CQ MEMBER PROFILES: 112TH CONGRESS
BY: STACEY SKOTZKO
Schweikert is known for pulling out his financial calculator while on the House floor or in committee rooms. The Arizona Republican intends to focus on promoting fiscal precision and accuracy during his tenure in Congress, and he becomes frustrated when he believes colleagues toss around misinterpreted figures.
“I have a personal fixation that you can’t have honest discussions about numbers if people are going to make them up,” he said. “I understand this is a clash of math and politics, and math often doesn’t facilitate the political agenda. But at some point it’s the truth.”
With the Financial Services Committee as his lone assignment in the 112th Congress (2011-12), Schweikert said he spends three to five hours a day working on issues related to the mortgage market and government-sponsored enterprises, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He wants to improve businesses’ access to capital, especially for the entrepreneurial firms in his 5th District, which includes parts of Tempe, Scottsdale and Phoenix.
Fittingly, he sits on two subcommittees: Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises, and Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology.
Schweikert wants the government to display what he sees as a higher level of fiscal responsibility and believes any agreement that raises the federal debt ceiling also needs to include spending cuts. In conversations about fiscal policy, it is common to hear Schweikert talk about federal spending in terms of financial borrowing time, and he is one of several Republicans who has introduced a resolution to add a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.
A few months into his congressional career, two of Schweikert’s bills had received Financial Services subcommittee consideration. One measure would increase from $5 million to $50 million the threshold for public offerings to exempt companies from Securities and Exchange Commission filing requirements. “The number of companies going public has just crashed,” he said. “Some of that is because of the regulatory environment, and some of it’s alternative accesses to capital, so we’re just trying to provide an alternative out there.”
Another bill is part of an effort to dismantle Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as he and some fellow House Republicans oppose government involvement in the mortgage industry and blame the firms for causing the 2008 financial crisis. Schweikert’s bill would codify current practices prohibiting the entities from engaging in new activities or businesses during conservatorship or receivership.
As part of his mission to encourage accuracy in congressional debate, Schweikert’s Capitol Hill staff creates financial slideshows and posts them on his website. Schweikert uses the slides as a backdrop for town hall meetings but hopes also to use them to educate other members of Congress. One federal budget presentation was 64 slides long, and Schweikert said utilizing these presentations makes him feel like a “one-man truth squad.”
A former state legislator and county treasurer, Schweikert takes an in-the-weeds approach to legislation and believes Congress should be more precise when giving regulators the authority to promulgate rules. He identifies the 2010 financial overhaul legislation as an example of a bill that created economic stress because of the leeway given to federal regulators — Schweikert wants each step of enacting a law clearly written out in the bill itself.
He introduced legislation that would require agency hearings for any rule issued under the 2010 health care overhaul law to be open to broadcast on radio and television — he titled the bill the CSPAN Act (Creating Sunshine, Participation, and Accountability for our Nation Act).
“Our Congress was going to be the most open and the most ethical and it didn’t work out that way,” he said, adding with a laugh, “Think of it as a freshman’s opportunity to try to help.”
Beyond his focus on financial policy, Schweikert backs cracking down on companies that hire illegal immigrants, continuing construction of border fencing and beefing up other aspects of border security — including additional use of the unmanned Predator-B aircraft to patrol the border. Because his committee assignment does not allow much direct participation on border security issues, Schweikert hopes to educate other members of Congress outside of the hearing room.
Although he started his congressional career as a member of the GOP whip operation, Schweikert left the leadership team after breaking with his party on mutiple near-party-line votes.
Born in California, Schweikert was adopted after birth — a circumstance he says inspired his anti-abortion views. In Arizona, Schweikert’s parents ran in the same social circles as Republican icon Sen. Barry Goldwater, whose family lived down the street. Schweikert received a bachelor’s from Arizona State University in real estate and a MBA in 2005. He has worked in real estate, running a consulting business with his wife. In Washington, the cowboy-boot-clad self-proclaimed caffeine addict is known for making lattes and cappuccinos for his Capitol Hill staff. When he was homesick during his first few months in Congress, his wife flew his dog, Charlie, a wheaten terrier, to Washington to keep him company.
Schweikert was a frequent candidate for public office before winning election to the House in 2010. He ran for the Arizona House in 1988, lost, then ran again and won in 1990. Schweikert made his first congressional run in 1994, but lost in the primary. He tried again in 2008 and won the party’s nomination, but lost to incumbent Democrat Harry E. Mitchell by about 10 percentage points.
In 2010, he beat out five other Republicans in the primary, and then rode the GOP wave to a 9-percentage-point win over Mitchell.
“Two years ago, the voters were harsh,” Schweikert told an Arizona paper before the 2010 election. “Some people said: ‘I’m not ever voting for a Republican again. You seem like a nice guy, but get out of here.’ Now, some of those same people are putting my campaign signs in their yards.”