New 1st Congressional District Republican Rep. David Davis was mostly a "no" vote on key bills during House Democrats' so-called "100 hours" opening legislative package.
Under the leadership of incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrats pushed through bills raising the minimum wage, expanding taxpayer-financed research into embryonic stem cells, directing the federal government to negotiate for cheaper Medicare prescription drugs, repealing a tax break for oil and gas firms, and lowering interest rates on subsidized student loans. The bills now await action in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority.
Of those bills, Davis said he voted only for lowering interest rates on student loans.
"A lot of these bills sound very, very good," said Davis, R-Johnson City. "They are good talking points for the majority party. The reality is some of the legislation is ill-intentioned and poor policy."
Under both House and Senate bills, the minimum wage would rise from $5.15 to $5.85 an hour 60 days after it is signed into law by the president, then to $6.55 an hour a year later, and to $7.25 an hour a year afterward.
Davis stressed the increase could hurt workers.
"If you're a small business owner and you're forced to pay more than you can afford to pay, you have to eliminate that job," Davis said. "That harms the employee more than the employer."
Davis added an amendment to allow small businesses to band together to form health insurance pools was defeated.
"People tell me ‘I need access to good quality health care,'" Davis said. "The Democrat majority would not allow that amendment to go on the legislation."
Concerning his "no" vote on the stem cell issue, Davis said that voting for the measure would have been a vote to destroy life.
"It already is legal to use embryonic stem cells. ... There have been 72 diseases that have benefited by using adult stem cells. There have been zero benefits that have come out of using embryonic stem cells where life is destroyed," Davis explained.
Davis claimed the Medicare prescription bill would have the potential to restrict drug access for seniors.
"On top of that, the benefit would go totally to mail order (prescriptions), and it would put many small hometown pharmacies out of business," Davis said. "That's not good for the economy and health care of East Tennessee, especially with us just starting a pharmacy school (at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City)."
On the measure to repeal a tax break oil and gas firms received in 2004 that effectively lowered their corporate tax rates, Davis said he was voting against a tax increase.
"That bill would have raised over $7.7 billion in taxes," he noted. "Typically businesses don't pay tax increases. Individuals do. That tax increase would have been passed on to people when they fill up their car ... and it would make us more dependent on foreign oil.
"I have consistently favored quickly finding alternative energy sources to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and to alleviate the economic pressure on the consumer. I am not convinced that this bill is the way to go."
The bill, however, to cut interest rates on insured college loans from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent over the course of five years won a "yes" vote from Davis.
"It would save about $65 million to the federal government and those who have graduated from college," Davis said. "That was a good piece of legislation."
For more about Davis go to www.daviddavis.house.gov.