Congressman Frank LoBiondo Talks Leaving Congress and Representing South JerseyLast Edited:
Congressman Frank LoBiondo, the man creating the opening in the second congressional district, stopped by our SNJ Today studios on Thursday, August 9th, to discuss what issues he's been working on this year and what is coming up next for him now that he's leaving Congress.
A Republican, LoBiondo announced that he was not running for re-election last fall, and while he says there are many things he'll miss about representing South Jersey, he also says that he will still be working on the issues he cares most about.
For our full "Positively South Jersey" interview with Congressman LoBiondo click here.
Here is an excerpt from the interview:
Mike Epifanio: One of the biggest hot buttons for you during your time in Congress has been the treatment of our veterans. You serve on the House Armed Services Committee and that’s put you in a position to make an impact on our vets, especially with regard to their healthcare needs. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve successfully pushed for on that front?
Congressman LoBiondo: Well, it’s bothered me from the very beginning that our country has made promises to men and women who put on the uniform of how they’ll be treated when they separate from the military. In so many cases, we’ve failed and we haven’t honored those promises and commitments. And, specifically here in the Second Congressional District, where we are overseen by the Wilmington VA, we just had a series of broken promises. It seemed to me that the way to proceed would be for a veteran to have a choice of whether to go to the doctor or hospital of their choice or to go to the VA. The VA sort of agreed in principle, but they never did it. But within the past two years that’s changed dramatically. Thanks to a … team approach—Senator [Cory] Booker has been a tremendous help with this—we have now over 400 service provider agreements. That means that a veteran can make that choice—not only to any one of our major hospitals but any one of major healthcare providers. And we sort of capped that yesterday with another announcement where Rowan University will have their [medical] residents do training and provide services to our veterans here at our Vineland Clinic—right on Landis and West avenues. So we’ve really turned the corner for how we are treating our veterans and for the first time in decades at least our local veterans believe that we’re paying attention and trying to keep our promises.
Reacting to President Trump’s assertion that he did not believe Russia meddled in the 2016 election, you recently tweeted:
“I strongly disagree w/ statement that Russia did not meddle in 2016 election. With all I have seen on House Intel Comm. & additional indictments of 12 Russian officers last week, it is clear Russia’s intentions. President Trump missed opportunity to hold Putin publicly accountable.”
What evidence have you seen to prove the Russians did meddle in 2016 and do you fear more meddling in this November’s mid-term elections?
I do fear meddling in the midterm election—and by the way, not just from Russia, but from a host of foreign actors—but the Russians clearly meddled in our election. Did they change any outcomes of the election? No. But the meddling was clear. Our intelligence agencies have been able to prove this beyond the shadow of a doubt. I just think the President was wrong or misinformed.
A little more than a month ago, you voted in favor of the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act, a compromise immigration bill that ultimately failed to be approved by the House of Representatives. Do you have any confidence that Congress will pass meaningful immigration reform before the end of your term?
It’s an incredibly important, yet divisive issue. There are different groups that have different ideas about what has to come first—border security and how we deal with the immigration problem; how we deal with the DACA problem. But you’re right about the number of immigrants. My grandfather brought his family here when my father was just six years old. So I’m actually first generation. We all have similar stories. But it becomes very complicated, because some people are very emotional with it. There was a group of us who were trying to combine the border security issue along with how we deal with those people who want to come into the country and how to bring them in legally, how to deal with DACA, and the separation of families, etc. But it’s very divisive and I don’t see anything happening with it anytime soon.
You serve on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and you are the Chairman of its Aviation Subcommittee. Last month, you announced that more than $2 million in federal funding has been awarded for improvement projects and expansions at South Jersey airports, including a half million alone for the Millville Municipal Airport. Why are these funding awards particularly important for South Jersey?
It’s really about jobs and the economy. Under our aviation system we have something called the AIP—airport improvement projects. There’s a pot of money that is collected every year and then distributed. We’ve been very successful in my time as a member with tens of millions of dollars coming into our airports. But specifically, the opportunity for economic growth can’t be there if the infrastructure isn’t there. So, in the case of Millville and the general aviation airports that this money goes to, this is infrastructure money. This is money for runways... So we think it can produce results and I’m pretty proud we were able to add on to the long list of dollars we’ve brought back to the district.
Reflecting back to 1994 when you first set foot inside the U.S. Capitol as a member of Congress, and pondering your 12 terms, what are your proudest achievements?
First, let me thank the voters and constituents in the Second Congressional District for allowing me this great honor. For a kid who grew up on a farm in Rosenhayn to serve in the Congress of the United States has been a remarkable and very motivating experience. Constituent service is right at the top of the list. Helping people who really have a problem with the Federal Government; Having a turnaround for our veterans—those who have sacrificed so very much for us to live in this great nation. [And] working with first responders—police and fire—in helping them to be able to do their jobs better in a rural part of the state and a rural part of the country.
Nine months ago you announced that you would not seek re-election at the end of this term. You cited “political polarization”...
I struggled with the decision about running again, but we all have to pick a time and a place. Political polarization is certainly a part of it; there are a number of reasons that are involved. The climate today is so much different. The groups that oppose you, people who oppose you are so caustic, so abrasive. There’s nothing that’s off limits to them. My wife can be confronted while she’s out at a supermarket [by] somebody who just doesn’t like a Republican or the Republican Party. It was never that way years ago. I think the ability to work together to get results, which I’ve always tried to focus on and be oriented on, is something that seems to escape us a little bit more each year.
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