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Monday, August 01, 2011

US House Passes Horrible Debt Ceiling Budget Deal Bill: Heinrich Votes Yes, Lujan and Pearce No

Source: Daily Kos

Today the U.S House of Representatives passed S.365, the Budget Control Act of 2011, by a vote of 269-161 -- not even close. A total of 174 Republicans voted yes, with 66 voting nay. Dem votes were evenly split 95 for and 95 against. Three Dems did not vote. During today's floor vote, just a couple of dozen Democrats voted for the bill at first, but once it became clear the  bill would pass, the rest joined in. Here's a chart with the breakdown. In a surprise appearance, Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) returned to the House floor for the first time since she was shot in the head by a gunman in Tucson, and she got a warm and enthusiastic welcome from her colleagues.

S.365 is the awful bill that was the result of a "negotiated deal" orchestrated by House and Senate leaders and the President that permits the government to raise its debt limits and thus avoid defaulting on payments for borrowed funds already spent. Inevitably, a US default would have had disastrous consequences in almost every area of the economy. Unfortunately, the fix has its own horrors -- like large spending cuts that will ensure that our "jobless recovery" economy stays stagnant or goes even farther downhill. No relief for working and middle class Americans anywhere in sight.

A bipartisan, six-member "Super Congress" will make many of the initial decisions on what exactly wlll be cut and by how much, and then the regular old Congress will get to vote on a purely up or down basis on the proposals. No filibusters or amendments allowed. If certain cuts and other provisions are not passed, complicated "triggers" will be automatically activated that will force across-the-board cuts in domestic and defense spending. Jared Bernstein has a decent rundown on what the legislation entails.

As I'm sure you know, Tea Party extremists (and their captive GOP hostages) in Congress basically commited extortion by threatening not to raise the debt ceiling unless all their demands for severe spending cuts coupled with absolutely no tax increases were met. These Tea Party lunatics, who held the government and Congress hostage until they pretty much got their way, have earned themselves a new monicker -- economic insurrectionists. That's exactly what they are.

How NM's Reps Voted
Dem Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03) and GOP Rep. Steve Pearce (NM-02) both voted against the bill. Click for Pearce's press release on his vote, and here's what Rep. Lujan had to say about his vote:

Republicans have led us to the brink, holding an increase in the debt ceiling hostage while running up deficits with tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires and two wars. For months I have urged my Republican colleagues not to take our country to this point.

Throughout this debate I have called for a balanced approach that reduces the deficit and provides certainty so our economy can create new jobs. We need a responsible approach to cuts and revenue. I believe that we cannot cut the deficit on the backs of the middle class and seniors. With a middle class that is slowly disappearing in our country and families struggling to make ends meet, I cannot accept a proposal that asks nothing from billionaires, the privileged few in this nation, yet fails to fully protect Medicare for our seniors. 

It is unfortunate that the debate over increasing the debt ceiling, which took place 18 times under President Reagan and seven times under President Bush, has turned attention away from what is first and foremost in the minds of the people of New Mexico – job creation and protecting Medicare. I hope that once the debate on the debt ceiling is addressed, the Congress will turn its full attention to creating jobs and putting people back to work.

I'm very sad to report that Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) ended up supporting the bill today -- saying he did so reluctantly. He released this statement to explain his vote:

This was a difficult decision between two terrible choices: a flawed bill that raises the debt ceiling or allowing America to default and cause a deep recession.

Over the last several weeks, House Republicans have hijacked the very serious business of upholding the good faith and credit of our nation. We’ve clearly seen that Tea Party Republicans are willing to take our economy hostage just to score political points, but I’m not willing to do that. This agreement was necessary to avoid a global financial crisis, and I voted reluctantly to ensure that did not happen.

Rep. Heinrich also had this to say in an email tonight to supporters:

With the debt ceiling behind us, we can now turn our full attention to the issues that matter most to New Mexicans: job creation, strengthening Medicare, shoring up Social Security, ending the wars abroad and bringing our troops home. If we can get this done, our economy will be the better for it.

That is my focus. And that is what you deserve.

My Take
I personally don't see any good reason for Rep. Heinrich's yes vote. The President and the bill's other strong supporters didn't need Martin's vote for passage. It really didn't make any difference. But I imagine Heinrich did it to try and attract independent and moderate votes in his Senate run, as well as campaign donations from certain parties.

I highly doubt his support for this unbalanced, unfair, unseemly and damaging legislation -- which is expected to stall the economy even worse than it's already being stalled -- will gain him many Dem votes in the Senate primary. In fact, it could very well lose him a slew of Dem votes in the pre-primary and primary contests. I don't see how he did himself any favors by voting yes. I think it just makes him look weak and too reluctant to go against the President's wishes.

