Photo Caption: U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville
U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs displaced incumbent Zack Space in 2010 during the race for Ohio's 18th Congressional district seat. Now with seven months in office under his belt, Gibbs claims he's on his way toward accomplishing goals such as smaller government, less regulation and what he calls fiscal responsibility.
Ohio's 18th Congressional District includes a big chunk of eastern Ohio and includes the northern half of Athens County including the city of Nelsonville and other north-county communities such as Glouster and Trimble. Among its counties are Jackson, Vinton, Ross and Hocking counties in the southern part of Ohio, and Morgan, Guernsey, Knox, Coshocton, Harrison, Holmes and Carroll counties in the east and east-central parts of the state.
Speaking about his time in office during a recent interview, Gibbs, a Republican from Lakeville, pointed to his position as chair of a congressional subcommittee on water resources and the environment.
He said this committee has been active and that several bills have come out of it that he has either sponsored or co-sponsored.
Gibbs named H.R. 872: Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011 as a major bill that he has sponsored.
A summary from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) states that this bill would amend federal insecticide legislation and the Clean Water Act so that the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency would be barred from requiring a permit for various pollution discharges.
The bill has been held up in the Democratic-majority U.S. Senate.
"They are struggling to move any bills over there," Gibbs said. "That (bill) would overturn a bad federal court decision that puts a lot of burdensome costs on farmers and ranchers and municipalities. It would cut red tape. It's a good jobs bill because it would help the permitting process move along."
Environmental groups were sharply critical of Gibbs' bill, charging that it provides a carte blanche for polluters.
In a prepared release, Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, condemned H.R. 872. "We are appalled and deeply disappointed by today's passage of the so-called 'Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act' in the House," he said. "Contrary to Rep. Gibbs' claims that limits on pesticide levels in water would place unfair burdens on American farmers, this bill will risk the drinking water sources and health of all Americans, including farmers.
Brune added, "Right now, the U.S. Geological Survey shows pesticides in 92 percent of streams around agricultural areas tested. Another USGS study also found that 96 percent of all fish analyzed in major rivers and streams contained one or more pesticide. That's fish that we eat and water that we drink.
Another piece of legislation Gibbs has co-sponsored, he said, is the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011. This bill, according to the CRS, would also limit the federal EPA's ability to supersede a given state's own regulatory practices with regard to discharge of pollutants and other things.
Gibbs characterized it as limiting federal environmental overreach. This legislation has also been held up in the U.S. Senate.
"It's just amazing to me," he said. "We had (quite a few state EPA representatives) in over several hearings, and (heard) their concerns about the problems they've been having trying to work with the U.S. EPA to be able to do their job."
The EPA in June issued a strong defense of its enforcement of the Clean Water Act, and predicted that passage of the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act (H.R. 2018) will gut the Clean Water Act.
In legal analysis, the federal EPA said the bill "would overturn almost 40 years of federal legislation by preventing EPA from protecting public health and water quality."
The New York Times quoted from the EPA analysis, which said H.R. 2018 "would 'significantly undermine' the agency's role of overseeing states' establishment and enforcement of water pollution limits and permits. It said the measure would hinder EPA's ability to intervene on behalf of downstream states harmed by pollution coming from a state upstream. And it said the bill would prevent EPA from protecting local communities from ill-conceived mountaintop-removal and similar projects allowed to go forward under Army Corps of Engineers-issued permits."
Furthermore, Gibbs sponsored legislation that would extend the concealed-carry rights of gun owners to lands owned or managed by the Army Corps of Engineers.
"The number-one priority is to get this economy back on track and get jobs back," Gibbs said of his efforts in Congress thus far.
He pointed to nine bills sent from the U.S. House to the U.S. Senate that Democrats had not acted on as of this interview, and complained of the Democrats' inaction.
"How we create an environment for private-sector job creation is we have to get our fiscal house in order and we have to have common-sense regulatory reforms," he said.
He cited his committee's jurisdiction over the federal EPA as the reason why he has held a lot of oversight hearings on the agency.
"When I started, I really didn't know what to expect except to bring things up into the sunlight," he said.
Gibbs said that he had brought in the administrator of the federal EPA to testify before his committee and that he was able to express to her his concerns over the agency's actions. He said that the bill that would limit the EPA powers with respect to state agencies was a result of those hearings.
"The other thing we're doing too, that I think is neat, in the district, is that we've been holding community office hours every month," he said. "It's going really well. It's been great feedback. We're trying to accessible to our constituents."
Gibbs has a community office hours planned for the Nelsonville Public Library on Aug. 12, from 1-4 p.m.
BEYOND THAT, GIBBS LAST WEEK voted in favor of the debt ceiling compromise.
"The amended Budget Control Act of 2011 is not the ultimate solution to our nation's spending-driven debt crisis, but it shows how much we've changed the terms of the debate in this town," Gibbs said in a release following his vote. "Last year at this time, Washington was debating 'how much more can we spend.' But in November, the American people sent a new freshman class to Congress to change the terms of the debate to 'how much we can cut.'"
Gibbs said that the compromise bill reflects over $2 trillion in spending cuts and represents a victory against the status quo of Washington.
He said that this was the first time there have been significant cuts associated with the increase of the debt ceiling and praised that for being done without increasing taxes.
"Since day one, I have said I would not support a debt limit increase without significant spending cuts and reforms to reduce our debt," he said. "This realistic approach allows us to prevent the United States from going into default for the first time in history and cuts government spending by more than it increases the debt limit. It also imposes tough caps to restrain future spending without any job-killing tax hikes, and guarantees the American people a vote in both the House and Senate on a balanced budget amendment."
Gibbs stated that a Balanced Budget Amendment would be a long-term solution that will end the "fiscal insanity" in Washington and improve the long-term health of the United States.
Critics have charged that freshman congressional Republicans such as Gibbs, by refusing to consider tax hikes or closing loopholes in the tax code, are crippling this country's leaders' ability to seriously address its massive debt. They decry the unwillingness of Tea Party conservatives in Congress to compromise on these issues as being a key source of gridlock in Washington, and part of the reason the rest of the world is deeply worried about Washington's ability to control its deficits and budget process.