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Pearce defends LANL mission

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By The Staff

Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., described himself, as the best person to fill the seat Republican Sen. Pete Domenici will vacate Dec. 31.Pearce is one of three U.S. representatives from New Mexico vying for Domenici’s post. He stopped by the Monitor this morning on his way to a briefing at Los Alamos National Laboratory.He said his brand of conservatism was more aligned with N.M. voters than that of his Republican rival Heather Wilson, R-N.M. He also criticized Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M. for not putting up a better fight for the laboratory budget last year.“I disagree with the idea that we need to ‘redesign the mission,’” Pearce said, referring to Udall’s explanation for voting to support a bill that contained severe cuts for LANL last year. “Tom Udall didn’t insist when some of the cuts weren’t shared by the other laboratories.”Pearce blamed the policies of Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a “mindset” that downgrades defense and national security and “walks away from all things nuclear.”He said his “pro-life” position, shared with Domenici, as well as his votes in favor of the “surge” of forces in Iraq and against expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, were in contrast to Wilson’s votes in the House.Pearce, 60, is serving his third term in Congress representing the 2nd Congressional District in southern New Mexico.He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2002 following a competitive five-way primary election. Pearce went on to win one of the most difficult congressional battles in the 2002 general election. The general election was one of the nation's most contested congressional races in the history of southern New Mexico.Pearce attributed his success in that experience to his background as a veteran who had served in Vietnam and as a businessman who knew how to create jobs, as well as his style as a straight talker with a minimum of political posturing.Pearce said he was visiting the laboratory “to express support” and “to find out how budget cuts were affecting the mission.”He voted against the consolidated appropriation bill that was passed and signed by the president in December, because it did not include funding for the Iraq War. He said the laboratory funding was not enough and he objected to the system of “cuts and backdoor restorations,” which he found detrimental to national security.Life might have been simpler for him if he had remained “hidden down in the Second District,” he said, but “I do not believe in my heart Heather (Wilson) can win in the general election.”Pearce has moved up the ranks during his time in Congress.The House Republican leadership tapped him to serve as an assistant Republican Whip, with the responsibility of working closely with Republican leaders in rounding up votes for key legislative initiatives.He is a leader on the House Natural Resources Committee, where he is the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, and is a member of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.Pearce also serves on the House Financial Services Committee where he is the Deputy Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity and is a member of the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit.He also has increased financial literacy forums to educate individuals on the basics of the financial system. He holds regular forums to combat the impact of methamphetamine and to strengthen families.Before being elected to Congress, Pearce served in the New Mexico Legislature from 1996-2000.He is a decorated war veteran, having served as a pilot in the Air Force. Based out of the Philippines, Pearce flew missions into Vietnam for which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. Returning to the United States, he was assigned to the Strategic Air Command at Blytheville Air Force Base in Arkansas.Pearce attended New Mexico public schools and graduated from New Mexico State University with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He earned an M.B.A. from Eastern New Mexico University.