Today the U.S. House of Representatives voted to allow the United States to keep borrowing money by way of a three month extension. Republicans claimed to be conditional in their support, stating that a budget must be produced by the end of said extension or the pay of federal lawmakers would be withheld.
That is an interesting threat from a party with such little leverage. But I’ll get back to that. Having run for Congress in 2012 on the Libertarian ticket, I watched closely to see how District 2 Representative and my Congresswoman, Republican Jackie Walorski would vote. I assumed that she would support the bill as it had been spoken of favorably by House Speaker John Boehner, who stumped for Ms. Walorski during our campaign.
I sent Ms. Walorski a message on Facebook, asking her to stay true to the Tea Party groups who supported her on the campaign trail. They would not likely have encouraged her to support such measures regardless of whether it was for three months, three years, or even three weeks.
When reaching out to her on Facebook proved unsuccessful, I called her office in Washington D.C. I introduced myself to the man that answered the phone and he said, “Oh yes. I remember you. You’re the Libertarian.” Indeed I am. I proceeded to explain my position (respectfully) and asked him to relay my message to Ms. Walorski – asking her to say “No” to further borrowing. He agreed and we ended our call. I then utilized social media to encourage my friends and supporters to call their own representatives.
Well, at the conclusion of today’s vote, Indiana’s representatives had voted as followed:
|District||Representative||Yes or No|
|1||Peter Visclosky (D)||Yes|
|2||Jackie Walorski (R)||Yes|
|3||Marlin Stutzman (R)||Yes|
|4||Todd Rokita (R)||Yes|
|5||Susan Brooks (R)||Yes|
|6||Luke Messer (R)||Yes|
|7||Andre Carson (D)||No|
|8||Larry Bucshon (R)||Yes|
|9||Todd Young (R)||Yes|
Jackie voted just as I suspected she would. And in fact, every Republican (and one Democrat) did as well.
Republicans have argued that they were merely playing ball and pressuring the Democrats to the Republicans’ ultimate goal – a budget. While a budget is a respectable goal, one that shouldn’t take nearly as much coaxing as it seems to; I doubt they’ll get one. And at the end of the day Republicans only demanded a budget, so if they do get one it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be a good one.
The Democrats were a mixed bag. While President Obama stated prior to the vote that he would not block the bill if passed, other prominent Democrats like Nancy Pelosi voted against it. Why? My assumption is, well, because it’s Nancy Pelosi, and to her asking for a budget is like shouting obscenities at her grandmother. You see a budget actually requires that things be written out with a sense of transparency for the American people. Admittedly Ms. Pelosi prefers passing legislation before it has been read, and cares very little whether or not government actually has some standard of accountability.
Some Republicans (probably such as my former opponent Ms. Walorski) view this bill as a Band-Aid, or a temporary fix to an ugly situation – one that buys time for more discussion and debate. But it’s still more borrowing, and for a nation that is over 16 trillion dollars in debt, it’s an expensive Band-Aid – a very wasteful Band-Aid.
The closest parallel I can draw regards private student loans. Companies like Sallie Mae maintain different standards for private loans than they do for their public loans. For instance, if students are unable to make a payment on a private loan after the grace period has expired there is no option for deferment. Rather a student (or graduate) may opt for forbearance. With this the student may opt to pay a $50 fee. The fee will bring him (or her) current, keeping collections from blowing up their phone. The downside is that this $50 does not go towards paying off the actual loan. In a sense it’s wasted money. It’s paying the company who owns your loan while not actually paying on the loan itself.
And that’s what the House did today. They chose forbearance. They chose to spend/borrow more money, without actually making a payment on their loans.
Democrats would say this is cool. After all, we have to pay the bills.
But if paying the bills is really what we’re interested in doing, our national debt has to be considered “the bills.” Borrowing more money to pay anything else is just robbing Peter to pay Paul.
More than anything this was an attempted facelift. Republicans were aiming to shake the “Party of No!” label that the mainstream media has cast upon them. Unfortunately becoming a Yes Man only adds to an already severe problem. Yes, we have to begin working on a solution now. I don’t think those who chose to borrow more were necessarily being short sighted.
However, their focus was less on the issue (the debt) and more on their public image. If I had won my election and were representing my district I would have been more concerned with the vital issues at hand during my two-year term, and less concerned with branding myself for re-election.
If you start paying off the debt and over the course of time make a positive impact on our economy, your image will take care of itself.
Also, remember when I said I’d get back to my statement that threatening to withhold pay was interesting coming from a party with no leverage? I’m back to that now. If the GOP were to have voted on principle today saying, “No more borrowing. Period.” I would have respected it. However the Democrats, along with a media that seems very anti-fiscal responsibility, would have demonized Republicans. They would have said, “There they go again, throwing Grandma off the cliff (they like that phrase according to Sean Hannity).” And the general public would have cringed at the insensitive Republicans for all of the hurt that they caused.
Likewise if no budget is produced at the end of this three month extension, the Democrats could easily cry foul as the GOP attempts to enlist measures to withhold the pay of lawmakers.
They could say (along with the help of the mainstream media), “Look at what the Republicans are doing now! Without pay how will we provide for our families? Without pay, how can we continue to work? We need to be together here, working towards solutions to get Americans out of this mess. Republicans are simply holding us hostage and obstructing our progress.”
And again the public would turn against the Republican Party. Simply put, their leverage is non-existent.
With all that said, that is my take on what they did today. That is why the GOP continues to be out of favor with so many Americans.
And that is just one of the many reasons that I, Joe Ruiz, am a Libertarian.