By Will Hall, Message Editor
ALEXANDRIA – Congressman John Fleming dismisses the idea popularized in the mainstream media that the U.S. House of Representatives is in chaos because they have rejected the next-in-line candidate to succeed the retiring Speaker of the House.
“Neither Republicans nor conservatives are in chaos,” he told the Baptist Message.
Instead, he said conservatives are simply following a process to bring about change in leadership that would also bring about a change in direction.
“Conservative members and the Republican base want a ‘fresh face,’” he said. “We are all tired of big government merging with big business to carry the corporate agenda and that of the secular extreme left wing while ignoring average Americans.”
The Louisiana Republican who represents the 4th U.S. Congressional District said that when John Boehner “was pressured to retire” from his position of leadership, “there was a reluctance by many conservatives to simply promote the next guy, Kevin McCarthy.”
He said such feelings resulted from Boehner’s leadership team’s begrudging conservatives “very little voice” in the legislative agenda, thus hampering conservatives’ efforts to oppose the “liberal/progressive agenda of President Obama.”
Moreover, he said many conservatives “have been dealt punishments, individually, for not voting as we are told,” adding that “the culture of singling out conservatives for punishment existed within the entire leadership team, not just John Boehner.”
Fleming describes himself as a conservative on social issues, fiscal policies and defense matters, having won his first term to Congress campaigning to change Washington.
He has especially distinguished himself in his support of military members, rising to defend and expand religious liberties for active duty personnel, enabling them to exercise the beliefs of their faith and not just passively “hold” them.
He also co-chairs the Values Action Team, a congressional group that liaisons with social conservative organizations in order to advance legislative goals that support traditional values and vision on life issues as well as marriage, business and education matters.
Fleming said he is looking for someone to serve as Speaker who is fair-minded and “believes in empowering the American people as the Constitution intended.” Specifically, he hopes the new House leader and his team will work to improve jobs and the economy “by reducing taxes and regulation.”
The next Speaker needs to support the repeal of Obamacare and Dodd-Frank (criticized by some as overreaching with burdensome regulation), he said, as well as reforms that would lead to balancing the budget. He also is looking for a candidate who is “truly concerned about the nation and our founding principles.”
Fleming was emphatic he has no plans to run for Speaker.
Instead, he is considering “a probable U.S. Senate opportunity, assuming Sen. Vitter, R-La., is elected governor.”
However, he said he would work to help the new Speaker “be successful.”
A lifelong Southern Baptist who is a member of First Baptist Church in Minden, Louisiana, Fleming shared that he would personally prefer a strong Christian as Speaker. But he also said it was important to be considerate of First Amendment religious liberty principles.
“Fortunately, the laws and our very democracy derive from our Christian principles,” he added.
Fleming called Rep. Daniel Webster, endorsed by the House Freedom Caucus as its candidate for Speaker, “a strong Christian man with impeccable integrity.”
“He served as Speaker of the House for the Florida House of Representatives and reformed it from a ‘power’ based system to a ‘principle’ based system, exactly what we need in the U.S. House,” he said.
Saying congressional members from the Sunshine State praised Webster’s leadership and character, Fleming described the Florida congressman as the “fresh face” that is needed as Speaker.
Moreover, he said Webster has the spiritual dimension that is needed in the next leader of the House.
Although not a close friend of Webster’s, Fleming said he has watched him closely and in whatever situation he was in “observed him to be a strong, powerful, principled follower of Christ.”
Still, as more members announce themselves as candidates, Fleming conceded “we may have to take a second look.”
FAITH & POLICY
The fourth-term congressman from Louisiana emphasized the government is not well-suited for solving spiritual problems even though these are the root of many of the nation’s ills, and even said in some cases government intervention has only worsened the situation.
But he said this is why “a belief in a true moral compass is an essential characteristic of our next speaker.”
“There is no question that the decline of the American family and culture is directly related to a more permissive society enabled by a very large government safety net,” he explained. “In my opinion, the main reason God gave us the family unit was to be able to better survive famine, wars, disease, and other economic disasters, as well as keeping our culture intact and to pass on the Gospel.”
He described declining societal morals combined with big government as leading to a culture spiraling out of control.
“Society becomes more accepting of morally unjust behavior, and government stands ready to prop up people who have so damaged their lives they no longer can support themselves. They have no family to assist them, which in turn leads to enabling self-destructive behavior.”
In the end, such a cultural model leads to national indebtedness that is unsustainable, he said, and it leads to borrowing from future generations. In the United States the national debt exceeds $19 trillion, with most of growth taking place in the last 15 years. Without “stark, fundamental reforms,” Fleming said our country faces the same fate as the Roman Empire—“national and cultural destruction.”
“My prayer is that God will give members of the House of Representatives the wisdom and insight to elect the right person for the right reasons to lead us,” he said.
“That this person be a Christ-follower and that he or she leads us by example and by Christian principles every day.
“That he or she is efficacious and efficient in turning Congress from a rubber stamp for ill-advised and often un-Christian policies to one that begins to take leadership in bringing this nation back to God and on its knees in prayer to him.
“Finally, that this nation responds to that leadership and takes its rightful place once again as leader of the world in generosity, morality and standing up against evil rulers in the protection of innocents who suffer under them.”
Congressman Fleming serves on two House committees: Armed Services, and, Natural Resources (for which he serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans).
Next year he will celebrate 40 years as a practicing MD.
He and his wife Cindy have been married for 37 years and have four children and three grandchildren.