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Assault Weapon Restrictions First Target on New Congressman's Agenda

Eric Swalwell plans to co-sponsor an assault weapons ban as he gets ready to join the debate on the debt ceiling and Hurricane Sandy aid. Let the congressman know your views on these issues.

New congressman Eric Swalwell isn't waiting long to jump into an issue that is sure to bring him some heat.

The Dublin Democrat plans to co-sponsor a bill that places restrictions on private ownership of assault weapons.

It's the first bill Swalwell will put his name on. That legislation is expected to be introduced by mid-January.

It'll come just weeks after Swalwell and other members of the 113th Congress took their oath of office. It also is one of many politically charged issues the new representatives will debate.

Among them are the debt ceiling, aid for Hurricane Sandy victims and Swalwell's idea to set up a "mobile Congress."

Swalwell may have some influence on these and other issues. On Monday, he was named by Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer as assistant whip. 

What do you think about all these issues? Use the comments section to let your elected representatives how you'd like them to vote.

Swalwell will also be writing an occasional blog about his experiences in Washington.

Swalwell officially got down to business on Thursday when he and other members got sworn in. They first took the oath as a group on the House floor in the morning and then that afternoon got to individually take the oath again at a re-enactment with House Speaker John Boehner.

Swalwell said both ceremonies provoked different emotions. The House floor vote overwhelmed because as he looked around and saw 435 hands in the air, he realized the importance of the moment.

"I got hit by a semi-truck of emotions," said the 32-year-old congressman. "It was the realization we are designated with leading the country. It's a big responsibility."

The re-enactment had a different feel. He was surrounded by his parents, other family members, friends and constituents.

"That ceremony made me realize how many people it took to get this done," said Swalwell.

The new congressman was also appointed to the Homeland Security Committee and the Science and Technology Committee.

His first vote was in a losing cause. Swalwell joined other Democrats in casting their ballot for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) for Speaker of the House. Boehner won re-election to that post.

Disarray in Congress

Last week, Democrats watched as Republicans fought internal battles over the speakership, fiscal cliff legislation and spending cuts. Some pundits are saying the Republican House members are in more disarray than ever.

"I think what we're seeing is far right extremists taking over the (Republican) caucus," said Swalwell.

That split showed up again when the House voted Friday on a relief package for Hurricane Sandy victims.

The original bill was for $60 billion in assistance, but some Republicans balked because they felt corresponding spending cuts should be made elsewhere.

The House ended up approving a $9.7 billion aid package for federal flood insurance participants on a 354-67 vote. All the "no" votes were Republicans. The remaining $51 billion is scheduled for discussion on Jan. 15.

Swalwell voted in favor of Friday's bill and will vote "yes" on the $51 billion package, too.

He said it's the federal government's duty to help victims of natural disasters, no matter where they occur.

"We come together in these situations and it's usually bi-partisan," said Swalwell. "We have to assume there will be a need for San Francisco earthquake relief some day."

Assault Weapons Ban

The next major issue is expected to be assault weapon restrictions.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is promising to introduce such a bill in the Senate. Swalwell says he will co-sponsor a House bill on the same topic.

Swalwell says as an Alameda County prosecutor he saw the impact assault weapons have on their victims. It's not just the number and size of the bullets, he says, it's the velocity at which they travel.

"When a person gets hit by assault weapons ammunition, they have no chance," he said. "There is no reason for civilians to carry military-style assault weapons."

Swalwell said he isn't afraid of the political heat he's bound to take from the National Rifle Association and Second Amendment fundamentalists.

"I'm more worried about people who become victims of gun violence," he said.

Swalwell also supports reforming the nation's mental health system and strengthening security at schools.

Debt Ceiling

Within 60 days, Congress will once again square off over the federal government's debt ceiling.

Swalwell plans to vote to raise that limit. He agrees with President Obama that this is for expenses the government has already rang up and we have an obligation to pay them.

However, after the vote, Swalwell said Congress needs to get serious about spending cuts, so the ceiling issue is no longer a factor.

"It's incremental government. We can't keep kicking the can down the road," he said.

Once option Swalwell wants to explore is raising the cap on Social Security tax payments. Right now, Social Security taxes are collected only on the first $110,000 a person earns. After that, no tax is paid.

Swalwell says that's a "regressive tax" and the cap should be raised to bring in more revenue for Social Security.

Mobile Congress

An idea being floated by Swalwell is to make the House more of a "mobile Congress."

With the technology available today, Swalwell says there is no reason to require Congressional representative to be physically present to conduct business.

He said members should be able to video conference and telecommute, so they can spend more time in their districts.

He wants to try the idea at the committee level first, then see if it can work on the House as a whole.

"The goal is to make Congress more accessible," he said. "It's time. It's the 21st century."

Eloise Hamann January 24, 2013 at 09:23 PM
Thanks Eric for representing me and the majority in this district. What does it tell you when no Republican made it in the top two primary? Gun control worked super well in Australia. Are we a lesser people? (On a passing note, did anyone hear that the chair of Gun Appreciation day claimed MLK would appreciate honoring guns. He went on to say if blacks had had a right to own and carry guns, slavery might not have happened. I am NOT making this up.) Eric, I'm excited you're jumping in and working on issues your real supporters care about instead of waiting to test the waters. Congratulations on your appointment to be assistant whip! Eloise Hamann
Kenn Hamann January 24, 2013 at 09:28 PM
Thanks Eric for representing me and the majority in this district. What does it tell you when no Republican made it in the top two primary? Gun control worked super well in Australia. Are we a lesser people? (On a passing note, did anyone hear that the chair of Gun Appreciation day claimed MLK would appreciate honoring guns. He went on to say if blacks had had a right to own and carry guns, slavery might not have happened. I am NOT making this up.) Eric, I'm excited you're jumping in and working on issues your real supporters care about instead of waiting to test the waters. Congratulations on your appointment to be assistant whip! Eloise Hamann
TPH January 24, 2013 at 10:40 PM
I think the majority of this District cares about the out of control spending in Washington not gun control which won't do anything. Our rep sold his soul to Pelosi and spending cuts is not in their genetic make up. Typical tax and spend socialist, simply a younger version of Fourtney Stark. On a different note Eloise, do you always post for your husband (poor Kenn good luck with this one buddy).
TPH January 25, 2013 at 04:05 AM
Yep gun control worked "super well" in Australia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGaDAThOHhA&feature=player_detailpage
Mr.G January 25, 2013 at 05:42 AM
I am hoping for more from our representation. I want much more focus on "common sense" spending control but this administration seems to want to arrange the deck chairs rather than deal with the the sinking of the Titanic. The Assault Weapons Ban is a waste of time and ineffective as proven from previous legislation. Focus on a strong economy, job growth, spending reductions, and debt reduction to leave a legacy.

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