Liberal economists, progressives and others in the Dem base -- including me -- are absolutely livid about the entire process that got us to this point, including Obama's anti-Democratic framing of the issues. What's really maddening is that the debt ceiling could easily have been extended by the President and Dems last December, when we stlll controlled both houses of Congress. Or it could have been extended for longer when it was last extended. When asked why he wasn't pushing for the extension last December, Obama actually said that he didn't need to because he knew Republicans would be reasonable on the issue -- so there was no rush. If Obama really believed this, he has serious problems with reality and an unbelievably naive view of what the GOP is all about.

There WERE Alternatives
I agree with Glenn Greenwald, who has pretty firmly established -- using Obama's own words -- that the President has long wanted deep spending cuts and "entitlement fixes," and thought a debt ceiling confrontation could provide him with an opportunity to get a good many of them. Meanwhile he could still blame the Tea Party for having "forced" him to support the cuts. In other words, what are called "Obama's blunders" by people who still believe Obama is on their side are really clever, well thought out strategies designed to get the President what he wanted. In an email he wrote to blogger John Cole, Greenwald also laid out other ways Obama could have handled the debt ceiling issue without having to pay off the Tea Party to ransom the debt ceiling provision. Well worth a read.

August 1, 2011 at 08:48 PM in Economy, Populism, Jobs, Obama Administration, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Right Wing, Steve Pearce | Permalink


Sorry but Martin's reason for voting for this disaster is beyond laughable.

He turned his back on the base to prove to the Corporate Dems in DC that he's their boy and will sell out the base whenever they want him to. He just kissed the gold ring of the Establishment so they will fund his campaign for Senate.

The next shoes to drop will happen when Jeff B. and Tom U. vote in the Senate tomorrow. I hope I'm wrong but my gut says Jeff B is almost certain to vote yes and Tom probably will do the same. If that happens expect more heartfelt notes to go out to the masses tomorrow afternoon.

Posted by: Mike Folsom | Aug 1, 2011 11:11:52 PM

Mike... Jeff says on his website he will vote for it to save the US from default.

He has a great 10 min video of a speech this weekend in the Senate chamber where he gives a very coherent and hard-hitting review of how we got here... and then, just when you think he's going to say... because of all this I can't vote for this bill, he falls in line behind Obama and says "we've got to pass this bill so we can get back to creating jobs!"

Really sad... I'd hoped since he was on his way out that he'd grow a pair.... but guess not.

Posted by: carol | Aug 1, 2011 11:46:26 PM

Heinrich's vote for this Tea Party fiesta bill turns my stomach. If he thinks obeying the DSCC and Obamaland "advisors" will help him get elected to the Senate he is mistaken. He first has to pass through a Democratic preprimary and primary and as this post says, this vote won't help. It's also wrong morally. Heinrich is following Obama's political plan with this vote.

BO believes this deal will buy him independent and moderate votes in 2012 but recent polling shows otherwise. The majority of Americans are worried about their jobs. Many no longer have a job or one that pays enough to live like a human being. The economy is dead in the water and Obama doesn't seem to give a damn.

Heinrich's claim that because we gave away the store on this debt deal we can now turn to " job creation, strengthening Medicare, shoring up Social Security, ending the wars abroad and bringing our troops home" is wishful thinking. Does anyone really believe Obama will lead us in a fight to do these things? He is Wall Street all the way now and apparently Heinrich is willing to jump on that bandwagon. What a shame.

Posted by: Esq. | Aug 2, 2011 12:57:31 AM

So, Heinrich has sold out. I had hoped he would be able to avoid that state which all national politicians eventually fall into but in the end he was just another lemming.

I am saddened.

Posted by: Ken Long | Aug 2, 2011 6:52:02 AM

As a TEA Party supporter I'm upset with these votes, and the darn thing passed because of my side. We'll make changes in the next cycle though, will you? Please tell your lemmings that they've got to change their tune. When I hear the words millionaires and billionaires I realize the person doesn't have an original thought, and was born to be a follower.

Posted by: Mark Cowgill | Aug 2, 2011 7:39:28 AM

I find Mike Folsom's comments to be unacceptable, personal, and insulting and I think they should be removed. It's one thing to criticize a vote or position but these are personal ad hominem attacks. They take away from the discussion and don't help the progressive cause. Who does he think he is? He sounds like a tea bagger. Please remove them.

Posted by: Progressive | Aug 2, 2011 9:28:22 AM

It is utterly amazing that one can compare the posts of two Teabagger trolls, such as Folsom and get the exact same wording in their rants. Clearly they are the puppets of Fox News, the brothers Koch and their other coporate benefactors, without an actual original thought in their closed little minds. Thanks Mike for repeating your daily Fox News talking points, but when I want you opinion, I will turn on Fox News and skip the middle man.

