Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rep. Runyan Retreats from the Pork, Perfidy and Poseurs in Congress

The Politico Magazine published a piece by Representative Jon Runyan (R-NJ 3rd) titled: “Fourth and So Long– I spent 14 years in the NFL.  Here’s why I’m quitting Congress after four.”  The two term Congressman from Southern New Jersey peppers his apologia with plenty of football analogies  to underline his anguish with trying to govern in the District of Calamity (sic).

While Runyon’s retirement had previously been announced in November, 2013, Runyan’s Politico piece on the eve of the NFL Pro Bowl and Super Bowl week, highlights how lessons learned from the gridiron and the rest of reality are ignored in Fantasyland on the Potomac.

Runyan railed against the lack of teamwork between the beltways.  Rep. Runyan revealed: 

Believe it or not, there are members of Congress who actually want to govern and get stuff done. Unfortunately, there are others whose agendas and strategies serve to advance their own interests and expand their donor base.

The former Philadelphia Eagle Offensive Lineman likened politicos advancing their own agendas rather than the general welfare as guys playing to get to the Pro Bowl rather than the Super Bowl.  But this indictment is not reserved for petty partisan politics.  Runyan expressed resentment at how views which he voiced in a closed caucus meeting about working together were leaked before the meeting even ended.

[L] Rep. Runyon surveying Sandy damage in Seaside Heights, NJ with [L] Vice President Biden and [R] NJ Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno
Rep. Runyan  also anguished over Congressional efforts to “restore the shore” after Super Storm Sandy hit the Jersey shore and New York in October, 2012.   The legislative vehicle which emerged from the Senate was laden with pork to draw votes, like for fisheries in Alaska.  When the House delayed its vote on Sandy relief into January 2013, Rep. Runyan took to the floor of Congress to say that his district was: “[G]round zero for Sandy and suffered horrific damage. My constituents and I are extremely disappointed  that at this time of need this Congress has failed to act.”  As  a pork free Sandy relief bill reached the House of Representatives, the bill earned 179 nay votes from the GOP, even though many of them  had previously asked for natural disaster relief for their districts. 

Another major factor which Runyan cites for deciding not to seek a third term in Congress is revolves around the sacrifice of family time to be in Washington.  This was recently echoed when  House Budget Chairman Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI 1st) was  interviewed by New York Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan.  Cardinal Dolan expressed admiration for Rep. Ryan’s commitment to that he would spend weekends at home with his family.  Rep. Ryan noted: “ I’ve turned down a lot things over the years which might have been good for the career, but not good for the family.”

Outside analysts may be tempted to attribute Runyan’s retirement to facing a hard re-election race.  While New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional is a nominally Republican swing district (R+1), Runyon has run well in it, winning by 13% in 2010 and by just under 9% in 2012 while still garnering 53% of the vote.  

Cynics might scoff at Runyan’s reason for wanting to spend more time with his family.  Yet reading the record in it’s entirety, Rep. Runyan made a compelling case for taking his place on the sidelines.  May his sentiments for working together and pursing the good of the public be an inspiration for others.  

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