Partisanship was on display in Washington this year, as the House Republican and Senate Democratic majorities tangled on various issues ranging from the debt ceiling to payroll tax cuts.
But in an interview Thursday recapping his first year in office, Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Barneveld, said he has tried to stay away from the partisan battles and work with members of both parties.
“So many members on both sides go out there and treat it as if it’s a war between the shirts and the skins and that’s somehow what they’re supposed to do,” he said.
“I don’t believe that for a minute. I think that’s exactly the opposite of what they’re supposed to be doing. My job is to go out there and get things done.”
According to the Washington Post’s congressional votes database, Hanna has voted with the House Republicans 85 percent of the time. Only 11 Republicans (out of 244) have a lower percentage. Hanna has voted for key Republican priorities, such as repealing the health care law and the GOP budget proposal. But he broke with most of his Republican colleagues to vote against extending three Patriot Act provisions and opposed efforts to defund National Public Radio and Planned Parenthood.
Hanna teamed up with Rep. Tim Bishop, a Long Island Democrat, to create the New York Defense Working Group focused on the state’s defense and military interests.
He joined with Rep. Kathy Hochul, another New York Democrat, to introduce legislation that would open up the H-2A visa program for foreign dairy workers.
“I go to work with somebody like Bill Owens or Ms. Hochul, pick a member. They look at me and say, ‘What can we do? How can we help you?’ I work with Mr. (Maurice) Hinchey and I work with Mr. (Paul) Tonko (both New York Democrats).
“ I’m a genuine partner where I can be. I’m not treated as an enemy. I’m treated as a colleague and as someone who is thoughtful and adds to the conversation,” he said.
Hanna introduced nine bills in 2011 and three of the measures passed the House. One bill he sponsored, the Civilian Service Recognition Act (which he introduced with Hinchey), was passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Barack Obama in December.
“If you spend your time working, you can get work done. That’s what we do. We’re down there, we’re serious about what we do, we show up early in the morning and we’re there until late at night. We pick up the doable,” he said.
Aside from legislation, Hanna takes pride in the area of constituent services. He said his office has closed 1,300 individual case files and answered about 55,000 emails and letters. Hanna has three full-time district offices, including one in Auburn.
Hanna said he treats this as a project and runs the office like a business — a “business that has 700,000 constituents,” he said.
“At the end of the day, if somebody comes to me and they say, ‘You took care of my dad,’ or ‘You took care of my sister,’ whatever it is, if I get a letter a week where somebody says thanks for handling this or a letter to the editor, that makes my day,” he said. “The letters from people — that’s what matters.”
As the calendar turns to 2012, an issue that likely will have an impact is redistricting. New York will lose two congressional districts when districts are redrawn and Hanna’s 11-county 24th Congressional District could look different — and have a new number — beginning with the 2012 elections.
Hanna isn’t sure what redistricting will mean for his district but says regardless of what happens, he will run again. And while there is uncertainty, Hanna hopes Auburn remains in his district. “I’d like to keep Auburn. I think the people of Auburn, it’s a fairly Democratic community, but I’d like to think we have done a good job of representing Auburn. We have certainly spent a lot of time out there and I’d like to keep it. I’d like to keep the district exactly the way it is if I could. Whatever happens, happens. I don’t have a lot of control over it.”
Online producer Robert Harding’s Eye on NY column appears Sundays in The Citizen. Head to auburnpub.com/eyeonny to read his blog. Harding can be reached at 282-2220 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding