Northern Virginia Technology Council members played witness Friday to a rarity in today’s politics – a federal lawmaker from one party praising a colleague from the other side of the aisle.
Speaking at Sprint’s headquarters in Reston, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) called U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Dist. 10) an independent voice of reason in the deeply divided House, saying the veteran Republican has epitomized what it means to be a public servant in his more than three decades in Congress.
Wolf sent shock waves through the region in December when he announced he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2014. He was first elected to the House the same year Ronald Reagan won the presidency.
“There is nobody I’ve worked with in politics – Democrat or Republican – that was more representative of what it meant in my mind to be a Virginia legislator, or a Virginia public servant,” Warner said of the Republican congressman.
More specifically, Warner thanked Wolf for his attempts to craft compromise on the federal budget.
Both lawmakers have bucked their respective parties during the years-running debate on the budget, with Warner saying he’s willing to consider reform to entitlements and Wolf being open to slight increases in revenue.
“Frank Wolf has been an independent, clarion call voice of reason on this budget long before it was cool,” Warner said. “ … I can’t imagine what would be a better send-off present to Frank than if we can somehow generate that grand bargain in this last year and call it the Wolf budget deal.”
Wolf was one of only 18 Republicans in the House who voted for the failed Simpson-Bowles debt-reduction commission’s proposal in 2012.
Following remarks from Warner about the need for a balanced approach to solve the nation’s budget woes and reform the tax code, the Republican congressman commented, “Everything he said, I will just say ditto.”
“Everything has to be on the table,” Wolf said. “ … We spend $4.2 billion a week on interest. Not infrastructure, not roads, not cancer research, not research on Alzheimers, but interest.”
Neither Wolf nor Warner expressed much optimism, however, that a grand bargain-type budget deal will be struck this year.
The federal health care law, immigration reform and creating a national infrastructure financing authority were also topics hit on at the NVTC-hosted event.
Warner, who is up for re-election in 2014, has been the target of Republican attacks for his vote to pass President Obama’s health care law.
“Obviously the roll-out was a fiasco,” Warner said. “ … I remember when I voted for this bill, I said this is a very imperfect piece of legislation, and it’s going to need to get fixed. But the status quo, I thought, was going to bankrupt us.”
On immigration reform, which he supports, Warner said it’s an “issue of economic growth” and “a race for capital and for talent.”
Wolf and his colleagues in the House have yet to take up an immigration reform measure passed in the House last summer.