On The Right Track
Four weeks into his new job, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker is brimming with excitement.
The freshman congressman is elated with the direction the Republican-led House is going to reform tax, regulatory and health care policies.
He is delighted by what he sees as a united GOP front and an incoming class devoted to working together in a bipartisan way.
And he’s enjoying the spike in public input his office receives as protests across the country, including in Lancaster, greeted President Donald Trump’s efforts to fulfill his key campaign promises.
“The volume of calls that we’re getting here is quite a bit more than what it was in the state Senate, and I’m thrilled with that,” Smucker, 53, told LNP in an exclusive, sit-down interview at his Capitol Hill office last week.
“We’re dealing with issues that are important to every constituent in the district so we are always open to input and having that kind of dialogue,” said Smucker, a West Lampeter Township Republican with Amish roots, who won the election in November promising to make the American Dream accessible to all.
In succeeding 10-term U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts, he became the first Lancaster County resident to represent the 16th Congressional District since former Rep. Bob Walker retired in 1997.
Now with new offices in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington and on South Duke Street in Lancaster, Smucker is settling in and enjoying every step of the way.
He has put together a staff filled with some longtime congressional aides. He has taken 78 votes and participated in hearings for his assignments on the committees on the Budget and Transportation and Infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Smucker, who spent eight years in Harrisburg as a state lawmaker, is looking for an apartment in the Capitol Hill area, hoping to settle on one in the coming weeks.
Keeping up with the president
Smucker has plenty to keep up with as President Donald Trump continues a full-steam-ahead approach right out of his inauguration.
“Things come at you (at a) pretty rapid pace. I’m learning that,” Smucker said with a laugh. “Particularly with this administration. This is a president who is here to get things done, and he works hard and he’s going from one thing to the next.”
One week after Trump’s inauguration, Smucker attended the GOP’s retreat in Philadelphia as they concocted their legislative agenda for the year ahead.
His takeaways, he said, were that Republicans are on the same page —even if they don’t agree on every issue — and that they will be moving to fulfill what they see as a mandate.
“We believe that we’ve been elected to move the country in a certain direction and we’re moving down that path, so it’s exciting,” he said.
Among that agenda, Smucker, as a member of the House Budget Committee, has already taken a vote to to begin dismantling parts of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature health care law that Republicans have vowed to replace.
Smucker said it will “be a pretty dramatic reform,” but one he thinks will be an improvement for everyone.
“The system is falling apart as it currently is … Over the next few weeks, month, we’re coming right around and making sure that we’re reforming the system that we have today,” he said.
But not all of Smucker’s more than 700,000 constituents are thrilled with a repeal and replace, or with the president’s order to temporarily suspend the nation’s refugee resettlement program that Smucker said he supports.
In recent weeks, a group called #LancasterStandsUp has rallied outside his office to oppose the congressman’s stance on the health care issue, along with immigration and environmental stances. They followed-up by sending him more than 150 notecards describing their “Lancaster County values,” — cards that he looks forward to reading, his spokesman said.
“I will continue every chance I get in the district to interact and meet with people and hear people,” he said.
No stranger to hearing the opposition, Smucker, as a state senator in September 2015, had 600 union-backed protesters show up at his former office on North Prince Street to rally for a Marcellus Shale drilling tax for state education funds. At the time, he came out and greeted them, trying not to get drowned out by their chants as he spoke to them.
If he had been in his new office when 300 #LancasterStandsUp members showed up, he said he would’ve done the same thing.
“If I had been there, I’d have been outside.”