By MICHAEL C. BAILEY
When he first ran for the 10th Congressional District seat in 2010, William R. Keating (D) vowed to be as much of an advocate for the Cape and Islands as his departing predecessor, William D. Delahunt.
Rep. Keating believes he has lived up to that promise, and is hoping that will help carry him to a second term. “I’m excited about what we’ve been able to get done,” he said, “and I see not only challenges ahead, I see opportunity.”
The former Norfolk County district attorney and state senator said his first term “wasn’t the easiest. It was a lot more of a heavy lift” due to such unusual challenges as three threats of a federal government shutdown and what he called “extreme Tea Party influence” on the issues and the process. “It was a very difficult Congress to work in.”
Nevertheless, Rep. Keating cited several accomplishments from his first term that were of direct benefit to his district, and he is highlighting these as he meets with voters in South Coast communities; in the wake of the 2010 decennial federal Census, Massachusetts lost one of its 10 districts, and the borders of the remaining nine were redrawn to compensate. Now the Cape and Islands is part of the Ninth District with the Fall River/New Bedford area — coastal communities that, like Cape Cod, have economies very much dependent on the ocean.
Among his achievements: securing millions in federal funding for local projects such as the Phase II access road to Barnstable Municipal Airport, SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency) Grants for the Hyannis and Falmouth fire departments, community development block grants for Bourne, an Indian Housing Block Grant for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, and a algae bloom research project at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).
Rep. Keating said the new “cranberry caucus” of cranberry-growing communities would be of interest to some of the inland towns that have joined the Ninth District such as Wareham and Middleborough. “That’s been well-received in this district,” he said, and he predicted that with the caucus serving as a direct advocate for the industry, “we will rival if not surpass Wisconsin for the largest cranberry industry in the world.”
He also spearheaded the effort by the state’s Congressional delegation to save 142 jobs on the Massachusetts Military Reservation, which had been included by the US Air Force in a $8.2 billion package of reductions affecting bases nationwide. “They didn’t really look at the function” of individual bases, Rep. Keating said.
An amendment he filed to defer cuts to non-air base installations failed, but the USAF is holding off on enacting any cuts until 2013.
That, Rep. Keating said, will give the base and the delegation time to illustrate the 102nd Air Operation Group’s value to national security. “They’re part of the whole global strike force, right here on the Cape,” he said. “It’s a necessary service. There is no other replacement for their function.”
Environment And Local Economy
Rep. Keating said if he is returned to office, he would continue working on major national issues that have an indirect impact on the region’s economy, starting with environmental protection.
“There’s been an attack on the kind of protections that are important, particularly for our region,” he said, and he has voted against measures that would weaken the federal Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. “These things would have an extremely harmful effect on protecting coastal areas…and those are the hallmark of our region.”
Rep. Keating also planned to continue playing a role in addressing Cape Cod’s ongoing water quality management efforts, and said as early as next month US Senator Jack Reed (D – Rhode Island) could unveil his long-in-the-works water quality management master plan for southern New England.
“We’ve been in contact with [Sen. Reed’s] office” about the plan, Rep. Keating said, “and we’re excited about the prospect of a Southern New England Restoration Council.”
That excitement stems not only from the project’s potential direct benefit to the environment, but its secondary effect on the region’s economy. “I think there’s going to be new industries springing from this” to handle water quality management projects, he said, from research to developing the technology to implement cleanup projects.
When it came to supporting job growth, Rep. Keating said he favored incentives, tax breaks, and subsidies for small businesses using American workers rather than for major corporations that outsource jobs overseas.
He disagreed that an onerous domestic tax environment and harsh regulation was driving businesses out of the country, and said the true culprit was generous tax loopholes that effectively encourage businesses to ship jobs — manufacturing jobs in particular — overseas.
Conversely, he said Congress has repeatedly failed to act on tax incentives that would attract foreign corporations “eager to invest in the U.S.”
Rep. Keating also planned to continue opposing subsidies for oil companies. The watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense has identified tax breaks available exclusively to the oil and gas industries that cost the United States an estimated $5 billion in tax revenue each year.
The congressman said he would maintain the Bush tax cuts only for lower and middle-class households, but would eliminate the cuts for individuals with personal income levels above $250,000 a year, which he said could reduce the deficit by $1 trillion over a 10-year period.
Model For Health Care
While Rep. Keating remarked on several national issues that have a trickle-down impact on Massachusetts and the Cape, he said the state and the region could in return serve as models for health care reform on a national scale.
“The Cape is a model for its health care systems and delivery systems,” he said. “People from other parts of the county will say, ‘What’s going on in Massachusetts?’ and I can point to the Cape area in particular as the vanguard of what’s going on in many of these models…we’re doing it all down here.”
He lauded the region’s community health care clinics for improving access, and Cape Cod Healthcare for working in cooperation with these facilities. “That’s not happening around the rest of the country,” Rep. Keating said, explaining that hospitals and clinics tend to view each other as competition rather than part of a comprehensive health care network.
Rep. Keating opposed any effort to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), often referred to as “ObamaCare,” but agreed the program needed some fine-tuning and adjustments in the areas of improving access, reducing costs, and increasing reimbursements to primary care physicians. “It’s still a work in progress…there will be adjustments.”
He added that Massachusetts’ health care reform law, often cited as a model for the ACA, has disproved fears that it would be a “job-killer,” stating that the state ranks fifth in job growth and has an unemployment rate two percent lower than the national average. “It hasn’t hurt Massachusetts at all.”
(The claim of Massachusetts being fifth in job growth is in question. US Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics data used by Governor Deval L. Patrick to make that claim was later adjusted for an over-estimation of new jobs created during Gov. Patrick’s second term. Various independent analyses of bureau data claim that job growth rates are in fact much better or much worse — as high as third in job growth and as low as 41st.)
An issue of particular concern to the Cape with its aging population is Social Security reform. Rep. Keating refuted accusations that, during a radio debate with primary opponent C. Samuel Sutter, he flip-flopped on a previous position on raising the minimum retirement age.
“There’s no inconsistency…the option of raising the retirement age is to me fatally flawed and remains so. That’s what I said last time, that’s what I believe now, and that’s what I’ll believe 10 years from now,” he said.
However, he said the Social Security system does need to be reformed, noting that current projections by the Congressional Budget Office indicate the program will exhaust a $2.5 trillion surplus by 2037. It expects to begin tapping into the surplus in 2018, and once the surplus is drained, assuming the system has not been reformed by then, the program’s annual revenue will be sufficient to cover only 75 to 80 percent of its obligations.
Rep. Keating’s preferred fix is to increase the “arbitrary” annual income ceiling from $106,000; workers only pay toward Social Security for the first $106,000 of income, after which point they stop contributing for the remainder of the calendar year.
Other Issues At A Glance
Opposes the Citizens United US Supreme Court decision that led to the creation of “SuperPACs” (Political Action Committees), wants to require all SuperPACs disclose names of their donors.
Supports Cape Wind, co-sponsored legislation providing incentives to offshore wind and renewable energy development.
Voted in favor of measures to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and set a timetable for withdrawal; wants to reduce defense spending by identifying and eliminating redundant and ineffective programs.
Pro-choice; voted against legislation that would strip all federal funding from Planned Parenthood; received a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood and NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) Pro-Choice America for his voting record on women’s issues.