Washington — One day before he is sworn in as North Carolina's newest U.S. senator, Republican Thom Tillis was on Capitol Hill Monday getting the lay of the land.
Tillis is among 71 new members of Congress who will begin work on Tuesday as Republicans take control of the Senate and continue running things in the House. He predicted swift action on legislation from the Keystone XL gas pipeline to regulatory reform.
"I don't intend to be part of a divisive Congress. I intend to be part of the leadership that's going to bring this place back to where it's working and people approve of what we're doing," he said in an interview with WRAL News.
Tillis blamed an "obstructionist process" for grinding congressional action to a halt in recent years, leading to abysmal approval ratings for Congress in most public opinion polls.
"Americans are frustrated because they haven't seen anything (productive), and what they have seen, they don't like," he said.
He suggested starting with some of the "hundreds of bills" passed with bipartisan support in the U.S. House in the last session that were never voted on by the U.S. Senate.
"Why don't we go and dust off those measures and find an opportunity to demonstrate to the American people that we're ready to get back to work and get Congress functioning again?" he said.
A member of the Armed Services and Veterans Affairs committees in the Senate, Tillis said he would focus on the needs of both active-duty troops and veterans in North Carolina. But he also wants to work on regulatory reform, which he acknowledged isn't glamorous but could be key to boosting the U.S. economy.
"It may have been a well-intended measure," he said of some federal regulations, "but when you see it in practice, it's killing jobs or preventing businesses from expanding."
Tillis said immigration reform also needs to be a priority for the new Congress. Although failure to address problems in U.S. immigration policy has been a "bipartisan failure for decades," he decried President Barack Obama's recent use of executive orders to fill some of the policy gaps.
"It has to start with the basic step of proving we can seal the border (and) prevent the problem (of illegal immigration) from growing," he said, adding that only after that is done can Congress and the president discuss how to handle the estimated 11 million people already in the U.S. illegally.