I interviewed North Dakota Rep.-elect Kevin Cramer yesterday about his election victory over Democrat Pam Gulleson, how one can compromise without compromising principles, what problems he thinks the current Congress will leave for the next Congress and what it’s like being a new member of Congress.
Cramer has always been seen as a very consistent and outspoken conservative, yet when many talk about what they’d like to see out of a member of Congress, the word “compromise” comes up a lot. I asked Cramer how you compromise while remaining principled.
He said a mistake many members of Congress make is trying to find out what the public wants and then being what they want. Cramer says his approach is to campaign on what he believes and if the voters elect him to take what he believes into Congress. He said that remaining principled, and consistent, can make many decisions in Congress easier. “It’s so helpful, as a practical matter, to have a bedrock set of principles on which to stand,” he told me. “They help you make decisions easier in the future.”
I also asked him about the ideological disparity in the outcomes on the North Dakota ballot. Even as North Dakotans gave him a wide margin of victory over Democrat Pam Gulleson they also gave a narrow victory to Democrat Heidi Heitkamp who in many ways is the opposite of Cramer in terms of ideology. Cramer explained it by saying voters sometimes have other priorities.
“Personalities matter,” he told me. “It’s not always philosophy or ideology.”
Speaking about the current Congress and the “fiscal cliff,” Cramer says he doesn’t expect much in the way of solutions. “Congress is going to kick the can down the road,” he said. “A short term fix with the hope that the next Congress will deal with it in the long term.”
Asked what solutions for the nation’s fiscal problems he might support, Cramer said “comprehensive tax reform.” When I asked him what that terms mean to him, he said a simpler tax code.
“I support a flatter tax code,” he said. “I don’t think tax fairness means the richest 2% pays way more.” Cramer expressed support for tax reform that includes a broader tax base, but lower overall taxes.
Asked what it was like going to Congress for the first time, and he said that the experience can be “overwhelming” but that, again, it’s made easier for someone with consistent principles. Cramer said he’s already voted on leadership, and is very interested in lobbying for appointments to influential committees. He said House leadership has said that no freshmen will be appointed to high-profile committees, which is in contrast to the last Congress which appointed several freshmen to influential committees including North Dakota’s Rep. Rick Berg who is finishing a term on the House Ways and Means Committee.