Heller said government, as well as big business and big unions, have hindered job creation. However, he shied away from urging government to completely sit out.
“I believe that we need a safety net,” he said at a Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting at the Palms casino off the Las Vegas Strip. “I believe it’s the ability to get people back on their feet and back to work.”
Heller also suggested that the housing crisis that has pummeled Nevadans cannot be resolved by the private market alone. He noted millions of homes are underwater, including many in Nevada, and said the nation cannot fix the jobs market without first tending to its foreclosure problem.
“How long is it going to take for supply and demand to meet at that rate? We are talking six or seven more years,” he said. “So something has to change, something has to be different. Clearly, the incentives of financial institutions are wrong.”
Heller said lenders should allow borrowers to lease their foreclosed houses for up to five years to help combat neighborhood blight that can drive down property values.
Economic issues are important in Nevada, the state with the nation’s highest foreclosure and unemployment rates.
Heller is being challenged for his seat by Democrat Shelley Berkley. She has represented Las Vegas in the U.S. House since 1999.
Since he was appointed last year from the House to the Senate to replace Republican John Ensign, Heller has championed many conservative causes, including the so-called Balanced Budget Amendment, low taxes and private market solutions. He also opposed the federal bailouts of the auto industry and banks.
Heller said he only votes for bills that support “more competition, higher quality and less cost.”
He said the nation devotes too many dollars to foreign affairs, with Israel being an exception. Berkley, who is Jewish, has been a noted supporter of Israel, and Heller’s comment suggests he won’t cede that vote to her.
“Israel is a good companion of ours, a good friend of ours,” he said.
Heller also said he looks forward to another debate in Congress on whether to raise the debt ceiling. He has been critical of President Barack Obama’s spending.
“I want to have that argument right before the election... that will be an incredible argument right before the election to find out where the American people are,” Heller said.
Berkley’s campaign said Friday that Heller’s record illustrates a “pro-Wall Street, anti-middle class agenda.” Berkley is scheduled to address the chamber April 11.
Heller’s chamber appearance comes months after Heller cancelled a meeting at the last minute with the separate Latin Chamber of Commerce in Las Vegas because some Democratic leaders showed up to hear his speech.
Heller’s staff said Friday that he has been working to reschedule that meeting.