U.S. Rep. Chris Carney, D-Dimock, does not like to think of himself a Democrat, but rather as someone who represents the best interests of the 10th Congressional District.
Speaking to the Williamsport Rotary Club Monday, he touched on issues ranging from the Iraq War to the recent economic bailout during the group's weekly luncheon.
The first-term Congressman is being challenged in the November election by Luzerne County businessman Chris Hackett, who has criticized Carney for what he characterizes as the lawmaker's liberal voting policies and his support of earmarks.
Carney did not apologize for supporting earmarks, saying they represent an excellent means of bringing home needed funding.
It was earmarks, otherwise known as pork barrel spending, that helped secure $2.5 million for the planned Church Street transportation center and dollars for the new National Guard Armory yet to be constructed in Lycoming County, he said.
Many congressmen, he said, are probably happy to hear Hackett say he would reject earmarks, if elected, since it would result in more money available for their districts.
Carney said shortly after being elected to Congress in 2006, he interviewed people to put together a staff that was split among members of both the Democratic and Republican parties.
"I did not ask (them) about party affiliation, because frankly, I did not care," he said. "I wanted to know what you would do for the district."
Carney said he is one to cross political lines on issues, including the economic bailout, which he voted against twice.
One reason he rejected it, he said, is that even experts could not guarantee that the $700 billion approved for boosting the troubled economy would work.
"What really troubled me most is we didn't look at alternatives," he said.
Carney said it didn't matter that he was encouraged by party members to vote for the bailout.
"I don't kowtow to anyone."
Alluding to the nation's $11.3 trillion debt, Carney said reining in fiscal spending is among his priorities.
"We have to reverse that trend," he said.
Carney, a commander (elect) in the U.S. Naval Reserves, who served as senior terrorist and intelligence adviser at the Pentagon, predicted that American forces likely will be out of Iraq in 16 months or so.
He said military leaders have told him that the Iraq War has hurt the nation's war on terror.
"We only control about 30 percent of the country," he said.
Carney said America should be concerned about Pakistan, which not only has nuclear capabilities but serves as a site for operatives of al-Qaida and the Taliban.
"If you are worried about anything, worry about Pakistan," he said.
Looking back on his voting record, Carney said he is proudest of bills that target child pornography and education for National Guard and Army Reserve members.
Carney wrote the Enhancing the Effective Preservation of Child Pornography Act allowing for the prosecution of those who produce child pornography or knowingly access it repeatedly with the intent to view it.
The other legislation extends to Guard and Reserve members in Iraq and Afghanistan up to $700 a month in college tuition and related educational benefits for up to 10 years after they leave the military.