Congressman Tim Burchett this month sent an oversized postcard to the hundreds of thousands of people in our district; he was touting his actions in the U. S. House. If you look very closely at small print, you’ll see this bit of self-promotion was done at taxpayer expense. It was done at the start of an election year through abuse of a congressional perk known as the franking privilege.
Burchett, of course, leaves out a lot—so, as the declared Democratic candidate for the same job—let me fill in the gaps. To begin, our congressman left out his most ignominious vote. Just hours after insurrectionists invaded our Capitol and assaulted police, Burchett gave the mob the truth-denying and democracy-destroying vote they wanted. The peaceful transfer of power is an important American institution, but Burchett damaged it for cheap political gain.
TDOT calculated that Tennessee’s share of the infrastructure bill included $1.3 billion in federal highway funds, $302 million in bridge repairs, $300 million in airport improvements, $88 million for electric charging stations, $630 million for public transportation improvements, $697 million for improved water infrastructure, and $100 million to bring expanded broadband access to 400,000 Tennesseans. Burchett voted against it. He also voted against the COVID Relief bill that was vital to economic recovery.
Our congressman has cast some very dubious votes, many of them hurtful to women. He voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, extending programs that seek to prevent and to respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. A bipartisan group came together to support a bill that employers should make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. Burchett voted no. He also joined a lawsuit supporting Mississippi’s law to restrict women’s reproductive freedom.
Burchett bizarrely brags about sponsoring a bill to prohibit vaccine mandates for essential workers at a time when it is crucial to assure that essential workers are vaccinated for their own health and those of us they encounter, engage, or treat.
On my website, markharmonforcongress.com, I outline a more uplifting agenda for our community. We need to reward work with a $15 an hour minimum wage. Our students should be rewarded and inspired by a dramatic increase in college grants. Our health care plans need to have a public option.
I’d be happy to argue the merits of our contrasting views of the future, but Tim Burchett needs to agree to televised debates. I suggest a minimum of two, perhaps one in a town hall format. So far, he has ducked the question. He appears to be relying on party label and a mountain of corporate campaign cash. He twice did the same thing with his previous opponent Renee Hoyos. In the interest of informed public debate, we cannot let him get away with it. It’s up to all of us to press him on the point.
Mark Harmon is a professor of journalism and electronic media at the University of Tennessee, and a Democratic candidate for U. S. House, Tennessee District 2