Tom Rooney (R-Fla.)

U.S. Representative (since January 2009)

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Why He Matters

There are probably few House districts in the country as weary of scandal as Florida's 16th. In 2006, the district's House member, Republican Mark Foley, resigned from Congress after allegations of improper communications with congressional pages. Two years later, the Democrat who replaced Foley in Congress, Tim Mahoney, admitted paying off a former staffer with whom he'd had an affair.

Into this leadership void stepped Tom Rooney, a former Army JAG and West Point instructor who hails from a storied American football family (Rooney's uncle, Dan, is part-owner and chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers and is currently serving as the U.S. ambassador to Ireland). Rooney was elected to Congress in a landslide after the scandal surrounding Mahoney came to light.

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Tom Rooney (R-Fla.)

U.S. Representative (since January 2009)

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At a Glance

  • Career History: CEO, Children's Place at Home Safe shelter (2005-2006); assistant attorney general, state of Florida (2004-2005); Army JAG Corps (2000-2004)
  • Birthday: November 21, 1970
  • Hometown: Philadelphia
  • Alma Mater: Washington and Jefferson College, B.A., 1993; University of Florida, M.A., 1996; University of Miami, J.D., 1999
  • Spouse: Tara Rooney
  • Religion: Catholic
  • Committees: Armed Services ; Agriculture ; Permanent Select Intelligence
  • DC Office: 1529 Longworth House Office, 202-225-5792

Path to Power

Rooney's birthplace is Philadelphia, but the central location in his family history lies some 300 miles to the west, in the city of Pittsburgh.

His grandfather, Art Rooney Sr., was the founder and original owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his father, Pat, is one of Art Rooney's five sons. Despite being from Florida, the congressman makes no attempt to hide his love for the family team, and his House office is decked out with Steelers memorabilia. "Anyone from Western Pennsylvania that walks into my [congressional] office is going to feel right at home," Rooney said.

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The Issues

Rooney's political views are generally in line with the Republican Party. He's anti-abortion rights (except when the mother's life is in danger), opposes same-sex marriage, generally favors low taxes and is supportive of offshore oil drilling. But it's issues in the realm of foreign policy and national security that seem to hold his greatest interest.

Military Health Screenings

Rooney reached across party lines just months after joining Congress, sponsoring a bill on mental-health screening in the military with another freshman lawmaker, Rep. Michael McMahon (D-N.Y.). The legislation, which Congress approved in fall 2009, requires all military personnel to undergo a confidential, one-on-one mental-health screening after returning from war zones.

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The Network

The congressman's uncle, Dan Rooney, is part-owner and chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers and is currently serving as the U.S. ambassador to Ireland after being nominated by President Obama. The Steelers executive was a prominent supporter of Obama during the 2008 election, despite his lifelong membership in the Republican Party.

Rooney taught at West Point with former Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), the first Iraq War veteran ever elected to Congress, and the two remain close associates. "I don't agree with everything he does politically, but he's probably one of my best friends in the world," Rooney said. "I can bust his chops in front of other Democrats and probably get away with it a little bit more."

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Additional Resources

  1. Schwartz, Emma, Schwartz, Rhonda, and Walter, Vic, ABC News, "Congressman's $121,000 payoff to alleged mistress," October 13, 2008
  2. DiMascio, Jen, Politico, "GOP taps veterans for Afghan advice," Oct. 27, 2009
  3. Ivice, Paul, The Stuart News, "Rooney touts 3 bills from recent session," July 3, 2009
  4. Turner, Jim, The Stuart News, "Rooney announces support for Obama's Iraq plan," March 5, 2009
  5. Turner, Jim, The Stuart News, "Rooney: America needs to beef up forces in Afghanistan to get situation under control," August 27, 2009
  6. Zito, Salena, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Rooney family member to enter Congress today," January 6, 2009
  7. DiMascio, Jen, Politico, "GOP taps veterans for Afghan advice", October 27, 2009
  8. Pinnell, Gary, Higlands Today, "Steelers scion tackles congressional race," May 26, 2008
  9. Bennett, George, Palm Beach Post, "Stimulus Foe Rooney Now Asking for a Share," February 23, 2009
  10. Schwartz, Emma, and Walter, Vic, "Congressman Mahoney admits to multiple affairs," October 17, 2008
  11. Quinlan, Paul, and Fitzpatrick, Cara, Palm Beach Post, "Passions feverish at Stuart health-care forum," August 19, 2009
  12. Pinnell, Gary, Highlands Today, "Should health care be reformed?", Auguts 12, 2009
  13. Allen, Mike, Politico, How a sophomore beat Speaker John Boehner, Feb. 18, 2011
  14. Rooney, Tom, The Hill, "HIRE America act about creating jobs today," October 15, 2009
  15. Maze, Rick, The Army Times, "Bipartisan mental health bill moves forward," October 23, 2009
  16. Pinnell, Gary, Highlands Today, "Steelers scion tackles congressional race," May 26, 2008
  17. Mullins, Anne Schroeder, Politico, "Rooney would wear Snuggie," October 27, 2009
  18. Biographical information from Rep. Rooney's Web site and the Almanac of American Politics
  19. Zito, Salena, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Rooney family member to enter Congress today," January 6, 2009