Meet the Member

DeSantis aims for change

DeSantis aims for change

Coming off the floor of the House of Representatives Jan. 15, freshman Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) let Human Events know he had earlier voted against legislation that would have included disaster spending related to Hurricane Sandy.

“I’m certainly not going to hold the government’s irresponsibility against the storm victims,” he said. “Indeed, I believe their claims should be paid. It is our responsibility in Congress to prioritize expenses, which in this case means paring down at least some spending in other areas. I think the federal flood insurance program is actuarially unsound and renders private insurance not viable, thereby needing an overhaul going forward. But I wouldn’t have insisted that this take place before honoring claims from Sandy.”

The 34-year-old lawmaker went on to point out that he had earlier supported a measure offered by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) to make across-the-board cuts of 1.63 percent to all discretionary spending to offset the cost of the new spending on disaster relief. In DeSantis’ words, “I’m for doing something with the appropriate cuts. But with the fiscal situation we’re in, we just can’t do things on borrowed money.”

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In a detailed discussion, Harvard Law School graduate and U.S. Navy veteran DeSantis expounded on a wide range of issues soon to be on the new Congress’s plate—from the Farm Bill to raising the debt ceiling. Failure to do so, President Obama warned at his news conference last week, would lead to default on bills Congress had run up and mean the U.S. becoming “a deadbeat nation.”

“That’s not just not true,” fired back DeSantis, “If we reach the debt ceiling, we don’t have to default. Getting to that point just won’t allow us to reach new debt. Something different has to be done before we make another budget deal that increases spending and raises the debt some more. Our current course is not reasonable. Our current course is insane.”

As the Floridian ducks back for another vote, Adam Laxalt, DeSantis’s friend from Navy days who is visiting him in Washington, pokes me on the arm.

“You’d think Ron had been here for years the way he explains the issues and in the campaign, one of the major charges his opponents made was that he ‘lacked experience,’” says Laxalt, a Las Vegas attorney and the grandson of former Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.)

Yale baseball team captain

It is true that when Ron DeSantis entered the race for Congress from Florida’s re-mapped 6th District last year, he had no political experience. Alone among the four major Republican primary contenders, in fact, DeSantis had never held nor sought elective office and had not been active in politics.

What he had been was an achiever in everything he had done. A magna cum laude graduate of Yale University, where he also played varsity baseball, the young DeSantis was commissioned in the U.S. Navy while at Harvard Law School. His assignments on active duty included a stint with the Joint Task Force-Guantanamo Commander, where Lt. DeSantis worked with incarcerated terrorists.

He was subsequently assigned to the Naval Special Warfare Command Group in Coronado, California. With the troop surge, DeSantis was deployed to Iraq and became Legal Advisor to the Navy SEAL Commander with the special operations unit in Fallujah, Iraq. He was subsequently awarded the Bronze Star and the Iraq Campaign Medal.

After serving as a special military prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Florida, DeSantis became a reservist. As he and his wife Casey settled in Ponte Vedra Beach and he began teaching at Florida Coastal School of Law, the young veteran grew worried about the direction the U.S. was going under President Barack Obama.

As a candidate in the new 6th District, Ron DeSantis wore his political inexperience as if it were a military decoration. Running on his belief in a government that was smaller and on his passion for freedom and the Constitution, DeSantis won the backing from local tea party groups as well as national conservative figures and organizations.

“I realize that campaigns cost money and I did something about it,” DeSantis told Human Events during the primary, pointing out that much of the $800,000 he raised at that point was brought in through personal calls from the candidate. “I picked up the phone and just called people, friends in the community or folks I served with. You get the discipline to do that in the Navy.”

“Veteran, Citizen—Not a Politician,” went his slogan, which said it all.

Republican voters responded resoundingly. The primary was not even close, as he topped his closest opponent by 20 points. Had the district existed in 2008 or 2010, Republican presidential nominee John McCain and gubernatorial nominee Rick Scott would have carried it handily.

Taxes going up with Obamacare

Like most of the other 33 Republicans elected to the House for the first time in November, DeSantis made it clear he would not have voted for the tax bill enacted by Congress in the final hours of 2012.

“No, not at all. It had a ratio of 38 to 1 in terms of new taxes to spending. We already have taxes going up with the Obamacare legislation becoming law. We need to lower marginal tax rates and increase investment. And we need better behavior by Congress. When we simply pass cuts in [non-defense, discretionary] spending, they tend to vanish in successive Congresses and budgets,” he said.

Assigned to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Floridian is looking forward to the upcoming testimony of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the murders of four Americans in Benghazi last September. He also serves on the Judiciary and Government Affairs Committees.

“I’m anxious for the hearing Chairman [Darrell] Issa has planned for Government Affairs on the failures of ‘green jobs,’ DeSantis said.

DeSantis was reminded during that interview that he had been captain of the Yale baseball team and asked if he thought his career would his career follow the same path as that of an early team captain—George H.W. Bush.

“I don’t know about that,” he replied, “but for now, I can say that I have volunteered for the congressional baseball game this summer.”

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