Much to the dismay of conservatives, the House approved a year-long suspension of the nation’s debt limit without any cuts in spending or attempts at reducing the size of government. With nearly all Democrats and just 28 Republicans voting in favor of the legislation, we’ve once again witnessed John Boehner surrender control of his chamber to the Democrats. At least that’s how it looks from my perspective.
Rep Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) was one of the 28 Republicans who voted for this legislation. I spoke with him this morning and he provided me with his rationalization:
“I know some people are not pleased with this vote but if we didn’t make a move here, this would have been an early Christmas present for the president and the Democrats. The Speaker solicited ideas from House members on what to attach to the bill. Anything substantive we would have proposed would be rejected by the president and rejected by Harry Reid in the Senate.”
He went on to explain that while this was not ideal, he feels that putting this battle behind them is their best hope for avoiding another government shutdown, which he said was not good for the party back in October and if it came down to that again, wouldn’t be good for the Republicans now.
Granted, now that this bill has been passed it eliminates any chance of default on $17.2 trillion in debt until March 2015 and it also eliminates the ability for the Democrats to make this an issue going into the 2014 elections. With that being said, this doesn’t solve our actual debt problem, and seems to kick the can down the road once again. But as Rep LoBiondo eluded, solving our debt problem wasn’t the intent of this bill. It’s clearly about politics.
LoBiondo expressed that if Republicans were to allow a budget battle to get to the point where we potentially default on our financial obligations, the president would not only blame it on the Republicans but would make it as painful for the American people as possible.
"Because it has never happened before, if we were to default on our bills, there isn’t a clear process to determine what our payment priorities are. The president would make those choices. And he has made it clear that he can and would inflict as much pain as possible. He would likely choose to withhold Social Security payments, veteran’s benefits, etc. and blame it on us just as he did back in October during the government shutdown."
I told Rep. LoBiondo that while his reasoning may make sense from a political standpoint, those of us looking at this ongoing battle from outside of Washington D.C. want to see the Republicans lead on this issue with real solutions, not just political maneuvers. Unfortunately Rep LoBiondo’s reply was the same one we have heard from other Republican leaders. “With the President and the Senate led by the Democrats, we are at a disadvantage in the House. We have limited options.”
The most frustrating aspect of this for me is that 28 Republicans did not make good on their promise. Remember back in October when they approved a temporary suspension of the debt ceiling? They did so with vows to extract something from Obama this month. That obviously didn’t happen. And they wonder why we don’t trust what they say?
Not only are they kicking the right decisions down the road, but now they are doing the same to supporters.