U.S. Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA) and U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were honored as recipients of the 2008 Thomas Jefferson Award for Distinguished Service by the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA), a trade group representing foodservice distributors.

Senator McConnell, the Senate minority leader, and Representative Cantor, the chief deputy whip, were presented the foodservice distribution industry’s highest award for their longstanding commitment to free enterprise, including their stance against the Employee Free Choice Act and support for repeal of the death tax.

“As a life-long Virginian, in a district that borders Jefferson’s home of Monticello, I am proud to accept this award,” says Representative Cantor. “I want to thank you for coming here to Washington and giving up your time. What you do here to educate representatives about the impact of their actions on you, at home, is invaluable. Your being here is a reminder that our policies affect real people.”

During his comments at the opening dinner of the IFDA Day in Washington, Representative Cantor discussed issues surrounding tax and energy policy, as well as the House Republicans vote against the Employee Free Choice Act. EFCA passed the House in a vote along party lines, but was stopped in the Senate where Republicans, led by

Senator McConnell, successfully rejected a cloture motion to bring EFCA to a vote. The legislation would allow union representation in the workplace if a majority of employees simply signed “check cards” and undermines the right of employees to vote privately in an election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Defeat of this legislation is IFDA’s top legislative priority.
Senator McConnell was presented the award at a legislative briefing during the IFDA Day in Washington meeting. In his comments, he described the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) as “something we thought was a horrible idea.” Senator McConnell also discussed issues surrounding trade, taxes, fuel prices, and the balance of power at stake in the upcoming fall elections. “We are a firewall against a lot of really bad ideas, and you are looking at the fire chief,” says Senator McConnell. “I need enough firemen to hold the line.”

The foodservice industry is an important part of our nation’s economy and touches every American,” states IFDA President and CEO Mark S. Allen. “With the current challenges of high fuel costs and rising food prices, sound policy toward American business is more important than ever. The Thomas Jefferson Awards acknowledge Members of the 110th Congress who support family-owned businesses and policies that strengthen the foodservice distribution industry. The Distinguished Service Award is our way of recognizing one truly exceptional Senator who has demonstrated tremendous leadership on principles that make our economy stronger.”

IFDA’s vote rating for the Senate and for the House of Representatives were each based upon five votes during the 110th Congress. Recipients of the 2008 Thomas Jefferson Award were recorded favorably on at least 70 percent of these votes. Senate votes selected included the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007 (H.R. 2831), comprehensive immigration reform (S. 1639), and the Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800).House of Representatives votes included the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (H.R. 2831), Tax Collection Responsibility Act (H.R. 3056), and the Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800).

The Thomas Jefferson Awards are presented to Senators and House of Representatives Members who vote consistently in support of sound fiscal policy and other free-market principles. The special awards for “distinguished service” are presented to one Senator and one Member of the House of Representatives who have provided stalwart leadership on issues of the highest priority to foodservice distributors and who exemplify Thomas Jefferson’s philosophy toward commerce. This philosophy was expressed clearly in his first inaugural address when he stated: “A wise and frugal government… shall leave men otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” The awards program is conducted every two years and coincides with the adjournment of each Congress.

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