U.S. Rep. David Rouzer recently marked his first 100 days in Congress, but he might see his first controversy in the coming weeks.
Rouzer plans to introduce far-reaching pieces of legislation on two hot-button issues: education and welfare reform.
The first bill “basically dismantles the federal Department of Education,” Rouzer said.
That agency receives about $62 billion annually. Rouzer wants to return that money to the states, based on the idea that state lawmakers and local school boards know their own needs better than Washington bureaucrats. His plan would allow local leaders to decide how to spend those federal dollars. One school district, for example, might want to raise teacher pay; another might need to build classrooms.
Rouzer sees eliminating the Education Department bureaucracy as the primary benefit of his plan, but he acknowledged that many on Capitol Hill will disagree.
“There will be some that are strenuously opposed to it because they believe the federal government ought to be involved in education,” he said. “I personally think, nationally, you can chart the demise of education with the federal government’s increasing role in education.”
How much money North Carolina would receive under the legislation remains undetermined, Rouzer said.
The second bill in Rouzer’s pipeline would require recipients of welfare benefits to undergo drug testing.
As a North Carolina state senator, Rouzer said, he tried to pass similar legislation but failed because he ran into federal regulations. Now that he’s in Washington, Rouzer said he wants to address the issue at the national level.
Most jobs require workers to pass drug tests, Rouzer noted, and he thinks the government ought to expect the same of people who receive food stamps and other benefits.
“We ought to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not going to subsidize a drug habit,” he said.
If a welfare recipient fails a drug test, Rouzer said the government could help the person get the help needed to break the habit.
Rouzer said he will introduce both bills in the next few weeks, once his office works out the final details.
First 100 days
For his first 100 days in office, Rouzer said the top priority was staffing his Washington office and offices in Smithfield, Wilmington and Bolivia.
In that period, Rouzer said, his offices handled 345 requests for help from residents, answered 14,926 letters, scheduled 27 tours and made contact with more than 69,500 people.
“I always tell my staff, anybody who comes to us with a legitimate need, if they’ve got a problem, that means we’ve got a problem,” he said.
In Washington, Rouzer has introduced two bills. One would create the designation of “American World War II City.” The Secretary of Veterans Affairs would award the title each year based on a city’s participation in the war effort and its efforts to preserve that history. The bill would name Wilmington the first recipient.
The second bill, the No Hires for the Delinquent IRS Act, would forbid the Internal Revenue Service from hiring workers until all of the agency’s existing employees settle any “serious delinquent tax debt.” Rouzer said the idea came to him after reading a news report that many IRS employees owe back taxes.
With the agency looking to hire 9,000 workers to enforce the Affordable Care Act’s tax provisions, Rouzer said he thought it made sense to tie the two matters together.
“That’s the agency that’s focused on ensuring that everybody else pays their taxes, and it seems a little hypocritical to me that the agency as a whole would look away when their employs are delinquent on paying their own personal taxes,” he said.
Since taking office, Rouzer said, he has flown home to his district each weekend. He lives in the McGee’s Crossroads community.
Going forward, Rouzer said he will focus on supporting agriculture, increasing domestic energy production and finding new funding for infrastructure projects.
“If we get those three right, we can be prosperous at home and strong abroad,” he said.