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Commentary: We can't spend our way to economic salvation

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  • Jason Chaffetz: My constituents support my vote against stimulus bill
  • He says Republicans in the House are proud they stood together against it
  • He says we've tried overspending for government with borrowed money
  • Chaffetz: In long run, I want to get government out of people's lives
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By Jason Chaffetz
Special to CNN
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Editor's Note: Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican, represents the 3rd District of Utah in Congress and is writing a regular series of reports for on his freshman year. For his bio, read here. For a Democratic freshman's view, read here.

Jason Chaffetz says constituents support his vote against the economic stimulus bill.

Jason Chaffetz says constituents support his vote against the economic stimulus bill.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- I have been a congressman for 35 days.

During my campaign, a few people questioned whether a freshman could have any impact whatsoever -- particularly a freshman in the minority party.

With just 35 days under my belt, I am convinced even a freshman can make a difference.

I have co-sponsored eight pieces of legislation, appeared on nearly a dozen national news programs, figured out how to successfully get to the House gym and back without locking myself out of my office, witnessed the inauguration of our new president, testified before the Judiciary Committee, spoken three times on the floor of the House, met with Utah constituents visiting Washington, hired 11 staff, organized our constituent services, written more letters than I have ever done and attended an untold number of meetings. Video See new video of the two freshmen on the job »

I'm not sitting around waiting to build seniority and hoping for majority status. There's plenty of work to be done!

I am still fired up. It may be true that a minority congressman has limited legislative opportunities, but I have found that the chances to shift and impact the debate are numerous. For someone with energy and determination, the opportunities are limitless.

We as House Republicans notched a moral victory on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's so-called stimulus bill, even though the overall vote didn't go our way. Staying united helped us make a bold statement . All 176 Republicans and several Democrats voted against the bill. In my case, the vote reflected the overwhelming will of my constituents.

This is throwing fits for the Democrats. My constituents are hailing my "no" vote and I am getting lots of support back home.

I spoke with a guy who employs 12 people in his small trucking company. He sees a trillion dollars in new deficit spending and yet nothing that will help him.

I spoke with Fred Lampropoulos, CEO of Merit Medical, a major employer in my district, and they, too, understand the Democrats' bill won't help their business.

When someone on the street asks me about it, I have to tell them there is honestly nothing in it for them. Should this finally pass, I am afraid it will go down in history as one of the biggest blunders ever. It is a pork-filled special interest bill designed to pay off certain groups but won't do much for the average family.

Utah's 3rd Congressional District represents seven counties, with Salt Lake County and Utah County representing 93 percent of the voters. We are the youngest district in the country and have more kids per family than any other district.

We are the home to Brigham Young University, Robert Redford's Sundance resort, and Provo's Freedom Festival, the largest Fourth of July celebration in the country.

Utahns are thrilled with my "no" vote, as my Facebook and Twitter (jasoninthehouse) accounts were lit up with enthusiastic rejection of this bill. They understand this bill doesn't grow jobs, it grows government. Running our government on a credit card beyond our means has been tried. How do the Democrats think that is a change from what has happened over the past several years?

It is disappointing the RINOs (Republican in Name Only) in the Senate caved. They are obviously not driven by principle. I'm glad the House Republicans stood together, as we should on the next round of voting.

I sit on three committees: Judiciary, Natural Resources, and Oversight and Government Reform. Consequently, I am on five subcommittees. In these smaller settings there are plenty of occasions to discuss important policy matters and to sway the debate.

I can see that Congress, although it has 435 voting members, is still relatively small. Once you break out into these committees, the opportunities to weigh in on the issues that matter most are plentiful. I am more optimistic than ever that my one voice can make a difference.

In the long run, I want to get government out of people's lives. We have the opportunity to help many people in the short-term, but the ultimate goal is smaller, less intrusive government. All too often, limited government is an oxymoron.

It continues to be an honor to serve. I am sleeping better at night -- normally falling asleep at 12:30 a.m. and waking up at 5:30 a.m. The cleaning crew has come to understand I am in my office 24/7. My back is doing well considering I am sleeping on a cot in my closet.


The Capitol Police have been very accommodating and just smile when I see them in the middle of the night. I'm settling into a routine. But more importantly, I'm feeling optimistic about the future. I am more fired up than ever about what lies ahead.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jason Chaffetz.

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