Rep. Emerson goes about her work
WASHINGTON - Since anthrax closed down Capitol Hill, Eighth District Representative JoAnn Emerson and her staff have conducted office business from a bench. They used their cell phones and laptop computers to keep in touch with constituents and government officials.
"We've gotten a fair amount done," observed Emerson in a phone interview having returned to her office in the Cannon Building.
But not everything is back in order. Emerson and other members of Congress along with the White House still don't have mail service. And she isn't sure when the mail - hers alone is some 1,500 letters a week - will be delivered to her Washington office.
"We are recommending that people call the district offices and or the Washington office. They can fax us a letter if they can or send an email," said Emerson.
The fax numbers for Emerson's offices are: Washington, 202-226-0326; Cape Girardeau, 573-335-1931; Farmington, 573-756-9762; and Rolla, 573-364-1053. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The representative is in hopes she will have the opportunity to eventually read the mail which is being held up in Washington, D.C., due to anthrax concerns. While some members of Congress are proposing destroying all the letters, Emerson said she would prefer authorities attempt to cleanse them, then deliver them.
Despite the worries about mail and the lack of office space, Emerson obviously was pleased with the work completed by Congress during the past week. She noted the House has completed all 13 of its appropriation bills.
The Patriot Act giving increased power to the government to fight terrorism passed Tuesday by a hefty bi-partisan majority, Emerson said. However, she noted, the economic stimulus package approved by the House went along a party-line vote.
"No one thinks that this is the final package," said Emerson about the stimulus package. "It is just a starting point for Senate negotiation. ...The House and Senate will duke it out in the near future."
The package includes a variety of proposals ranging from refund payments for those who filed income tax reports but did not have to pay any federal taxes to funding small business capital writeoffs to money for states with increased health and unemployment payments.
The overall goal of the package, according to Emerson, a Republican, is to provide money for citizens, who will spend it, getting the nation's economy out of its current slump.
Increased spending, in turn, would provide more tax revenue to the government, covering the cost of the tax incentives.
She did note if the President were to ask for increased defense spending, that could create a budget deficit. Emerson said she would support the president's request and she believes her constituents would as well.
Also she supports a bill putting airport security under federal control.
"This is not an issue that should even be a question. The safety and security of Americans who are going to fly is far more important to me than how much bigger government gets. I feel very strongly about this," said Emerson.
She added that others in her party are trying to get her to change her position. "They can twist (my arm) until it breaks but they won't change my mind about it," said Emerson.
Emerson said the placement of the workers under the federal umbrella would be funded under a $2.50 fee placed on each airline ticket. She estimated this would provided an additional half billion dollars annually to the federal government.
Her one concern would be that any bill making airline security a federal job would also include uniform training and accountability and would allow the federal government to fire any security employee who failed to properly perform the job.