#1StudentNWI: Coffee with Congressman Pete Visclosky
Congressman Pete Visclosky was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1984. He represents the first congressional district which includes all of Lake County, Porter County and Michigan City, Indiana, and the seat is up for election every two years. Visclosky grew up in Gary, where his father, John, served as mayor. Visclosky worked for Congressman Adam Benjamin, Jr., before running for the office himself. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting at Indiana University Northwest, and then his Juris Doctor from Notre Dame Law School. He then headed to Georgetown University, where he earned a Master of Laws in international and comparative law.
Getting started in politics
“I love history and I did grow up in a political household so part of this was I couldn’t avoid my childhood,” Visclosky said. Getting to the office he holds now was both an accident, and a tragedy, he said. “I tell young people you have to be prepared in life. My life has been very, very fair, but sometimes things happen. Adam Benjamin was a member of Congress. I was part of his congressional staff. He died unexpectedly at the age of 47. So I had to decide what to do with my life and I believed I could do a good job as a member of Congress.”
Opinion on current news
How we elect a President and the electoral college have been a trending topic, even more so during the last Presidential race. “ I am agnostic on that issue. In the past I have been very supportive of the Electoral College. We have had the last three Presidential elections decided by it and not the popular vote, so I have a very open mind about the discussion as to whether or not we should change the Constitution and go to a popular election. When talking about this issue, Visclosky showed some concerns about changing the Constitution. He is worried, that by having the Presidential election based on the popular vote, the candidates will only focus on the population centers of the country. On the other hand, he recognizes that the last two Presidential elections have had different results when comparing the electoral college and the popular majority. For these reasons, he is open to listening to discussion from both sides on the issue.
Regarding legislation that is getting attention now in the region, Visclosky is dialed in to transportation issues, among others. “Right now, in one of the appropriations measures for the Department of Transportation, the money is provided for mass transit to access the United States not just the South Shore. We have increased funding the last two years, compared to what the administration has asked for, not just for our investment, but across the country. For other communities that want to create jobs we have to get that passed.”
Visclosky said that there is a lot more to the job of Congressman other than voting on bills. He said constant learning is part of the job, and legislators also have a responsibility in government to stay in touch with the people, which is why he is traveling around Northwest Indiana for meetings with constituents. He will meet one-on-one with individuals, or with groups and organizations, including hosting town hall meetings in most of the towns he represents. During these town hall meetings, people can ask him questions, tell him their opinion about what is going on in the House of Representatives and ask him how they wish for him to vote on a bill.
I asked him who he has enjoyed working with from the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. He talked about how he enjoyed working with Senator Richard Lugar, who passed away recently. Visclosky had a lot of respect and trust for Lugar even after he no longer held elected office.
To connect with Rep. Visclosky, request a meeting, see his schedule, and more, visit his webpage at https://visclosky.house.gov/.