New Member of the Week: Rep. Hartzler sees God’s plan in politics

At the age of 9, Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) knew she wanted to serve God by going into politics.

In her book, “Running God’s Way,” on how to run a successful Christian campaign, she recalls sitting in front of her house as a child “making mud pies” and asking God what she should be when she grew up — in addition to being a wife and mother. 

After ruling out being a doctor or lawyer, she writes, being a state representative popped into her head. She said, “Yeah, that would be a way to serve you, Lord.”

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Now Hartzler is grown up and serving as Missouri’s west-central 4th district member of Congress, with seats on the Agriculture and Armed Services committees. 

Hartzler toppled the longest-serving member from the state when she beat former Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) last year by 5 points. She was promised a seat on the Armed Services Committee, which Skelton had led.

Her district is home to two large military bases: the Army’s Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base. The latter is home to the B-2 stealth bombers. 

Hartzler said it was hard for her to vote for House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) 2012 budget because of the cuts to defense spending. 

“The budget did have $78 billion worth of cuts [to defense],” Hartzler said. “But I cannot support any further there because I believe, according to the Constitution, there are only a few things that Congress should be doing, and one of those is providing the common defense.”

Hartzler helped organize an effort by 24 freshmen to ask the Republican leadership and Ryan not to make any further cuts in defense beyond what the Obama administration requested.

“I was able to promote a strong defense budget when it could have been cut a lot more severely,” Hartzler said.

One area Hartzler seems to be fine with cutting is agriculture, although she said the committee on which she sits wouldn’t start working on the farm bill until next year.

According to the Environmental Working Group, Hartzler and her husband received around $775,000 in federal farm subsidies during the last 15 years.

“We do participate in the government programs, like probably 95 percent of farmers do,” Hartzler said. “People who aren’t familiar with the agriculture industry, you know, try and make that look like something exceptional.”

But Hartzler said that, due to the federal deficit, it is a timely moment to think about cutting farm subsidies.

“Now is the time that we need to look at [agriculture subsidies] and see [if] the old programs [are] still needed and could they be revised or cut,” Hartzler said. “I’m of the thinking that they probably can and that they probably will.”

Hartzler was first elected to office in 1994 when she became a state representative. As a former home economics teacher, her main focus was education and family issues. In the Missouri House she served on the Education Committee but said she didn’t want to serve on the House Education and the Workforce Committee in Congress because “there is less that education should be doing at the federal level — it’s more of a state issue.”

She left the Missouri House in 2001 to raise her and her husband’s adopted daughter, Tiffany. 

But Hartzler couldn’t stay out of politics long. In 2004 she served as spokeswoman for the Coalition to Protect Marriage, which lobbied for a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The amendment passed with nearly 71 percent support. 

“The people of Missouri just, I think, view it as wise public policy to keep the same definition of marriage that has withstood thousands of years of civilization and works well,” Hartzler said.

In March, Hartzler introduced a bill condemning the Obama administration for not defending the Defense of Marriage Act. The resolution, which has 112 co-sponsors, was referred to the House Judiciary’s subcommittee on the Constitution.

Hartzler said it’s the duty of the president to defend laws, not to determine constitutionality.

“Here you have a president unilaterally decide, on his own, that because he doesn’t like the bill, he’s going to tell his Justice Department not to defend it in the courts. That’s abominable,” Hartzler said. “Every law deserves to be defended in court. It’s up to the courts to determine its constitutionality.”

The devout evangelical Christian wrote her campaign guidebook in 2007 to help Christians seeking public office.

But Hartzler said she doesn’t believe Jesus would belong to any political party.

“I don’t think that any political party should claim Jesus as being a part of a political party,” Hartzler said.

Instead she believes God has a plan for everything and everybody, even President Obama.

“I believe that President Obama is here for a reason, but that doesn’t mean that he has to stay there next year,” Hartzler said. “The American people have an opportunity to have a say and so I think we just have to do what we think is right … and see what the outcome is. God’s got a plan.”