Mr. Smucker goes to Washington, and we all get a lesson in citizen engagement

January 5, 2017
In The News

THE ISSUE

Republican U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker of West Lampeter Township was sworn into office Tuesday as a member of the 115th Congress. He is just the fourth person in the last half-century to represent the 16th Congressional District, which covers most of Lancaster County, as well as parts of Chester and Berks counties. He succeeds Congressman Joe Pitts. Smucker spent eight years in Harrisburg as a state senator.

The 115th Congress got off to an inauspicious start, with its flap over the Office of Congressional Ethics.

When news broke that some GOP lawmakers were seeking to defang their independent watchdog, concerned Americans jammed the phone lines of their representatives in Congress. Some were spurred by a tweet from President-elect Donald Trump decrying the timing, though not the substance, of the GOP move.

And the proposal — approved the night before the 115th Congress, and Smucker, were sworn in — was squashed. Indeed, it was squashed with Smucker's help: He was among those who voted against the proposed rules changes regarding the ethics office.

The fallout may have overshadowed his first day as a congressman. But the upside? The episode illustrated the power Americans wield when they contact their representatives in Washington.

Smucker has a solid record of listening to his constituents, so it perhaps was more a lesson to all of us: Our civic responsibilities aren’t confined to voting — we must remain engaged.

Smucker has shown he welcomes citizen engagement — he was a champion in Harrisburg of online voter registration. And as a state senator, he was responsive to constituents’ concerns.

He and state Rep. Keith Greiner worked to strengthen Pennsylvania’s anti-DUI measures after Meredith Demko, a Lampeter-Strasburg graduate, was killed by a driver under the influence of heroin and alcohol in July 2014.

He worked as a member of the Basic Education Funding Commission to develop a fair funding formula for the commonwealth’s public schools.

And he showed political courage when he sought to pass legislation that would have allowed immigrant children who graduated from high schools in the commonwealth to pay in-state tuition at state universities.

The LNP archives contain praise from readers hailing Smucker’s support for veterans and military families, his record of going to bat for people with developmental disabilities, his intervention to improve safety on a local road.

We urge him to continue to work for his constituents, to keep any promises he makes, to resist the urge to perpetually campaign — common among U.S. representatives, whose terms last just two years.

Smucker’s upbringing should ground him in Washington, where people often are overly impressed with themselves and their own influence.

He was born into a family that was Old Order Amish in his early years. He was the first in his family to attend high school; he paid his tuition at Lancaster Mennonite High School by hanging drywall at night for his brother’s business. He bought that business when he graduated and ran it successfully for some 25 years.

He vows to remain a presence in Lancaster County. His 16th Congressional District office is in this county, where most of his constituents reside. We hope local residents will continue to see him at county events.

He told the LNP Editorial Board in October that eradicating poverty would be among his priorities in Congress. As we noted then, we appreciate his focus on the need for family-sustaining jobs, as it reflects an awareness of the realities facing too many people here in our county.

He also expressed support for the legislative agenda of Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. Part of that agenda is to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

We hope that as Congress embarks on that path, Smucker remains in touch with the concerns of his constituents. Many will cheer the revocation of “Obamacare,” but others will be anxious to know what will replace it.

The Republicans have most of the clout in Washington now, but Smucker is not the type to get heady with power. He’s unflashy and hard-working. We hope his low-key style works for him as he works for us in D.C.

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