Over the years, we have had many long and in-depth conversations with Rep. Elise Stefanik about many issues, but we don’t recall ever talking to her about where she stands on the U.S. Constitution.
It just never came up.
She never mentioned it in any interviews, any community forums or election debates, at least that we can remember.
Maybe it is a reflection of the times in which we live, but we learned this week that she considers herself a “constitutional conservative.”(tncms-inline)3cc9e9d7-3499-46c7-b8af-8d442b96583b(/tncms-inline)
We honestly had not heard that term before.
She described herself that way after voting to support a resolution to repeal President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration.
What got our attention was the common sense case she made for her opposition.
It made us wonder why the vote was not unanimous.
“As a constitutional conservative, I consistently criticized President Obama’s executive overreach,” Rep. Stefanik was quoted saying in a news release from her office. “No matter what party is represented in the White House, I will stand up against executive action that circumvents Congress.”
We don’t understand how anyone can argue with that logic.
We were impressed with Rep. Stefanik’s independent fortitude as one of only 13 Republicans in the House to stand up to the president.
We want to make clear that this is not about supporting Democrats or Republicans, but about the way Rep. Stefanik framed her argument. These were not anyone’s party talking points. She actually seemed to be speaking from the gut.
Far too often in her first two terms in office, Rep. Stefanik was a slave to the party line. Her defense of votes could have come from any of a hundred other party colleagues who were saying the same thing.
They were talking points, not independent thought.
We’ve seen a glimmer of her independence in recent months, highlighted by her stand against the national emergency, and that is good to see.
We see difficult times ahead, and the congresswoman is poised to be in the middle of some controversial decisions surrounding the House Intelligence Committee investigations of the president and those who helped to elect him.
We need her independence, dedication to principle and honesty more than ever.
But we have seen no consistency in her record of being her own woman.
We believe that Rep. Stefanik has a grand future as a tightrope walker. For every vote where she stands up for what she believes is right, she seems to balance with one for her party.
After voting against the national emergency resolution, she retreated to her Republican roots by voting against a law that would require federal background checks for firearm sales.
The proposal, which has been in the works for a long, long time, is one that has broad national support, even among gun-owners.
A year ago, Politifact reported it found a half-dozen national polls that showed 90 percent of the respondents supported “universal background checks.”
Rep. Stefanik defended her vote with words we have heard before, but which did not ring true anymore.
“The legislation brought to the floor today infringes on the constitutional right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms with little to no effect on deterring criminals,” Stefanik told the Watertown Times. “I am proud of my record as a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment.”
This was not the independent congresswoman of a few days earlier, but a politician worried about keeping her A rating from the National Rifle Association.
Having background checks does not infringe on anyone’s right to bear arms, except maybe criminals.
We would concede you probably wouldn’t find that 90 percent of the people in the 21st Congressional District support the legislation, but we suspect a majority do — including gun owners.
When it comes to complicated issues like gun control and health care, we’d like to hear what Rep. Stefanik really thinks, instead of hearing tired talking points.
We’re encouraged by her recent independent streak, her gumption in standing up to the president and hope that she continues to seek her own voice on the issues of the day.