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Emerson Report 1.3.2013

A New Year for the Nation

America starts the New Year with challenges ahead of us.  We need leadership to match.

No one is more frustrated than I am at the way negotiations over the fiscal cliff first stalled and then fizzled.  At an hour where the common good of our nation is at stake, it became somehow impossible for our elected leaders to talk to one another, much less give the Congress something to vote on and the President something to sign.

This is not how democracy functions – in fact – democracy cannot function if disagreeable parties do not even state their grievances to the other side or to the people who sent them to fulfill that representative function in the first place.

But here is one area in which democracy, thank God, still functions well.

I’m very grateful for all the constituents of our congressional district who have taken the time to share their point of view with me on these important matters.  I have heard from people in southern Missouri who want taxes to go up for everyone, for no one, for the rich, and for the poor.  I have read the opinions, shared in letters to me and phone calls reported to me by my staff, of people who want spending cut, who want spending increased, who want less spending now or less spending later.  And I gather all these thoughts from people who write impassioned letters to me, as well as those who just check a box on a post card.

I think it is important for everyone to know that the views in our congressional district are diverse, broad, and often contradictory.  So I have to return to my obligation as an elected public official to act in the best interests of Southern Missouri based on my beliefs, which are the beliefs I held when I was elected to serve.

Always, in 16 years of service, I have been able to express those beliefs by voting, by offering amendments or by speaking up in hearings.  On agricultural issues, I have demanded fairness for rural communities.  On transportation issues, I have worked to bring opportunity – and safety – to our part of the country.  On tax issues, I have sought a system that promotes individual liberty, economic growth, and the decision-making power of Missouri families.  On national security, I have represented our district-wide desire to keep America safe, to provide for those who serve in uniform, and to maintain our power in the world.

But on the fiscal issues facing our country, all I can do to express the views of our district is to issue a public statement.  The negotiations are closed and fragile, and that’s when they are not falling apart.

Of all the letters which come to me, the best ones are those which acknowledge that the most important thing I can do for them and for southern Missouri is to make our case, listen to the other side, and choose a path forward.  Work together.  Find something we can agree on in our noisy Capitol.

Every citizen’s message to a public office has to be based on the expectation that their representative will carefully consider the good of their constituents before acting… but sooner or later they must act.  In the New Year ahead of our nation, one of two outcomes is possible:  Our leaders can come together to find areas of agreement in order to avert costly outcomes for our country, or we can accept the enormous public expense of bitter silence and intractable stubbornness.  It ought to be easy to choose, because only one option reflects the duty endowed by the public trust.