When I review how the framers of the Constitution wanted our government to be established, I realize that the House of Representatives, is truly the People’s House – a House that should be composed of farmers, businessman, and yes, even doctors. Those making the laws that impact our daily lives should have experience living and working in the communities that they represent.
My entire professional career has been dedicated to serving the people of our community. While for the first 25 years I have done so as a doctor, my ability to listen to patients and problem solve has me prepared me for this next endeavor. With prayer, guidance from my wife and family, and the overwhelming support of the constituents I have been elected to serve the people of Pennsylvania’s 13th District in a new way, as their voice in Washington. But before I could even be sworn into office, the government shutdown started and I saw right away why so many people are constantly frustrated with Washington gridlock.Democrats, who have supported funding for physical barriers in the past, blocked any effort to negotiate with President Trump on his multiple immigration compromises. They opted to put politics over securing our border and paying federal workers.
Given that I was new to DC budget standoffs, it was confusing to me why the Democrats did not keep us in session every day until we could hammer out a solution and move on to other business. It was my desire to begin working and getting things done.
So as we waited for Democrats to come to the table with little votes to take, I vowed not to waste any time – that’s the type of attitude you have when you come from the private sector.
At the beginning of January I embarked on a mission to visit all of PA-13’s ten counties in the first month. Tour after tour, meeting after meeting; from businesses, hospitals, schools, police departments, rehabilitation centers, veterans facilities and factories – I’m proud to say I made at least one stop in every county that I represent.
The core of my activity in the district was a healthcare listening tour. As a doctor, I have seen first-hand how much healthcare costs have skyrocketed and I am making it a priority to address the issue in Congress. Getting input from healthcare providers, patients and medical institutions on how to do so was incredibly important.
Through my visits to nine medical centers in south central Pennsylvania, I also learned that our rural healthcare providers are having trouble retaining top talent because of the lack of partnerships they have with local medical schools.
Pennsylvania has more medical schools than any other state and we need to do more to keep our great medical students at home so we can enhance the quality of care we are providing. The creation of programs that provide funding for students to work and train in their hometown hospitals is something I am already hard at work on.
Another aspect of my trips to all ten counties included many visits to small businesses.
Whether it was Sheetz, Volvo or Altoona Pipe and Steel, I wanted to meet with as many job creators as possible so I could understand what type of pro-growth legislation I should take up in my new post on the House Committee on Small Business. A better roadmap for some of the regulations we need to repeal and trade deals we need to make is something I have certainly come away with during the last month. But the work I have been able to do so far has not just been confined to the district – I have also acted on some bipartisan issues in Washington as well.
On January 30th I partnered with Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) on letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner (FDA) urging the agency to enforce regulations regarding the proper labeling of dairy products. For far too long dairy farmers in PA-13 have been struggling because plant-based imitators have falsely labeled their products as milk. Stricter enforcement of milk labeling will give consumers proper nutritional information and will help revive the dairy industry. And while high-speed internet access can be taken for granted in many of America’s metropolitan centers, I recognize that rural areas in our district still do not have the infrastructure necessary to provide it. That is why I joined the Rural Broadband Caucus. As a small business owner, I know how hard it is to grow and expand without such a critical resource and I have enjoyed beginning to work on making broadband more readily available. So while the border standoff may have made it feel like Washington is in chaos, I want my constituents to know that important tasks are being undertaken every day.
The outsider you sent to Congress is not interested in waiting around for the typical political processes and posturing to play out, I am already hard at work.
This is the type of attitude that I hope to bring to Congress every day – the mindset that there is always something to be done and members of the community counting on me to do it. So whether it be addressing challenges in our healthcare system, promoting policies that spur growth and entrepreneurship or working across the aisle to assist our dairy farmers, I want you to know that, with your help, there is no problem I will shy away from trying to fix. Together, we can continue to change the way the People’s House works and no one can shut us down.
U.S. Rep. John Joyce represents the state’s 13th Congressional District in Washington, D.C.