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Optimistic Garrett hoping for return to a House majority
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Optimistic Garrett hoping for return to a House majority

Republican Scott Garrett carries his reelection campaign to voters at a diner in River Edge. Photo courtesy Garrett for Congress
Republican Scott Garrett carries his reelection campaign to voters at a diner in River Edge. Photo courtesy Garrett for Congress

Even though 2010 is supposed to be a “Republican year,” Scott Garrett said he “takes nothing for granted.”

But the four-term District 5 congressman would say that he is “reasonably optimistic.”

As for the Republicans retaking control of the House, “the polling certainly seems favorable.” If voters agree, that would mean the chairmanship for Garrett of the Capital Markets Subcommittee of the House Banking Committee.

Should Republicans take control, he expects “we will try to move legislation to repeal the health-care bill entirely,” he said in an Oct. 6 phone interview. “My guess is we can get the votes to do that in the House, but President Obama will not agree with us. Will we try to do some other reforms? Yes. We’ll have to see whether President Obama will start doing what he promised, and that is to work with the other side.

“He promised to do that two years ago, and he has not done it.”

Garrett rejected criticism by his Democratic opponent, Tod Theise, that he supported policies that led to the financial crisis (see related article).

“He just doesn’t know my record,” said Garrett. “My record was one of speaking out loudly with regard to the potential of a meltdown in the markets, particularly with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. From day one I said they were systemically risky, and they could collapse. I was unsuccessful, in large part because of the Democrats’ side of the aisle and some people on my side of the aisle.”

Garrett’s conservative bona fides are strong. He is the only one of New Jersey’s five House Republicans to receive a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union. Unlike his GOP colleagues from New Jersey, he voted in line with the ACU position in opposing the Cash for Clunkers program, which enabled the Department of Transportation to buy old cars and their owners to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Garrett also voted to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood’s family planning services.

He has received a 99 percent rating from the Club for Growth, a conservative organization that opposes much government spending and supports lowering or eliminating capital gains and corporate income taxes, as well as the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

But Garrett said he took issue with some of the last administration’s fiscal policies.

“People who know my record know I even opposed President Bush when he wanted to spend too much,” he said.

The Wantage lawmaker said he had disagreements with the former president on foreign policy issues as well.

“I disagreed with Bush on some things and spoke out against him on Iraq, of trying to leave such a large footprint. In Afghanistan, with the difficult situation we find ourselves in, I wish we had a clear simple solution to the problem. I don’t think we do. This administration’s setting artificial timelines can create more problems than it solves.”

But, Garrett said, he hoped that the Obama plan for withdrawing troops from Iraq “will come to a better situation than it was.”

Little optimism

Garrett said he is “trying to remain optimistic” about the Middle East peace process.

“But the history there is not one to promote optimism. The irony is on the one hand, the Palestinians want more time on the settlement construction freeze as a precondition to going forward. But I’m sure Israel is saying, ‘We have preconditions, too, as far as what is going on with Hamas and the perpetual threat and its attacks on Israel, and the holding of Israeli soldiers hostage.’”

Garrett said he would support another moratorium on settlement building “if I was confident that it would accomplish something. But I don’t know if there was another week or month or whatever it would necessarily change the dynamics and the outcome of the situation.”

As he looked at the internal debate now raging over the direction of the GOP, Garrett said, “I don’t know if the official Tea Party is endorsing anybody at all, but the Tea Party is not all Republican. They are a cross-section, and a lot of the people I talk to say they support me.”

As for Tea Party-backed Republicans in other states who are receiving negative publicity for some of their questionable past statements and extreme positions, Garrett said, “I’ll let the voters in those states decide whether those candidates are tuned in to what is important.”

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