The budget/debt ceiling bill passed the House last night, and the Senate is slated to vote on it today. Half of the Democrats opposed it; sixty-six Republicans also said no to it. The Democrats’ objections were that there were no tax increases, there were spending cuts, and it called for the Congress to send a balanced budget amendment to the states for ratification. Republicans’ objections were that most of the spending cuts were too far down the road, there is the possibility for tax increases in the future if a special commission deems them necessary [although they would still have to pass both houses to take effect], and the debt ceiling was raised in the process.
I don’t have any sympathy with the Democrat objections, but I understand why some Republicans couldn’t bring themselves to support the measure. This is not a bill that makes a fundamental change. At the same time, I understand why the majority of Republicans went along with it: when you control only one part of the Congress and there is a president who will veto anything stronger, you go for the best deal you can get, and it does change the debate at least. No longer will Congress be pushing new spending programs; the discussion will now center on how to make effective cuts in spending. In other words, I see the strengths of both Republican positions.
What we have here is not a basic philosophical difference among most Republicans, but merely a tactical one. Is this not supportable because it doesn’t do enough, or is it instead the first step along an arduous policy road on the way to the ultimate goal?
I know some people’s passions are running high on this issue, and there are those calling for new leadership in the Republican party. Yet from other accounts I have read, even many of the Republicans who rejected this bill had words of praise for Speaker Boehner and his leadership team. They recognize he did his best, and they appreciate his efforts in a tough political climate. Although they may have voted against this specific piece of legislation, they are hopeful that it really can be a first step after all. They certainly need to pull together now if anything more significant is to be achieved. Initial reports indicate they can go forward unified in what they seek to accomplish overall.
It’s always nice to see harmony. Then, of course, there is the opposite of that. Yesterday, Vice President Biden met with disgruntled House Democrats to explain why he and the president support the bill. By all accounts, it was a heated meeting, and in the midst of that heat, a few verbal shots were fired. Apparently, the VP and/or other members of the Democrat caucus called members of the Tea Party “terrorists.”
Once again the Party of Civility leads the way into a new and brighter future where mutual respect forms the cornerstone of our political system.