Editor's Note: Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican, represents the 3rd District of Utah in Congress and is appearing in CNN.com's "Freshman Year" series, along with Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado. Read Polis' commentary here
Jason Chaffetz says his trip home reminded him that his job is to represent Utah to Washington.
(CNN) -- It was good to spend a week at home. It marked the first time I have been able to spend any substantial time at home and in my district since starting my freshman year in Congress.
I love being back in Utah. I can see how people get "Potomac Fever" and become intoxicated with the drama, pace, and intensity of the Washington lifestyle. It's an amazing experience to be in the middle of so many high-stakes decisions.
But at the end of the day, my heart is in Utah. I keep reminding myself that I need to remain grounded in the fact that I work for the people of Utah, not the people on Capitol Hill. I vowed to represent Utah to Washington, not the other way around. Watch latest "Freshman Year" episode »
My schedule was a mile-a-minute back home in my district. I met with three local chambers of commerce, addressed the Utah House and Utah Senate in separate meetings, met with six local mayors, visited with Gov. Jon Huntsman, dropped by a local newspaper, did a ribbon cutting for my new district office, spoke at "career day" in my daughter's seventh-grade class, spoke at a legislative "Eggs & Issues" breakfast twice, was briefed by the Utah National Guard, participated in three radio programs and filmed a 30-minute interview for the local ABC affiliate's Sunday morning television show "On the Record with Chris Vanocur."
While the pace is frenetic, my enthusiasm is undiminished. I love my job. I remain upbeat about the future
The hottest topic with my constituents was the "stimulus." The chances of finding someone who supports the stimulus in my district were slim to none. Many were angry about the vote and wanted intricate details about how and why it passed. It became clear that had I voted for the stimulus I would be in grave danger of losing my job!
As I met with local business leaders and small-business men and women -- the furnace that fuels our economy -- I had to be candid. The stimulus bill simply provides very little relief for them. They create 70 percent of the jobs, yet there is not much for them in the stimulus. This is the tragedy of the bill. It rewards failure and punishes success. It "stimulates" government, not the economy.
While the stimulus package may be the highest-profile topic in my district, we have other issues that have lower stakes, but greater significance in the rural counties of Utah. I met to discuss vital land and water issues, such as the Gooseberry Narrows project for Sanpete County and the Snake Valley water dispute with Nevada. These are not as glamorous as other projects, but nevertheless they are critical for the district. These are issues on which I plan to spend quite a bit of time.
The highlight of the week at home was attending my daughter's seventh-grade class for "career day." She was mortified that Dad might embarrass her, but she assures me I accomplished my mission without humiliating her. I was probably more worried about that talk than any I have given on the floor of the House of Representatives!
It is still difficult to be away from home night after night, so spending a week at home in the district was fantastic. On Sunday I had to head back to Washington despite it being my wedding anniversary. Thankfully, I have a very understanding wife and we were able to celebrate on Saturday.
Arriving back in Washington, we dived right back into the heart of the issues. To be on the seventh row in the House of Representatives to witness President Obama give his first address to a joint session of Congress was a great moment. I agreed with some of his speech and disagreed with other parts. Yet, I think we all agree on the imperative need to do what is right for America -- we just disagree on what to do and how to do it. Thus, the debate continues.
Now that the president has presented his vision for America at the joint session of Congress and unveiled his budget, the fireworks are sure to begin. Republicans, myself included, are arguing it is too much big government, while the left is arguing they are cleaning up the Bush mess. They want us to move toward what I believe is accurately referred to as socialism.
The day after the president's speech, we were asked to vote on a $410-plus billion spending package. The president had called for appropriations without earmarks, but this bill had more than 9,000 earmarks. The 110th Congress never did finish the appropriations bills for fiscal 2009. So we were asked to vote on this bill that carried earmarks from the guy I had defeated in the primary to obtain the Republican nomination.
I vowed during the campaign I would not ask for earmarks in 2009, as we need to clean up this mess and find a better, more transparent way to appropriate money. Certainly, it is the Congress' constitutional duty to allocate money, but the common earmarking process is seedy, fraught with conflicts and simply not good government. We need to ensure the process has maximum visibility with full disclosure.
I also have serious concerns with the president's budget. He said he would not raise "one dime" of taxes on 95 percent of Americans. This is simply not true. His budget calls for hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxes in the form of a carbon tax, he has already raised taxes on cigarettes and he supports bringing back the so-called "death tax".
Certainly, all three of my committees (Judiciary, Natural Resources, Oversight and Government Reform) will be dealing with the multitude of issues spurred by the submission of the president's budget.
Democrats have control in the House and the Senate, so they can roll right over the Republicans, but we, too, were elected and will hopefully be part of the process.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jason Chaffetz.
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