Senator-elect Thom Tillis got right to the point Wednesday, after defeating incumbent US Sen. Kay Hagan (D-North Carolina) by a narrow margin of 1.68 percentage points Tuesday: He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, approve the Keystone XL Pipeline and act on other Republican issues that had been stalled in the Democrat-led Senate.
At a press conference Wednesday morning at Cornelius Town Hall, the Cornelius Republican and current NC House Speaker fielded questions about the costly negative ad campaigns that dominated television and radio during the race, discussed plans for GOP legislation, and talked about the importance of bipartisan cooperation.
Roughly $100 million was spent on the Tillis-Hagan race, making it one of the most expensive Senate races in US history and spurring discussion of campaign finance reform. While Tillis said he doesn’t support spending caps, he supports greater transparency in campaign contributions. “I think it’s more important to know who’s funding the races than setting caps on how much they can spend,” he said.
In a sign of the opposition the president will face from a Republican-led Congress, Tillis promised to vote for a bill to repeal President Obama’s health care reforms, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and voiced his support of measures to delay the employer mandate. He also said that he would vote in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline, which gained approval in the House but has since stalled in the Senate.
“We’ve been given an opportunity to lead, and now we have to lead,” he said, “and that means moving bills from the House, to the Senate, to the president’s desk.”
Despite voicing his support for trademark Republican legislation, Tillis emphasized the importance of collaboration across party lines.
“I don’t want this to be two years of partisanship,” he said. “In order to govern, you’re going to have to work across the aisle.” For half of his tenure Tillis was in the minority in the state legislature, and he said that it taught him the importance of cooperation.
Tillis began his political career as a member of Cornelius’ Parks and Rec advisory board, and has since moved on to become the most powerful member of the NC House of Representatives. As he heads to Washington, he explained that he plans to focus on agriculture and the armed services.
Entering his new role as a freshman senator, he said that he plans to play a supporting role to fellow Senators for his first term. “I’m there to support the leadership and other members to get the agenda moving quickly,” he said. “There are dozens of bills coming out of the House into the Senate…that have great bipartisan support. I think we should go to that and make that part of our legislative agenda next year.”
Much of the funding for Tillis’ campaign came from special interest groups, some of it was “dark money” from organizations that did not disclose their donors. Tillis emphasized that he will not be swayed by his financial backers. “This is a very easy job,” he said. “You always vote your conscience, you vote your constituents, and only your caucus or other organizations if your conscious or constituents aren’t at odds with it.”
Tillis will be sworn into office in Washington at the beginning of the 114th Congress, on Jan. 3, 2015.