Allison Coccia (AC): Since we last spoke, there have been significant changes in the make-up of Republican Leadership in the House of Representatives. You were very vocal during the race for Speaker of the House. What do you think Speaker Paul Ryan’s election means for the caucus and future relationships within the House, Senate and White House?
US Rep. Charlie Dent (CD): Paul Ryan’s election as Speaker was a needed tonic for the House. He has the capability to bring together the disparate elements in the House’s GOP Conference, but it won’t be an easy job. The political and governing dynamics that resulted in the resignation of John Boehner and the failed ascension of Kevin McCarthy remain in play. Unfortunately, there are some members who have a difficult time with affirmative governance. Speaker Ryan is very intelligent, and he knows what he will be facing.
One of the things he’s already done that is helpful was to form an advisory committee made up of different elements of the Party. It’s a chance to air things out and find areas of agreement.
I was honored when Speaker Ryan asked me to serve on this Committee.
AC: In light of the change in leadership, can you tell us what the GOP agenda will look like moving forward?
CD: We must focus on growing the economy and creating jobs. It’s a necessity for us to fix the broken tax code, reform onerous regulations and increase North American energy production and infrastructure.
A growing, dynamic economy, along with better education opportunity, is the best antidote to income disparity. The cherished idea that upward economic mobility is attainable in our society has long been a point of pride for all Americans. It is our solemn duty to ensure that future generations enjoy the same sense of optimism that their parents and grandparents enjoyed.
AC: Many Members of the Pennsylvania delegation have risen to senior and chairmanship roles on influential committees like Transportation, Energy and Commerce, and Appropriations. Can you talk a little bit about the importance and clout of the Pennsylvania delegation and how you work together on policy?
CD: We make a good team and we have a great deal of clout. Start with the fact that we have Rep. Bill Shuster chairing the House Transportation Committee, which is great for the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania is well-represented, from both sides of the aisle, on the so-called “A” Committees – Appropriations, Energy & Commerce, Financial Services and Ways & Means.
We work well together on everything from transportation projects to funding formulas. Certainly, my GOP colleagues and I tend to vote together on key issues, and that adds to our leverage when negotiating with House Leadership.
I greatly appreciate having been assigned to serve on the House Appropriations Committee and being named the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. It’s allowing me to fight not just for Pennsylvania’s veterans but for all of America’s veterans.
AC: What are your thoughts on the future of the U.S. economy and our stability? What critical decisions must be made and why?
CD: We must address America’s long-term debt. We also need to undertake some fundamental fiscal reforms by addressing unsustainable entitlement programs and a broken tax code.
Lurching from crisis to crisis is also something that must end. Budgetary certainty and stability are essential to economic growth and job creation.
AC: You mentioned the need to address the broken tax code. What changes or fixes would you like to see?
CD: I think that the overall tax rates, on both individuals and businesses, are too high and the tax code is too complex. This must be changed. One way this could be achieved is by simplifying the existing code, which has become far too complex as a result of decades of changes focused on niche special interests. Our focus should be making the system fairer, flatter and simpler.
We should also work to make filing processes simpler and more straightforward. The Taxpayer Advocate Service estimates that Americans spend 6.1 billion hours a year just preparing their taxes. That’s mind-boggling and it needs to change.
I believe there is a bipartisan desire in the House and Senate to address these woes.
AC: Back at home, you have long been known as a champion of small business. Can you give us a sense of what, if any, regulatory relief might be coming down the pike?
CD: And I’m very proud of that too. Thank you! The House has passed some strong, sensible legislation to stop the introduction of a number of job-killing regulations. We’ve also proposed that regulations be economically feasible. In other words, we are trying to stop regulations that are so costly the only way to meet them would be to shutter a business. Think Dodd-Franks negative impact on community banks, as an example.
Unfortunately, the Democrats in the Senate have the ability to keep these reasonable bills from even being debated.
AC: Speaking of regulatory relief, many rural banks have been struggling in the current environment facing burdensome regulations and fearing consolidation. Your district is varied geographically and has urban, suburban, and rural areas. Can you tell us your thoughts on the importance of community banks in your district, particularly for those in rural communities?
CD: Community banks provide real access to credit for small businesses and consumers. Dodd Frank is threatening the viability and survival of many community banks that are under tremendous pressure to merge or consolidate with larger institutions in order to avoid compliance costs.
AC: Switching gears to the 2016 Presidential race. It is a hot topic on many people’s minds these days. What do you think of the current field and what kinds of things do you think a Republican candidate must do, from a Pennsylvania perspective, in order to win the White House?
CD: The Republican candidates must bridge the gap between the establishment and populist wings of the Party and then present an optimistic agenda for the future.
This interview can be found featured in the December 2015 issue of Transactions. Not a subscriber? Visit the Transactions page on this website or call PACB at 717-231-7447 to start receiving the magazine.