IRONWOOD — U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, is looking forward to his second term in Congress, despite a rocky start with the uncertainty surrounding federal budget cuts and a looming government shutdown.
“I don’t really see this as a Democrat or Republican thing,” Benishek told the Daily Globe in an interview Monday afternoon. “The House has voted on a few things, but the Senate hasn’t passed a budget in four years. That’s no way to plan anything. We’re governing from crisis to crisis. That doesn’t work either.”
Benishek also met with a group of two dozen citizens later Monday afternoon at the Lindquist Center on the campus of Gogebic Community College, echoing the same message. “We passed a measure that will halt Congress’ pay if they don’t pass something by April 15,” he said.
Benishek reported he has a couple new committee assignments. He’s now on committees for Natural Resources, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs.
He pointed to legislation on helping assist responsible timber harvest on federal lands as a highlight of his freshman term.
“There’s still more to do with timber sales. There’s all kinds of fixes out there. It’s all about jobs,” he said. “It takes eight years to get anything sold. Hopefully sitting on the Natural Resources and Agriculture committees will help this.”
Benishek said the Veterans Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on heath issues will hold hearings soon on medical staffing in the VA. “We hope to shed light on the fact they don’t have a staffing plan,” he said.
Benishek, 60, was a semi-retired physician working two days a week at the VA hospital in Iron Mountain when he ran for Congress in 2008. “It was good work. It was an honor to meet those veterans,” he said.
Benishek said he isn’t interested in running for U.S. Senate, as long-serving Democrat Carl Levin recently announced he would not seek another term in 2014.
Benishek is touring the central and western portion of the U.P. on a five-day weekend that also allowed him a couple days at camp. “That felt good. Just sit and watch the snow come down and watch the wildlife,” he said. “We’re back to Washington right away.”
While in Ironwood, Benishek also met with officials at Orvana Resources to talk about their proposed copper mining operation north of Wakefield.
“I congratulated them on their last permit. It looks like they hope to have mining up and going by 2015, and maybe 400 guys working out there next summer ... doing construction,” he said.
Benishek fielded questions on a variety of topics from the group at GCC, including government shutdown, federal budget cuts, gun control, the new health care law, the Environmental Protection Agency and VA benefits for those affected by agent orange.
Of the new health care law, Benishek said he wasn’t for it and figured more and more people would begin to agree with him “as health care begins to feel the weight of the bill over time.”
As for the EPA, he said he found the agency to be very political, especially when dealing with a proposed road for hauling mine rock in Marquette County.
On gun control, he’s all for the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms, but is troubled by the amount of gun violence and how easy it is for someone with mental illness to get a gun. “We need to enforce the laws we have now to curtail gun violence,” he said.
Benishek also made available his annual report, which can be read at benishek.house.gov/2012annualreport.