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Jack Bergman talks veterans’ care, Soo Locks and House ethics

Peter Payette

Northern Michigan has a freshman lawmaker in U.S. Congress. Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet) was sworn into office last week as congressman for Michigan’s sprawling 1st District. 

The retired Marine Corps general has not yet been assigned to a committee, but he was selected to serve as president for the freshman class of Republican lawmakers. 

Bergman spoke with IPR News Radio about his first days on the job: 


What are your committee preferences?

“When I came out here and was asked to submit my committee preference sheet, I pretty much just said,’ I’m here to serve the constituents of the 1st District, here are my skill sets. You place me where you think I would best use my decades of experience … whether it be in the military … [or]  … in the medical equipment field as a small business owner.’” 

Do you plan to work with Project Cherry Tree — an effort to build a community-based care network for veterans in northern Michigan?  

“I’ve already had briefings with the committee that’s in charge of the Project Cherry Tree evolution and met with them.”

“I’m excited about the opportunity for this project because it encompasses not only health care, but education, job training … housing … all the kinds of issues that would in some cases be obstacles. So we’re going to turn them into opportunities for veterans to relocate to the Traverse City area to start with.”

“If we get that right, which we will, then that becomes an example for other parts of the country to do the same thing.”

There’s been approval to build a new lock at Sault Ste. Marie for more than 30 years but Congress has not been able to secure the funds for it. What do you plan to do to get a new lock built?

“I plan to work with other representatives who may or may not know at this point how devastating a closure of the Soo Locks could be to their district, whether it’s in Texas, California, Missouri, wherever.”

“[The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] has got a lot of important projects on their plate and it’s time now for them to entertain why the Soo Locks is the right project to move forward on.”

Last week, House Republicans voted in favor of limiting the power of the Office of Congressional Ethics. That’s a group that investigates but does not remove members of the House for ethics violations. The next day the effort was abandoned by Republicans. 

The initial vote was taken behind closed doors. How did you vote on it? 


“The bottom line is, you’re sitting there, you’re a new person in Congress and you’re figuring out what [the Office of Congressional Ethics] is from the standpoint of … is it functional? Does it serve a purpose? … What happened, happened.”

You voted on it, right?

“One of the things that I did run on in my platform is reducing the size of government and reducing the size of bureaucracies that do not function on behalf of anyone.”

“We’re not going to slack up on the ethics piece. We’re not going to slack up, but we need to get it right without wasting the taxpayers dollars.”