Monday, February 21, 2011

Who are those guys? Meet the three Republican House members who voted "no" on the budget bill

Martha note:  I'm deliberately not blogging about WMRA's 4 X 4 Fundraiser because I feel that the best way to get you to support it is to deliver an informative blog that helps demonstrate the station's worth in our community conversation. 
That, however, will not stop me from giving the phone number: 800-677-9672; or a link to on-line support.

Anyone else remember the scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when our (anti-)heroes are being pursued relentlessly by a posse of unidentified men whom Butch and Sundance just can't seem to shake?

Butch (Paul Newman) and Sundance (Robert Redford), peering
At one point in the movie, having abandoned their horses to scramble up a rocky ridge, Butch and Sundance peer out from behind a boulder. There, sure enough, just like death and taxes, are those mysterious guys. "Damn!" says Butch. "Who are those guys?

That same question came into my mind Saturday morning when I saw that House Republicans had not passed their budget bill in party lock-step. Three Republican congressmen had voted against it.

Hmmmmm, I thought.  Who are those guys? 

And why did they break party ranks to vote "no" on the House federal budget bill?

"Those guys" are Representatives Jeff Flake (Arizona), Walter Jones (N.C.), and John Campbell (Calif.).

Jeff Flake has been in Congress since 2001, representing Arizona's 6th district, which is mostly made up of the eastern suburbs of Phoenix. Mr. Flake "was rated the most conservative representative by VoteView.  He is one of only eight representatives to get a 100% rating from the American Conservative Union."

According to his website, "Congressman Flake consistently looks for opportunities to cut federal spending. He has been a leader in Congress on earmark reform and has called for the new Medicare prescription drug benefit to be canceled, or at a minimum means-tested, in order help defray its cost." Among other conservative cost-cutting measures, he favors ending federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Extremely interesting to me, just before last year's midterms, Esquire ranked the extremely conservative Mr. Flake among the 10 best members of Congress, citing him for consistently applied principles:
Demagoguing an issue is cheap and easy, especially this year. And there's perhaps been no state where demagoguery has been a precondition to electoral viability this year more than Arizona. (See: McCain, John, reelection of.) And so by contrast it is stunning to see a conservative Arizonan keep his head and stick to his principles while all around him is chaos. In his five terms, Flake has been one of the steadiest and most articulate proponents of sane spending and restrained government. And it has cost him repeatedly: In 2007, he was stripped of his main committee assignment by his own party for being too critical of profligate spending by Republicans when they were in power. And this year he withstood a stout challenge from the right for (among other things) having the guts to oppose the awful SB 1070 in favor of comprehensive federal immigration reform.
As to that "no" vote on the budget, the only reasonably direct explanation I could find came from an article in the National Review online, that refers to Mr. Flake's vote as a member of the Appropriations Committee:
Flake Defies GOP on Cuts
February 8, 2011 11:13 P.M.
By Andrew Stiles
Following a contentious vote Tuesday night, the House Appropriations Committee will move forward with a GOP proposal to cut tens of billions in federal non-security spending for the remainder of the fiscal year (through September). The move puts Republicans one step closer to bringing a continuing resolution to the floor that will replace the one that expires on March 4. 
The 27–22 vote broke down by party, with two notable exceptions: GOP Reps. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) and Cynthia Lummis (R., Wyo.) joined with Democrats and voted ‘no’ in protest over cuts they viewed as insufficient. (my bold)
Jeff Flake recently announced that he will run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jon Kyl.

Next . . .

Congressman Walter Jones serves North Carolina's 3rd District, which rambles around Beaufort on the state's coast and includes the Outer Banks. Mr. Jones, a Republican first elected to Congress in 1995, is the son of a Congressman of the same name who was a Democrat (as was initially Jesse Helms, who was his partial Congressional contemporary).

Mr. Jones' voting record appears to exemplify hard-line fiscal conservatism; i.e. the U.S. government should not spend money it doesn't have. The Hill  reported he drifted from Republican Party ranks in a March 10, 2010 vote:

Five House Republicans joined 60 Democrats tonight in voting to pull out U.S. forces from Afghanistan. 
The measure, defeated by a vote of 356-65, was introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and co-sponsored by three of the Republicans who ended up supporting it: Reps. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Ron Paul (R-Texas), and Tim Johnson (R-Ill.).
Walter Jones also broke political ranks when he recently sponsored an amendment (that was soundly defeated) to the just-passed (in the House) federal budget that would have eliminated the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund. Jones stated, "We are trying to find $400 million to put in an infrastructure fund for Afghanistan, which is going to be borrowed money from the Chinese to begin with. It's not even Uncle Sam's money."

Walter Jones joined most of the rest of House Republicans in voting "no" on Health Care, TARP, the Stimulus and Energy Bills.

