NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

House of Representatives votes to continue paying America’s bills past midterm elections

With the mem­o­ry of last autum­n’s dis­as­trous man­u­fac­tured fis­cal cri­sis and com­plete­ly unnec­es­sary fed­er­al gov­ern­ment shut­down still fresh in their minds, the lead­er­ship of the U.S. House Repub­li­can Cau­cus today allowed a bill to come to the floor to autho­rize the U.S. Depart­ment of the Trea­sury to pay the nation’s bills for anoth­er year, through the midterm elec­tions and into March 2015.

Twen­ty eight Repub­li­cans joined with one hun­dred and nine­ty-three Democ­rats to send the leg­is­la­tion to the Unit­ed States Sen­ate. The over­all vote was two hun­dred and twen­ty-one to two hun­dred and one. Two Democ­rats (John Bar­row of Geor­gia and Jim Math­e­son of Utah) sided with the remain­ing Repub­li­cans.

“Tonight’s vote is a pos­i­tive step in mov­ing away from the polit­i­cal brinkman­ship that’s a need­less drag on our econ­o­my,” said White House Press Sec­re­tary Jay Car­ney in a state­ment fol­low­ing the vote. “The Amer­i­can econ­o­my is mov­ing for­ward, but there is much more to do to ensure that more mid­dle class Amer­i­cans – and those striv­ing to get into it – can get ahead.”

“Con­gress can start by rais­ing the min­i­mum wage so that no one who works full time rais­es their fam­i­ly in pover­ty, restor­ing emer­gency unem­ploy­ment insur­ance for the 1.7 mil­lion Amer­i­cans search­ing every day for a job who need this vital life­line to sup­port their fam­i­lies, and tak­ing addi­tion­al steps to strength­en our econ­o­my and restore oppor­tu­ni­ty for all Amer­i­cans.”

The roll call from the Pacif­ic North­west was as fol­lows:

Vot­ing Aye: Democ­rats Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Jim McDer­mott, Adam Smith, Den­ny Heck (WA), Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Peter DeFazio, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Kurt Schrad­er (OR); Repub­li­cans Doc Hast­ings and Dave Reichert (WA)

Vot­ing Nay: Repub­li­cans Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers (WA), Greg Walden (OR) Mike Simp­son and Raúl Labrador (ID), Steve Daines (MT), Don Young (AK)

With the excep­tions of Dave Reichert and Doc Hast­ings, the entire Repub­li­can side of the Pacif­ic North­west­’s con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion irre­spon­si­bly vot­ed not to autho­rize Trea­sury to pay the nation’s bills. Shame on all of them.

U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Suzan Del­Bene, who rep­re­sents NPI’s home dis­trict in Con­gress, explained her aye vote in a state­ment released to media out­lets a short time ago.

“The House’s bipar­ti­san vote today ends the risk of Amer­i­ca default­ing for the next year, help­ing us move past anoth­er man­u­fac­tured fis­cal cri­sis that could have been addressed months ago,” she said. “Fail­ure to raise the debt ceil­ing would have result­ed in seri­ous con­se­quences for our econ­o­my and the mid­dle class.”

“Today’s vote was the respon­si­ble action to take.”

We agree, and we thank her and the oth­er Democ­rats from the North­west, along with Dave and Doc, for their aye votes.

It is notable that Democ­rats sup­plied eighty-sev­en per­cent of the aye votes for this leg­is­la­tion. It just goes to show that even when Repub­li­cans are in charge, they’re inca­pable of gov­ern­ing. They dither, bick­er, and squab­ble until the eleventh hour, and then they frac­ture once it’s do-or-die time. As the New York Times explained:

Mr. Boehn­er stunned House Repub­li­cans Tues­day morn­ing when he ditched a pack­age that would have tied the debt ceil­ing increase to a repeal of cuts to mil­i­tary retire­ment pen­sions that had been approved in Decem­ber and announced he would put a “clean” debt [repay­ment] ceil­ing increase up for a vote.

Enough Repub­li­cans had balked at that pack­age when it was pre­sent­ed Mon­day night to con­vince the speak­er he had no choice but to turn to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic minor­i­ty. It was anoth­er star­tling dis­play of Repub­li­can dis­uni­ty, fueled by the polit­i­cal ambi­tions of mem­bers seek­ing high­er office and per­son­al ani­mus that burst into the open.

Angry right wing groups are call­ing for Boehn­er to be removed as speak­er. That’s unlike­ly to hap­pen, but it shows that the divi­sions with­in the Repub­li­can Par­ty are deep­en­ing. Boehn­er and Can­tor had no choice but to take a cou­ple dozen Repub­li­cans with them and part­ner with Democ­rats to vote out this bill.

They know that fur­ther hostage-tak­ing will only hurt their par­ty’s stand­ing. They sim­ply can’t afford a return to the head­lines of last Octo­ber.

They were will­ing to side with the Repub­li­can Par­ty base last fall because they thought they could best the White House in a game of chick­en. But, unlike in the sum­mer of 2011, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma refused to yield to their demands.

In mid-Octo­ber, Repub­li­cans were forced to agree to end the com­plete­ly unnec­es­sary gov­ern­ment shut­down they caused and allow Trea­sury to pay the bills for a few more months with­out hav­ing extract­ed any mean­ing­ful con­ces­sions.

We had won­dered since whether they would try to once again use the threat of default as lever­age for a grab bag of good­ies. It cer­tain­ly seems that many of them want­ed to. But John Boehn­er cor­rect­ly con­clud­ed there was noth­ing to gain and every­thing to lose. He and Eric Can­tor thus allowed the Repub­li­can cau­cus to frac­ture, rely­ing on Nan­cy Pelosi and House Democ­rats to pro­vide the cru­cial votes need­ed to keep the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca from default­ing.

Democ­rats con­trol the Sen­ate, so assum­ing Repub­li­cans’ attempt to block this leg­is­la­tion from con­sid­er­a­tion can be over­come (Ted Cruz has, unsur­pris­ing­ly, promised to fil­i­buster it), it will soon be on Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s desk.

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