Wamp says GOP majority comes with responsibility

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com
 
   JOHNSON CITY -- U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp is excited about the Republican's success in the House and Senate races on Tuesday.
   He also is adamant that the party's newfound majority can't be squandered on partisanship, but must be used to get things done.
   "It's nice to have the country say pretty clearly that they trust my party's leadership in the White House and in Congress," said Wamp, R-3rd, who was the keynote speaker at the Tennessee Valley Corridor Fall Summit held here on Thursday and Friday.
   "I hope that our party doesn't take this the wrong way, because the pressure is now on for us to accomplish some things."
   Top issues that should be on the GOP's to do list include a prescription drug benefit plan, patients' bill of rights legislation and a bill establishing a national energy policy. Many bills enacting these issues have languished in Congress for up to four years.
   "The pressure in now on for us to succeed," said Wamp who noted that prescription drug coverage was a frequent issue his constituents brought to him.
   The prescription drug package that the House approved in June would cost $320 billion over a decade.
   Wamp drubbed Democratic challenger John Wolfe in Tuesday's election capturing 64 percent of the vote in the 3rd District race.
   A member of House Interior Subcommittee, Wamp and colleagues oversee land management agencies, our national forests and parks, research at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Native American educational and health programs.
   He is also a member of the Energy and Water Subcommittee. The Energy and Water Subcommittee is where the money will come from to replace the deteriorating Chickamauga Lock in Chattanooga and to finish the $1.47 billion Spallation Neutron Source in Oak Ridge.
   Wamp was the first Tennessee congressman since 1920 to be appointed to the House Appropriations Committee The Committee has jurisdiction over the approximately one-third of the federal budget known as discretionary spending.
   According to congressional reports, 11 spending bills totaling roughly $400 billion await passage for the government's $2.1 trillion overall budget.
   Wamp said citizens he talked with didn't expect everyone to have a "Cadillac package" when it came to prescription drug coverage. "But they expect people of lower income to have one and they want it now," he said.
   Wamp said he would be urging his colleagues to fight for conservative principles but work toward compromise to give President Bush the opportunity to sign "landmark legislation" into law.
   "I believe if we have the kind of year next year where we're willing to negotiate and compromise and bring clear-thinking Democrats and independents along with us, this could be real shift politically," Wamp said.
   "We could expand our majorities and re-elect President Bush if we have some successes to hang our hat on.
   "If we get caught up in any politics that keeps things from happening they could come back at us and say 'you didn't do it.'"
   He also felt the party's window of opportunity was short with the 2004 presidential race looming.
   "If we don't act in 2003 and make some progress, this could be not the blessing that it originally appeared to be ... it could be a curse," Wamp said. "I believe it is going to be a blessing, but we are going to have to deliver."
   Wamp spearheaded the creation of the Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit in the early 1990s that has sought to capitalize on the science monoliths of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Space Center in Huntsville, Ala., to foster economic growth through technology.
   At the summit, Wamp spoke of three "major missions" -- homeland security, health care and energy -- where the corridor's technology base could provide new investment opportunities for our region.
   "When you look at the new challenges the free world faces, our region has tremendous potential to grow industry and create jobs and export this technology right out of good ol' East Tennessee," said Wamp.
   Cooperation among the region's economic development agencies has taken precedence in Wamp's efforts to develop the corridor, which targets an area from Huntsville, Ala., through Tennessee to Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Va.
   "The concept of regionalism is not a fad, it is a long term shift in the paradigm," said Wamp.