Nov. 7, 2012 – 12:10 a.m.

113th Congress: Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. (Senate)

An engineer by training, Martin Heinrich says he brings a more analytical perspective to solving problems than most of his colleagues on Capitol Hill. His top priorities are creating jobs and strengthening Social Security and Medicare. And he insists that he is willing to work with Republicans to do that, despite voting with his own party on more than nine of every 10 votes that split the two parties.

Heinrich is willing to consider changes to the corporate tax code as a way of increasing employment, by lowering rates and reducing deductions. That formula has adherents on the Republican side and could form the basis of a major overhaul of the code.

He also finds common cause with some on the GOP side in his criticism of China. But he adheres to Democratic orthodoxy on trade deals — he worries they hurt employment at home — and he wants to crack down on companies that offshore jobs.

“The path forward is one that focuses on creating jobs and puts the American middle-class family first,” he says.

On Social Security and Medicare, Heinrich describes his position more in terms of what he would not do than what he would. He’s against allowing people to put a portion of their Social Security taxes into private accounts, as well as the GOP proposal to turn the Medicare program into a premium support program.

Heinrich acknowledges that escalating costs are a problem for both programs, but he says the fiscal pressure would be alleviated by letting the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire for taxpayers earning more than $250,000 a year, and by sticking to strict pay-as-you-go budgeting in Congress, in which any new spending is balanced with equivalent cuts.

During two House terms, Heinrich worked to preserve jobs at Sandia National Laboratories, an Energy Department facility that conducts nuclear research in his district, as well as at Kirtland Air Force Base, the primary site of Sandia’s labs. After college, Heinrich worked as a mechanical engineering draftsman at the Phillips Research Site, an Air Force facility at Kirtland.

As the labs’ nuclear mission shrinks, Heinrich is making the case to Energy Department officials that both it and the Los Alamos National Lab near Santa Fe should be preserved and their mission broadened to include research in other areas of national security.

“It’s imperative both for New Mexico’s economy and for our national security that we do all we can to provide the necessary financial support for our labs,” he says.