Posted by: Art Jaquez | Aug 2, 2011 12:38:52 PM

I went ahead and removed several comments on this thread. I don't like to do that but sometimes people go over the line.

Posted by: barb | Aug 2, 2011 1:15:18 PM

I just don't know what other choice Martin had here. It was either vote for this or have the debt cieling - which is clearly a concept that is from a bygone era - collapse and send our entire economy into a double-dip recession, or worse. I want to thank Martin for voting "yes" and not causing my mortgage rate to go up to 14% or more! Not to mention my credit card and student loan interest...I would be on the verge of filing for bankruptcy!

I think it's great that Lujan and Pearce have safe districts from which to vote "No" on principle, but Martin is running for Senate - and anyway would be seeking reelection to his House seat if not - and doesn't have the luxury of letting the debt cieling tank. I too would have loved the luxury of Martin being able to vote against this but we live in a world where real actions cause actual consequences, not a rose-colored alternate reality.

The real issue here is the extreme nature of the Right side of the aisle and the absolutely insane "game of chicken" governing style they have adopted in order to accomplish their goals of reducing government in all the ways that best correspond to the wishes and desires of the special interests to which they are subservient. It is this that is the true evil in this scenario.

Posted by: localdem | Aug 2, 2011 2:20:32 PM

Obama had other alternatives for a clean raising of the debt ceiling. This budget deal was not needed to do that.
Super Congress Debt Reduction Has Little Transparency
The Super Committee is 50:50 split usurping the Democratic majority in the Senate. No doubt, a fake Democrat will be on the committee whilst claiming that it is bipartisan. This Super Committee will not be accountable to the people.

Posted by: qofdisks | Aug 2, 2011 2:43:46 PM

Money has usurped our Constitution.

I close, as promised, with a Special Comment on the debt deal.

Our government has now given up the concept of right and wrong.

We have, in this deal, declared that we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all political incumbents are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Re-nomination, re-election, and the pursuit of hypocrisy.

We have, in this deal, gone from the Four Freedoms to the Four Great Hypocrisies.

We have superceded Congress to facilitate 750 billion dollars in domestic cuts including Medicare in order to end an artificially-induced political hostage crisis over debt, originating from the bills run up by a Republican president who funneled billions of taxpayer dollars to the military-industrial complex by unfunded, unnecessary, and unproductive wars, enabled in doing so by the very same Republican leaders who now cry for balanced budgets - and we have called it compromise. And those who defend it have called it a credit to a pragmatic president who wins some sort of political "points" because, having stood for almost nothing here, he gave away almost nothing for which he stood.

It would be comical if it were not tragic.

Either way, it is a signal moment in our history, in which both parties have agreed and codified that the political structure of this nation shall now based entirely on hypocrisy and political self-perpetuation.

Let us start with the first of the Great Hypocrisies: The Committee. The Republican dogs can run back to their corporate masters and say they have forced one-and-one-half trillion dollars in cuts and palmed off the responsibility for them on this nonsensical "Super Congress" committee.

For two-and-a-half brutal years we have listened to these Tea Party mountebanks screech about the Constitution of the United States as if it were the revealed word and not the product of other - albeit far better - politicians. They demand the repeal of Amendments they don't like, and the strict interpretation of the ones they do, and the specific citation of authorization within the Constitution for every proposed act or expenditure or legislation.

Except this one.

Where does it say in the Constitution that the two houses of Congress can, in effect, create a third house to do its dirty work for it; to sacrifice a few Congressmen and Senators so the vast majority of incumbents can tell the voters they had nothing to do with this?

This leads to the second of the Great Hypocrisies: how, in the same breath, the Republicans can create an extra-Constitutional "Super Congress" and yet also demand a Constitutional Amendment to force the economic stupidity that would be a mandated balanced budget. Firstly: pick a side! Ignore the Constitution or adhere to it.

Firstly, pick a side, ignore the constitution or adhere to it. And of what value would this Mandated Balanced Budget be? Our own history proves that at a time of economic crisis, if the businesses aren't spending, and the consumers aren't spending, the government must. Our ancestors were the lab rats in the horrible experiments of the Hoover Administration that brought on the Great Depression, in which the government curled up into a ball while it simultaneously insisted the economy should heal itself, when, in times of crisis - then and now - the economy turns out to be comprised entirely of a bunch of rich people who will sit on their money no matter if the country starves.

Forgotten in the Republican Voodoo dance, dressed in the skins of the mythical Balanced Budget, triumphant over the severed head of short-term retrenchment that they can hold up to their moronic followers, are the long-term implications of the mandated Balanced Budget.

What happens if there's ever another… war?

Or another… terrorist attack?

Or another… naturaldisaster?

