The Republican Editorials
Massachusetts residents, when asked to list the state’s most bountiful resources, are unlikely to put congressional seniority on their list.
As local business people were reminded last week during a trip to Washington, the Massachusetts congressional delegation has become among the most powerful, if not the single most powerful, group of lawmakers in the nation’s Capitol. Springfield, as the home base of veteran Congressman Richard E. Neal, its former mayor, is in a particularly strong position to benefit.
As a story in today’s Business Monday section reports, Rep. Neal last week hosted 42 members of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield. Neal, first elected to the House in 1988, is a senior member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and could become its chairman in the near future. He’s also chairman of the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures.
In an unspoken recognition of “Richie” Neal’s powerful influence over virtually all spending bills in Congress, the Springfield business people had the benefit of hearing from a parade of the powerful Democrats who really call the shots. These included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland. The group also heard from Massachusetts representative Edward Markey, who has been in Congress since 1976 and chairs the key committees on energy and the environment, and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, now the 14th most senior senator and the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Another key Massachusetts veteran is Rep. John Olver of Amherst, who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.
As our front-page story last Monday reported, the Pioneer Valley currently is home to $1.3 billion in major construction and repair projects, many of which benefit greatly from the influence of our congressional delegation, and of Rep. Neal in particular.
There would not be a beautiful new $70 million federal courthouse on State Street, for example, without the congressman’s passionate push for the project. As Sen. Kerry told the Springfield Chamber visitors, it wasn’t an accident that Massachusetts received a staggering $5.5 billion in stimulus spending. What would our state and local economy look like today without that help during this terrible recession?
Neal, and the other veteran lawmakers from Massachusetts, are traditional Democrats for sure, but as many members of the local business community recognize, they also understand the need for federal investments that aid the growth of local businesses, build long-term infrastructure, and put people to work in their districts. While the federal budget can rightly be criticized for some “earmark” appropriations that support outlandish special projects in some districts, it far more often provides crucial dollars for vitally important projects that help communities and cities coast-to-coast.
Ideology aside, it’s a practical fact of American political life that the city of Springfield and the state of Massachusetts are in extraordinarily good position to benefit greatly if Richie Neal and his veteran colleagues continue to be re-elected, and if their party continues in the majority.