All eyes on Congress

Will Perlmutter & Lamborn measure up? (Andrews in Denver Post, Dec. 3) Meet Diana DeGette, Mark Udall, John Salazar, and Ed Perlmutter, majority Democrats in Colorado’s congressional delegation. Meet Tom Tancredo, Marilyn Musgrave, and Doug Lamborn, minority Republicans in the delegation.

Last month these seven Coloradans were elected to represent the other five million of us in Washington. Next month they will swear an oath to the Constitution and join the most important legislative body on earth, trustees for the nation’s liberty, security, and prosperity – and for all mankind’s hope of freedom. We need the best each can give.

It’s odd, when you think about it: sending a handful of our fellow citizens off to the Atlantic seaboard to make laws for you and me here in the Rockies, to impose taxes on us and determine what the state gets back (only 79 cents on the dollar at present, chew on that). Yet as I argued here on Nov. 5, representative government in this continental republic has worked about as well as the Founders hoped.

It must work even better in coming years, however, if America is to avoid the historical pattern of great nations declining from softness at home and weakness abroad after a couple of centuries on the rise. Such is the challenge confronting Congress when Speaker Pelosi bangs the gavel in January.

Assembling at Washington in 2007, our House members won’t face the hazards of their predecessors at Philadelphia in 1777 – who risked a British noose – but the stakes are huge nonetheless. With party control shifting, the President beleaguered, the war going badly and our enemies emboldened, the world will be watching.

So should we. In the spirit of the season, I’m making a list and checking it twice, with a particular eye on the two freshmen, Ed Perlmutter of Wheat Ridge and Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs. I have respect for both from serving with them in the state Senate, and high expectations as they head east. Here’s my open letter to each:

************ Dear Ed: In Congress, please stay as you were in our judiciary committee days, a thoughtful man of conscience as well as a solid Democrat. Don’t go too party-line or too liberal back there. A draft, higher energy prices, and bugging out of Iraq aren’t votes Colorado wants you to cast. (Tell me you weren’t for Murtha as majority leader.)

You won’t likely desert your caucus as Nighthorse Campbell did, but do buck them sometimes, Ken Salazar-style. As for the budget, our state was getting $1 of spending for every $1 of federal taxes before my party took the House in 1994. Work on that, will you? – Your fellow May 1 birthday guy, John.

************ Dear Doug: Bravo for a gritty win despite treachery from Congressman Hefley and some other Republicans. Forward now with magnanimity; legislating well is the best revenge. Remember your bill that named the Ronald Reagan Highway, and fight as the Gipper did for the undiluted conservative agenda, economic and social issues alike.

Major in national security and the Islamist threat, befitting our military-heavy state and the nation’s peril in World War III. Champion missile defense; someone must. Keep pressure on the Dems, ally with the Republican Study Committee and Mike Pence (tell me you voted for him over Boehner), and stand with Tancredo and Musgrave. Colorado needs all three of you full strength. – Your brother in the battle of ideas, John.

************ Mail matters, a member quickly learns in the state legislature (where all of our congressional delegation once served) and on Capitol Hill. Your communication to their offices can help swing crucial votes. Write Santa for Christmas if you like – but for a happier new year, drop a line also to Diana, Mark, John, Ed, Tom, Marilyn, and Doug.