United States Rep. Kevin Cramer was sworn into office Thursday morning in Washington D.C.
The Republican joined the 113th Congress after Speaker of the House John Boehner gave him the oath of office on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Cramer defeated Democrat Pam Gulleson in November with 55 percent of the vote, replacing Senate candidate and fellow Republican Rick Berg. The swearing in of the new Congress comes on the heels of the past legislature avoiding a fall off the “fiscal cliff” earlier in the week.
“The enthusiasm has been tempered by the events of the last few days,” Cramer said of the mood on Capitol Hill. “There’s such gravity hanging over this place with the fiscal cliff. It added more weight to the moment, but it’s really exciting.”
The new representative said he’s looking forward to tackling the issues facing the nation and despite being a junior member of Congress, being a leading voice on energy in Washington.
A former public service commissioner, he has been appointed to the House Committee on Natural Resources, focusing on minerals and energies, specifically coal and oil, and the Science, Space and Technology Committee, which has subcommittees on energy and oversight.
Cramer said one of his main goals is to help Congress figure out how to maximize and utilize natural resources and energy resources, North Dakota oil being among those. Most delegations as young as North Dakota’s current one generally aren’t voices of impact, but Cramer said the uniqueness of the state’s current status in the energy world is changing the status quo. Sen. John Hoeven is the longest serving lawmaker from the state, elected in 2010.
“We carry with us a brand that means a lot in this town,” Cramer said. “People here are naturally curious about North Dakota. It is certainly a bigger podium than I would have anywhere else.”
An issue highlighted by the down-to-the-wire decision on the fiscal cliff, Cramer said he will work toward bipartisanship agreements with House Democrats. He still believes Congress needs to address the growing national debt by curbing spending, which will require partnering with the Democrats to make happen.
Building relationships, he said, will be a goal, adding that a professional relationship in Congress can’t work without some sort of personal relationship. To do that, Cramer added, will require deliberate work and is something he wants to accomplish.
Also important to the division of Congress is understanding the voters. The government and Congress is divided by parties, as are the voters, he said.
“The same voters that elected me also elected Heidi Heitkamp, which should tell both of us something,” Cramer said. “The men who signed the Declaration of Independence didn’t agree on everything, but they worked together.”
Locally, Cramer hopes to get a new farm bill passed through Congress after a year-long extension was approved prior to the fiscal cliff deal. This isn’t atypical for Congress, Cramer added, noting the five-year bill has often turned into a six-year bill because an extra year is taken to hash out a new one.
The good news for North Dakota farmers, Cramer said, is most aspects “will likely” pass when the new bill comes up, including a robust crop insurance program.
“They don’t want direct payments from the government or the strings attached with that,” he said. “One thing I’ve learned from North Dakota farmers is they know how to farm and don’t need to be told how to farm.”