House leaders Neal, McGovern unfazed by GOP takeover of chamber

  • U.S. Congressman Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, speaks to reporters from the atrium at the U.S. Courthouse in Springfield Friday morning. CONTRIBUTED

Staff Writer
Published: 11/20/2022 6:53:48 PM
Modified: 11/20/2022 6:53:39 PM

SPRINGFIELD — Both western Massachusetts representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives have held powerful posts for the past four years, overseeing the chief tax-writing committee and the committee that determines the rules by which bills come to the floor for votes.

While Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, and Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, will be in the minority party when the 118th Congress begins in January, and thus are losing their chairmanships of the Ways & Means and Rules committees, respectively, both are confident they will have opportunities to continue passing legislation.

“My approach will be the same: Where we can find accommodations on behalf of the American people,” Neal said during a 30-minute press availability at the atrium at the U.S. Courthouse in Springfield Friday morning.

Neal acknowledged there will be challenges in having a GOP majority, including that a number of representatives who opposed certifying the result of the 2020 presidential election remain part of the legislative body.

But Neal said he will continue to oppose any extension of the Trump-era tax cut bill, which he said didn’t promote economic growth and only benefited the wealthy.

Any legislation opposed by Democrats, he said, will not make any headway with a continuing Democratic majority in the Senate and Democrat Joe Biden as president.

Speaking from Washington, McGovern, too, said he is ready to work together with his colleagues and will continue to fight for the region, and will support legislation so long as it aligns with the priorities of his constituents.

“But if they want to enact a radical agenda, if they want to pursue the (Georgia Republican Rep.) Marjorie Taylor Greene agenda, I will fight like hell to stop them,” McGovern said.

Neal said even while in the minority party, there is an opportunity for bipartisan achievements, and his approach to serving the region will not change.

During his leadership of the Ways & Means Committee, Neal said there has been what he calls “seismic legislation,” including the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, the Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act and legislation to save the U.S. Postal Service.

He also pointed to the Inflation Reduction Act that is providing billions of dollars in tax credits that will be fighting climate change.

“It is receiving rave reviews everywhere,” Neal said. “America kept its word in a big, big way.”

Many of the accomplishments of the Democratic-run Congress will continue paying dividends in the years to come, they said.

“Most of what we’ve done is in the stage of implementation,” Neal said.

That is a point McGovern also makes.

McGovern cites the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and American Rescue Plan Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act, which are providing lower prescription drug prices and combating climate change.

“Congressman Neal and I will be working with the Biden administration to make sure these resources and benefits are coming directly to western Mass.,” McGovern said.

That while the state’s delegation will be in the minority, Democrats overcame challenges often faced by a president’s party in the midterm elections. “We come back feeling pretty good,” Neal said.

“I do think the result of last Tuesday that election deniers were soundly defeated across the country,” Neal said.

McGovern said the razor-thin majority for the GOP in the House is an accomplishment for Democrats.

“Democrats defied history in the face of an onslaught of lies and dark money,” McGovern said, and will mean efforts to cut Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, and a national abortion ban, will be nonstarters. “The election showed that voters don’t want lies and cynicism,” he said.

More important than holding the gavel, McGovern said, is being on the right side, though he worries there could be constant investigations that Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy will not prevent.

“My problem with Kevin McCarthy is he stands for nothing,” McGovern said. 

Neal said there are unknowns with how Republicans will approach leadership. “A lot of things will be based on the tenor of the time in which we live,” Neal said

Neal said he understands that oversight is a constitutional responsibility, but he believes interest in topics such as Hunter Biden’s laptop will wane over time, and that if there is overreach the voters will not be happy. “The public understands proportionality,” Neal said.

Both cite the need for passenger rail that connects the region to Boston as a priority. Neal said it’s just a matter of getting a plan in place to use some of the $9 billion in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act coming to Massachusetts. That spending will be guided by incoming Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey.

“The money is there,” Neal said. “It’s a fait accompli.”

Neal began his discussion with reporters by reflecting on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, praising her leadership, calling her the most important House speaker in history, and that he was not caught by surprise at her announcement of stepping down due to his longstanding relationship with her.

“As one of her confidants, I had a pretty good idea of what was coming,” Neal said.

He praised Pelosi for leading the members of the House back into the Capitol at 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 7, the day after the insurrection, calling that her “finest moment.”

“After the institution was under assault and she marched representatives back in, we calmly voted to certify the results of the election,” Neal said.

Neal said he also personally offered Pelosi congratulations.

“I said to her yesterday, ‘We’ve had a great run, Madam Speaker.’”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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