. host: a couple of fun questions about your office. the broken skateboard on your wall, what is the story? rep. macarthur: that is my campaign manager who's now my chief of staff in new jersey. he is a skateboarder.