2007.02.18: February 18, 2007: Headlines: Figures: COS - Nepal: Politics: Congress: Iraq: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Rep. Jim Walsh wants his constituents to know he got their wakeup call when they nearly sent him packing in November

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nepal: RPCV James Walsh (Nepal) : Special Report: RPCV Congressman James Walsh: 2007.02.18: February 18, 2007: Headlines: Figures: COS - Nepal: Politics: Congress: Iraq: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Rep. Jim Walsh wants his constituents to know he got their wakeup call when they nearly sent him packing in November

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-249-83-39.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - 70.249.83.39) on Sunday, March 04, 2007 - 7:25 am: Edit Post

Rep. Jim Walsh wants his constituents to know he got their wakeup call when they nearly sent him packing in November

Rep. Jim Walsh wants his constituents to know he got their wakeup call when they nearly sent him packing in November

Since returning to Congress last month to begin serving his 10th term, the veteran Republican lawmaker has become an outspoken critic of President Bush's plan to send 21,500 more American troops to Iraq to serve in a war that has become hugely unpopular in his Democratic-leaning district. He was among the 17 Republicans who voted Friday to pass a nonbinding measure opposing the Bush plan. Congressman James Walsh of New York served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal in the 1960's.

Rep. Jim Walsh wants his constituents to know he got their wakeup call when they nearly sent him packing in November

Near loss spurs new Walsh

Onondaga Republican strikes more moderate pose in Congress

Erin Kelly
Gannett News Service


(February 18, 2007) WASHINGTON Rep. Jim Walsh wants his constituents to know he got their wakeup call when they nearly sent him packing in November.

Since returning to Congress last month to begin serving his 10th term, the veteran Republican lawmaker has become an outspoken critic of President Bush's plan to send 21,500 more American troops to Iraq to serve in a war that has become hugely unpopular in his Democratic-leaning district. He was among the 17 Republicans who voted Friday to pass a nonbinding measure opposing the Bush plan.

Walsh, of Onondaga, Onondaga County, also has reversed his longstanding opposition to strict gas mileage standards for automobiles in response to a message from upstate residents that he needs to take the lead on national environmental issues.

And he has voted for nearly all the Democrats' early legislative priorities, from a higher minimum wage and lower drug prices for seniors to greater investment in renewable energy and cheaper loans for college students.

Those votes came after Walsh voluntarily stepped down as a Republican whip a member of the GOP leadership team charged with rounding up votes for his party's side. He said he didn't want to have to organize support for bills he sometimes doesn't like himself.

On top of all that, Walsh this month will reach out to his constituents in a way he hasn't in years by holding town hall meetings throughout the district this week when Congress is on break. The schedule includes meetings in Webster and Penfield.

"During the campaign, the Democrats spent $2 million trying to portray me as a clone of the president," Walsh said in a recent interview. "I'm not. I've always felt that I can and should be independent. But I wasn't vocal enough about it. That's going to change."

Now that he is in the minority party in Congress, Walsh said he believes he and other moderate Republicans are freer to vote the way they want.

His transformation from low-key moderate to outspoken maverick is what political science professor Robert McClure of Syracuse University calls "a testimony to why elections matter."

"Jim Walsh heard what the voters had to say and he's responding," said McClure, who teaches at the university's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. "That's what representative democracy is all about. The voters disciplined Jim Walsh in the last election. Jim's no dummy. He got the message."

Walsh said that doesn't mean he's given up his principles. The Irish Catholic congressman remains adamantly opposed to Democratic efforts to expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, which he sees as the destruction of human life.

"I have certain very basic conservative principles on things like abortion, embryonic stem cell research and gun control that I feel very strongly about," Walsh said. "You have to be true to your values."

However, Walsh acknowledged that voters convinced him to come out strong against the Iraq troop buildup and reverse course on stricter standards to make cars and SUVs go farther on a gallon of gas an action that can help reduce global warming. Walsh is co-sponsoring a bill to require cars, pickups, minivans and SUVs sold in the United States to increase their average miles per gallon from 25 to 33 within 10 years.

Walsh said he opposed such efforts in the past because he has a company in his district New Venture Gear of East Syracuse that makes transaxles for SUVs, which generally get poor gas mileage. Most SUV makers oppose mandatory fuel efficiency standards.

"I tend to be fairly parochial, so I felt I was just looking out for a local company," Walsh said. "But by doing that, I wasn't putting any pressure on Detroit to do something to affect climate change. People told me I needed to look at the bigger picture. And they're right."

Environmental groups have cheered Walsh's conversion, but not everyone is happy about his more liberal bent.

"If the congressman is making a switch to the left because he had a tough time in the election, he could wind up alienating his conservative base," said Michael Long, chairman of the Conservative Party of New York State. "He runs a high risk of causing himself trouble in the future."

On the flip side, Democrat Dan Maffei, who narrowly lost to Walsh in November, said he is glad to see Walsh opposing Bush's Iraq policy and voting for minimum wage. But he is still skeptical.

Maffei, who may run again in 2008, said Walsh should vote against giving Bush the money to send more troops to Iraq. Walsh said he isn't prepared to cut off funding at this point.

"He clearly heard the voters' message, but now he's got to do more than just talk the talk," Maffei said. "We'll be watching."

EKELLY@GNS.Gannett.com




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Headlines: February, 2007; RPCV James Walsh (Nepal); Figures; Peace Corps Nepal; Directory of Nepal RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Nepal RPCVs; Politics; Congress; Iraq; New York





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Story Source: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Figures; COS - Nepal; Politics; Congress; Iraq

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