U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright ’83, P’15, returned to the Hill on Nov. 12 for a question and answer session moderated by Maynard-Knox Professor of Law Frank Anechiarico. Cartwright has been a representative of the 17th Congressional District in Pennsylvania since his election in 2013. He beat Tim Holden, a 10-term incumbent, in his first primary by a 15% margin, and went on to win the general election by a 22% margin. 

During his time as a congressman, Cartwright has introduced more bipartisan bills than any other House Democrat. He answered a question about how he does this and how far bipartisan efforts can go. “Everybody loves saving money–this is not a difficult thing to agree on in Congress,” he answered. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee and the House Committee for Oversight and Government Reform, his job is to root out waste, fraud and abuse, to make sure the government is saving money wherever possible.

As an example, he offered that in April 2016, he introduced the Megabyte bill that targeted government inefficiencies and waste in software purchasing. The bill garnered bipartisan support and was signed into law in July of the same year, saving the government an estimated one to four billion dollars a year.

But where bipartisanship gets more difficult is over two main issues: who we tax and how we tax them, and what we spend and how we spend it. This is where bipartisanship can fall apart, according to Cartwright. In discussing the hotly debated tax reform bill currently in both the House and Senate, he expressed his opposition to the bill. He opposes the elimination of the estate tax and he fears that the bill will encourage the off-shoring of American jobs with the tax breaks afforded corporations with overseas operations. In his view, the tax reform is not going to work because it is not a bipartisan effort.

Students in the audience asked questions about the messaging and direction of the Democratic Party. Cartwright said he is of the school of thought that a party’s message shouldn’t be one uniform idea, but should take different forms in different areas since concerns vary by region. As a congressman, he hosts “an enormous number of town halls” to both hear concerns and help his constituents understand the government. “The main idea is that you have to listen and you have to care,” he said.

Cartwright ended the Q&A with a piece of advice for Hamilton students–work on your public speaking skills. He admitted that he was terrified of public speaking for most of his life, and it was only through accepting speaking roles and practicing over and over that he was able to overcome the fear. As such, students should take advantage of the opportunities Hamilton gives to hone your speaking abilities along with other skills.  He emphasized that it is these skills that enable Hamilton graduates to go out into the world and help people.

Matt Cartwright is the father of Jack Cartwright ’15. The program was sponsored by the College Democrats.

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