Or any other emergency that requires A government to spend a dollar morethan it has? A Constitutional Amendment denying us the right to run a deficit, is madness, and it will be tested by catastrophe sooner than any of its authors with their under-developed imaginations that can count only contributions and votes, can contemplate.

And the third of the Great Hypocrisies is hidden inside the shell game that is the Super Congress. TheSuper Congress is supposed to cut evenly from domestic and defense spending, but if it cannot agree on those cuts, or Congress will not endorse them, there will be a "trigger" that automatically cuts a trillion-two or more - but those cuts will not necessarily come evenly from the Pentagon. We are presented with an agreement that seems to guarantee the gutting of every local sacred cow from the Defense Department. Except if the Congressmen and Senators to whom the cows are sacred, disagree, and overrule, or sabotage the Super Congress, or, except if for some reason a 12-member Committee split evenly along party lines can't manage to avoid finishing every damned vote 6-to-6.

We're cutting Defense. Unless we're not.

The fourth of the Great Hypocrisies is the evident agreement to not add any revenues to the process of cutting. Not only is the impetus to make human budget sacrifices out of thepoor and dependent formalized… but the rich and the corporations are thus indemnified, again, and given more money not merely to spend on themselves and their own luxuries, but more vitally, they are given more money to spend on buying politicians, and legislatures, and courts, buying entire states, all of which can be directed like so many weapons, in the service of one cause and one cause alone: making bystatute and ruling, the further protection of the wealthy at the expense ofeverybody else, untouchable, inviolable - permanent.

The White House today boasted of loopholes to be closed and tax breaks to be rescinded -- later.

By a committee.

A committee that has yet to be formed.

There are no new taxes. Except the stealth ones, enacted on 99 out of 100 Americans by this evil transaction. Every dollar cut from the Safety Net is another dollar added to the citizen's cost for education, for security, for health, for life itself. It is another dollar he can't spend on making a better life for himself, or atleast his children. It is another dollar he must spend instead on simply keeping himself alive.

Where is the outrage over these Great Hypocrisies? Do you expect it to come from a corrupt and corrupted media, for whom access is of greater importance than criticizing the failure of a political party or defending those who don't buy newspapers or can't leapwebsite paywalls or could not afford cable tv?

Do you expect it to comefrom a cynical and manipulative political structure? Do you expect it from those elected officials who no longer know anything of government or governance, but only perceive how to get elected, or how to pose in front of a camera and pretend to be leaders? Do you expect it from politicians themselves, who will merely calculate whether or not it's right based on whether or not it will get them more contributions?

Do you expect it will come from the great middle ground of this country, with a population obsessed with entertainment, video games, socialmedia, sports, and trivia?

Where is the outrage to come from?

From you!

It will do no good to wait for the politicians to suddenly atone for their sins. They are too busy trying to keep their jobs, to do their jobs.

It will do no good to wait for the media to suddenly remember its origins as the 'free press,' the watchdog of democracy envisioned by Jefferson. They are too busy trying to get exclusive DETAILS about exactly how the bankrobbers emptied the public's pockets, to give a damn about telling anybody what they looked like, or which way they went.

It will do no good to wait for the apolitical public to get a clue. They can't hear the clue through all the chatter and scandal and diversion and delusion and illusion.

The betrayal of what this nation is supposed to be about did not begin with this deal and it surely will not end with this deal. There is a tide pushing back the rights of each of us, and it has been artificially induced by union-bashing and the sowing ofhatreds and fears, and now this ever-more-institutionalized economic battering of the average American. It will continue, and it will crush us, because those who created it are organized and unified and hell-bent.

And the only response is to be organized and unified and hell-bent in return. We must find again the energy and the purpose of the 1960's and early 1970's and we must protest this deal and all the God damn deals to come, in the streets. We must arise, non-violently but insistently. General strikes, boycotts, protests, sit-ins, non-cooperation take-overs - but modern versions of that resistance, facilitated and amplified, by a weapon our predecessors did not have: the glory that is instantaneous communication.

It is from an old and almost clichéd motion picture that the wisdom comes: First, you've got to get mad.

I cannot say to you, meethere or there at this hour or that one, and we will peacefully break the back of government that now exists merely to get its functionaries re-elected. But I can say that the time is coming when the window for us to restore the control of our government to our selves will close, and we had damn well better act before then.

Because this deal is more than a tipping point in which the government goes from defending the safety net to gutting it. This is wrong, and while our government has now declared that it has given up the concept of right-and-wrong, you and I… have not, and will not, do so.

Good night, and good luck.

Posted by: qofdisks | Aug 2, 2011 3:40:51 PM

B: just catching up with your re-cap(s) and Good For You including that Greenwald link/commentary. That's 'the story' right there.

Posted by: Gene | Aug 4, 2011 12:51:42 PM