I also found this statement made by Mr. Jones that might help explain his recent  "no" vote on the federal budget. It was issued after his "no" vote on last year's budget (with the House under the control of the Democrats). At that time, Walter Jones commented:
“During difficult times, American families and small businesses make sacrifices and do what they can to tighten their belts and rein in spending. Most people expect the federal government to do the same. Sadly, Washington has chosen to go on a spending spree and ignore the pressing demand for fiscal discipline. Rather than scale back wasteful spending, this budget resolution is projected to nearly triple the national debt over the next 10 years.
But perhaps the clearest explanation for his "no vote" was delivered last Friday in the first paragraph of a Washington Post OpEd pieceWalter Jones co-authored the editorial with Congressman James McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat:
No one, it seems, wants to talk about the war in Afghanistan. This week the House debated a budget bill that is touted as reflecting new fiscal restraint, yet borrows tens of billions more for the war.
And finally . . . 

John Campbell has represented California's 48th  District (encompassing Newport and Laguna beaches) since 2005. His vote also appears to have been a statement that Republican cost-cutting measures did not go far enough.

Mr. Campbell's website offers an article from Politico that details the last ditch efforts he made with his fellow fiscal conservatives to chop more out of the federal budget:

The central event was an amendment from the conservative Republican Study Committee to cut an additional $22 billion from domestic and foreign-aid spending, pushing these accounts all the way back to appropriations levels in the last years of the George W. Bush administration. . . . 
 . . . “All this amendment does is ask the government to spend what it spent two years ago,” countered Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.). “Most Americans would probably like to do that. Why is that such a devastation?” 
“This amendment does not threaten government services. It is actually a step toward saving them.”
As to his "no" vote on the whole budget package,  Mr. Campbell made his reasons clear yesterday by writing on his website:

"I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go."    - President Abraham Lincoln 
I'm exhausted. I wasn't good at pulling "all-nighters" when I was in college. Now, at age 55, my resilience from such things is even less. Congress had an all-nighter Friday night, after a "most of the nighter" on Thursday. Just before 5 AM Saturday morning, after being in session and voting for 20 straight hours, and after 90 hours of debate on over 600 amendments, the House passed a bill to fund the federal government from March 5th until September 30, 2011 spending about $62 billion less than last year. But, more important than my physical depletion is the profound melancholy I feel right now. Yes, a spending bill passed that actually reduces spending. Many of my colleagues who have been around much longer than I have remind me that it is a huge shift to talk about how much we are going to cut instead of how to slow the rate of  increase. I get that.  But, if you are in a car heading for a cliff, it is not enough to apply the brakes if that braking is insufficient to keep you from going over the cliff. You must brake hard. It looks like Wisconsin Governor Walker is doing that in Madison. But, we are not doing it in Washington. I think America is ready to do what is necessary to avoid national fiscal collapse and calamity. But, I'm not sure Congress is there yet. 
The vote was 235-189. Every Democrat voted against it. That surprised and disappointed me. The cuts are not that deep and I would have thought that a few of the remaining "blue dogs" who often speak about fiscal sanity would have voted yes. I was one of 3 Republicans to vote no. We all voted no because it did not reduce spending enough. I thought there might have been a few more to join our little band of rebels. 
So, there you have "those guys."

Any thoughts, comments, reactions? Any opinion, yourself, about whether the House Republicans cut enough, too much, not enough from the federal budget?

1 comment:

  1. Jones is my congressman and I was upset with his NO vote so I wrote him. He wrote back with the explanation that the NO was a protest that the cuts were not deep enough and only cut discretionary spending...I accept his explanation.

    'Meanwhile, the House of Representatives worked on H.R. 1 – a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through the end of this fiscal year. This measure would cut $100 billion, or 2.7% percent, off the estimated $3.7 trillion federal budget.

    I did not vote for H.R. 1 for the following reasons. First, I do not believe H.R. 1 came close to cutting enough spending. As previously mentioned, America's projected federal deficit this year is $1.65 trillion. Cutting $100 billion from that deficit is a nice gesture, but it only gets us one-sixteenth of the way to a balanced budget. We can and must do better. Furthermore, I was disappointed that H.R. 1 only included steep cuts to domestic non-defense discretionary spending, while leaving entitlement programs, military spending and foreign aid untouched. Domestic non-defense discretionary spending –which includes funding for highways and waterways, clean water, energy, national parks, federal law enforcement and many other things – accounts for roughly $660 billion, or 20 percent, of annual federal spending. To put this in perspective, all domestic non-defense discretionary spending could be completely eliminated and we'd still have to find another roughly $900 billion dollars in spending cuts just to balance the budget this year. The reality is that if Congress and the President are serious about putting this country on a sustainable fiscal path, we have no other choice but to reform entitlement programs and radically downsize overseas spending in addition to cutting domestic discretionary spending. "