Altmire Leaves Congress, Won't Miss Partisanship
U.S. Representative Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) leaves office January 3 at noon when the 113th Congress begins. "I feel very good about my six years in the House," said Altmire who was defeated in the April Democratic primary by fellow incumbent Mark Critz in the redrawn 12th district. Critz then lost the November election to Republican Keith Rothfus.
Altmire said he ran for office in 2006 because he felt there was too much partisanship in Washington. While campaigning he promised to represent all constituents in the district and didn't want to be viewed as having "a D or R" behind his name.
"Every vote I cast I tried to strike a balance between learning as much as I possibly could about the policy itself and forming an independent and informed view and contrasting that with the views of my constituents and looking at what everyone had to say and what the entire district thought trying to strike the balance and casting an informed vote."
Altmire does not believe the partisanship is the worst it's ever been citing severe disagreements over everything from the Civil War to the Civil Rights era to Vietnam. He said the difference is the immediacy of technology "and that's a good thing but instead of people hearing about what happened in Washington the day after it occurs, they now hear about what's coming up," said Altmire. He added that, in tandem with gerrymandering of Congressional districts, is generating partisanship. "We elect partisans. Our system is designed to fill seats in Congress with people who are on the political extremes and that is not a formula for success."
The three-term Congressman believes most people want their lawmakers to get along, work together, compromise and get things done. "Unfortunately in the Congress, there are a lot more people on the political extremes as a proportion than there are in America."
Altmire said he's very proud of the constituent services his office provided. "One of the ones I remember most vividly is the trip to Haiti to rescue 54 orphans and the two constituents (Jamie and Ali McMutrie) who were running the orphanage after the earthquake in 2010. It was an experience I'll never forget or when I'm at the end looking back at my life, that's going to be one of the highlights of my life not just my term in Congress."
Altmire is also proud of 29 legislative initiatives that he authored and were signed into law, several having to do with helping military personnel and veterans. "Things that are going to impact real people--the only time the Family and Medical Leave Act has ever been changed, amended since its inception was my amendment to add military families so you can take time off to care for a wounded service man or woman."
Altmire will return to his health care industry roots. Before running for Congress, Altmire had been vice president for government relations with UPMC. After his term ends, Altmire and his family are relocating to Jacksonville where he will become the senior vice president for public policy and government and community affairs for Florida Blue. He says that company is taking a leadership role in key healthcare issues "reimbursing based on quality of care not quantity of care, improving access, the wellness activities of people who are insured and making sure that people can do what they can to prevent themselves from getting sick, and maintaining chronic health conditions in a way that's going to improve their lives."
In addition to the partisanship, Altmire said he will not miss the campaign fundraising.