Two years has passed since Congressman Mike Pence stood amid a shower of balloons, celebrating his first Congressional victory.
It is a moment he hopes to relive this November, as he competes against Democrat Melina Fox and Libertarian Doris Robertson for the 6th Congressional District, which spans territories in 19 counties.
But in the meantime, the war on terrorism and the economy have gained much of his focus, and he said it will continue to hold his attention if he's re-elected.
"We've got to win this war. That's got to be the top priority," Pence said. "The second thing we need to do is get this economy. I'm sure the country will focus on those issues, and when they do, the Republican record will shine."
Pence has supported Bush in his foreign relations endeavors, and he takes a conservative approach to economic stimulation -- particularly with tax cuts and deregulations.
Because of his focus on foreign and economic issues, he said he hasn't had time to consider the Higher Education Act, a bill renewed by Congress that dictates a wide range of policy and spending issues for the nation's universities.
Yet, when it comes to dictating university policies, Pence said he does not want to tip the scales of federalism in favor of the national government. Instead, he said, he supports the current balance between the state and nation.
"I think the federal government is in at about the right level," he said.
Pence assumes a more aggressive stance, however, on federal financing of higher education.
Both the House and the Senate have to pass 13 appropriation bills to fund the government next year. Included in those bills is a provision for student financial aid and the Pell Grant.
The Senate's version allocates a little more than $13 billion for aid, whereas the House distributes about $400 million less. The House version also gives $100 less per students for Pell Grants.
Pence did not specifically say which one he was for, if any, but he is serving on an eight-member study committee, comprised of four moderates and four conservatives, assigned looking at the resolution.
"We're going to take a pretty hard look at that," Pence said. "I want to live in a county where no one misses a college education for lack of resources."
Pence also he said the government needs to tap more resources for research funding for universities.
Overall, the Senate's 13 appropriation bills allow about $10 million more in spending, a number Pence said won't hold up.
"We're operating with financial discretion in the House, and they're (the Senate) operating with someone else's credit card," Pence said. "That's kind of what we got right now, a bad marriage."
While next year's Congress will dictate students current financial situation, they will also wrestle with their future financial climate. Both Republicans and Democrats have questioned if the current system will support the impending retirement of Baby Boomers (about 76.5 million people, according to Pence's Web site).
When it was first adopted in the first half of the 20th century, Social Security recipients were taxed on their income, and that money was set aside for those specific persons. That method, however, was dropped shortly after it was adopted.
Currently, Social Security recipients' benefits are not based on what they contributed during their working years, but on income taxed by those currently working.
And when the Baby Boomers retire, those who are of college age now will be forced to take on the subsidy.
"Unless we make some changes, we will either raise taxes or cut benefits," Pence said.
Pence said college students and anyone else below the age of 40 should be allowed to invest a slight amount of their income in an individual account, one with better interest than the government's (currently set at about one percent, Pence said.)
Democrats have argued that this amounts to privatizing the program, but Pence said he is against such a notion. Privatization, he said, occurs when government sells an interest to a private entity. His opponents' arguments, he said, are invalid.
"In my opinion, it's intellectual dishonesty," Pence said. "There's no one in Congress, except for a couple of strange libertarians, who want to privatize Social Security."++2X-+@6"+â-Ñ@A+â-ªm-+,+â-«* ?t+â-æF7+â-Å-¦6@+â-+-+-¼-+(-«+â&+â-ÅM(#C=*+â-è'B+â-í1%-í-º++?(-+.++â-à-+âa++,+â-è-í+â-+ *-+LL-í+â-ìgc-Ñ+â-«+â++T a+â-òQa+â-ò+â-ƒ?z+â-¿' +â-º?+â-¿b+â-Åa--í+â-Ü$A-+â-¢ 8+â-à--+?`&+â-äH+â-ë*-¦+â-+ -¦-«-¦A'-¦ (+â-¬o+â-êm+â'2+â-«+â-è+â-ïEH-ó+â-¬-í&...O-¦3+â-æ"+â-¬*-+%-¼+â-+â-íX--»+â-íh-¼+â-¦~-+F+â-ûZ='"+â-æW*F