Thom Tillis: from local advisory board to U.S. Senate

Published: Jan. 5, 2015 at 11:08 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 10, 2015 at 2:29 AM EST
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WASHINGTON, DC (WECT) - North Carolina will get a new U.S. Senator on Tuesday, and the Wilmington area gets a new member of the U.S. House when the 114th Congress is sworn into office.

Thom Tillis will become the junior Senator, and David Rouzer will become the Congressman from District 7 when the oaths are administered at the noon hour.

Tillis, the former state House Speaker who defeated incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan in November, is one of twelve new Republicans who will join the Senate, giving the party the majority in both chambers of Congress. Tillis has become one of the faces of this new majority, already appearing on the Sunday morning shows and being interviewed by several cable news networks. Not something he set out to do in the town of Cornelius in 2002.

"I never expected to be here," Tillis said during an interview Monday from the Rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building. "This all started because I wanted to get a single-track mountain bike trail built and I got on a Parks & Recreation Advisory Board. It's amazing that I am here, but I also feel blessed to have been in the Legislature and as Speaker, because I have some idea of what I'm getting into, it's just at a level that not too many people have the honor and the privilege to participate."

Tillis expects the new Congress to propose repealing some parts of Obamacare, including the provision that defines a full-time work-week as 30 hours. He also expects to see more Republican-backed bills to get votes in the Senate.

"I think what the American people are beginning to tire of are the polar extremes trying to dictate the debate," Tillis said. "That's when gridlock occurs. I'm no less conservative than when I ran in the primary and governed as Speaker of the (NC) House. But you have to be realistic about what you can get done, and I believe there are a number of things that we can do, on regulatory reform, the XL Pipeline, energy exploration, those kinds of things that the American people generally support."

Tillis says he has also been in touch with several members of the Senate, lawmakers he did not know prior to winning the election. Now instead of seeing them on television during the governing process, he will be working alongside them in the halls of Congress.

"If you take yourself out of the pressure-cooker and realize these are all people just like you and me," Tillis said. "They are not super-human. They're just people who got elected. Treat them with respect. They are all good people. I've met a lot of people from the other side of the aisle, some of whom I'm not sure I'd have a lot in common with ideologically. But as people, committed to a better America, there is common ground there.

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