By Elizabeth Fisher
Special to The CS&T

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Health care, jobs and immigration topped the list of issues that newly sworn in Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick vowed to tackle as he addressed the 500 well-wishers from Bucks County who packed his reception in the Capitol Jan. 5.

In a table-turning election in November, Fitzpatrick, a Republican, won by more than 100,000 votes over Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy. Fitzpatrick’s victory stood in sharp contrast to the 2006 squeaker – just over 1,000 votes – that gave Murphy his one term in office. {{more}}

Fitzpatrick, 47, is not new to the halls of the Capitol. He was appointed to Congress in 2004 after Congressman Jim Greenwood’s sudden resignation. After losing the 2006 election, Fitzpatrick, a lawyer, returned to private practice, fought a devastating but eventually successful battle against colon cancer and monitored the political scene in Washington.

“I tried to be even-handed and to give my (former) opponent a chance. But over time, I saw unemployment double, job-killing taxes imposed and the passage of a health care bill that could cost the nation $1 trillion over the next 10 years,” Fitzpatrick said. “Those are issues that I thought needed immediate attention.”

Returned to health and appreciating both the gift of life “after almost losing it” and listening carefully to other cancer survivors and cancer patients, Fitzpatrick decided to once again throw his hat into the ring.

“When you fight for your life, you gain a new perspective,” he said.

The congressman was actually sworn in twice on Jan. 5; first when the formal ceremony was held while he was visiting his constituents in a meeting room in the Capitol building. He later learned that the law requires that swearing-in take place in the House in the presence of the Speaker.

But nothing dampened the spirits of Fizpatrick’s followers.

“This seems like a homecoming for Mike,” said Patricia Wandling, a longtime friend and former coworker. “He’s anxious to get on with the job and he takes strong values to Washington. I’d say he’s in the right place at the right time.”

Among those strong values are Fitzpatrick’s opposition to abortion and to embryonic stem-cell research. He’s also concerned, he said, about the burgeoning discussions on euthanasia. Fitzpatrick is a Catholic. He, his wife Kathleen and their six children are members of Queen of the Universe Parish in Levittown.

Fitzpatrick, who served as a Bucks County Commissioner (1995-2004) has never compromised his pro-life stands and will maintain them in Congress, he said.

The weather was mild in Washington, with temperatures hovering about 40 degrees and the sun beaming down on the Capitol dome, which made bearable the long delays at security checkpoints. Lines backed up outside both the Capitol and the Longworth Building, where congressional offices are located.

At the end of the long day, just as buses loaded to transport weary passengers home, the youngest member of the group took a picture of several of the nation’s landmarks, and reflected on the day.

“Mike Fitzpatrick shook my hand when we got here, and he took his picture with me before we left,” said 10-year-old Andrew Stillman, a fifth-grader at St. Mark School in Bristol. “He likes to be with the people.”

Elizabeth Fisher is a freelance journalist and member of St. Mark Parish in Bristol.