Published October 31. 2012 4:00AM
Congress would work far more effectively if every congressman took the approach of U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney. Seeking election to a fourth term representing the 2nd District, Rep. Courtney has shown the ability to forge bipartisan partnerships where it makes sense, while remaining true to his core values.
In East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica, his Republican challenger, the incumbent Democrat faces a popular and effective local leader. Mr. Formica, however, has run a lackluster campaign, unable to use the respect he enjoys in southeastern Connecticut as a springboard to a serious run for Congress in the large district that covers the eastern half of the state.
Most fundamentally, Mr. Formica has not made the case as to why 2nd District voters should make a change.
When Rep. Courtney first took office in 2006, his Democratic Party held majority control of the House. Rep. Courtney was able to parlay that into a coveted seat on the House Armed Services Committee, an impressive feat for a freshman. He used that position to secure funding for construction of two submarines annually at the Electric Boat shipyard in Groton. Rep. Courtney also fought to secure funding for the design work on a second generation of ballistic-missile carrying submarines to replace the Ohio-class ships.
Voters should not underestimate the role "Two-Sub Joe" has played in assuring that EB remains one of the state's largest industrial employers. And though Republicans took control of the House in 2010, Rep. Courtney has led the effort of the Connecticut delegation to continue adequate funding for submarine construction, making the case that replacing decommissioned submarines is vital to national security and forming alliances across the aisle with Republicans.
But the incumbent congressman does not shy from a good fight. Since his time representing Vernon in the Connecticut House of Representatives in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Rep. Courtney has been an advocate for extending health care coverage for all. In backing the Affordable Care Act, even when it was politically unpopular, Rep. Courtney showed he would not compromise core values. As a result young adults can now stay on family health plans through age 26, senior citizens have greater access to preventive health care and are seeing the Medicare "donut hole" shrink, and soon health insurance will be available to tens of millions who now must live without it.
This is a working congressman. He has led two international economic trade missions that opened export markets to Connecticut manufacturers. The incumbent helped launch the bipartisan Dairy Caucus in the House and worked to make sure agricultural legislation protects the state's small dairy farmers. Rep. Courtney secured funding for small-business incubation centers to help grow jobs. He obtained $80 million for infrastructure improvements at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton which, when combined with state funding, is improving the viability of the base and reducing the odds of a future attempt to close it.
Questioned on addressing the growing national debt, Rep. Courtney said he is open to a compromise that includes both reforms to reduce the growth of entitlement programs and income tax increases for the wealthy. Unfortunately, the pledge many Republican lawmakers have taken to never raise taxes has made budget compromise impossible, the congressman told us.
Like most Republicans seeking federal office, Mr. Formica vows to the repeal the health care act. And like many other Republicans he offers no clear alternative, opting for vague references to "consumer-friendly reform" through a "free-market approach" and "tort reform." These are talking points, not policy.
Mr. Formica said the country's large deficit spending is his greatest concern and, to his credit, has not signed any no-tax-increase pledges. Any solution must start with reducing federal spending, he said. We believe Mr. Formica would be an effective fiscal conservative in Congress, one who would not allow rigid ideology to get in the way of solutions.
That, however, is not reason enough for the district to replace a committed and effective congressman. The Day enthusiastically endorses the re-election of U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney.