When it came time to confront the “fiscal cliff” Tuesday night, Rep. Mike Simpson reached for a parachute.
Rep. Raul Labrador took the plunge, alongside other members of the House GOP’s tea party wing.
The votes — and their post-game comments — speak volumes about the way Idaho’s two Republican House members view the nation’s budget crisis, and Congress’ more fundamental governing crisis.
Simpson recognized the risks. According to analysts, the fiscal cliff’s automatic tax increases and spending cuts threatened to throw the economy back into a recession. He recognized that the fiscal cliff compromise, for all its limitations, undid some of the worst damage wreaked by a dysfunctional federal government that had failed to address a fiscal crisis that had been looming for months.
Said Simpson Tuesday: “This bill is a critical piece of legislation that lowers taxes for nearly every taxpayer. The unfortunate reality is that under current law every taxpayer was hit today with a tax increase. The bill we passed blocks those tax increases for nearly all Americans — effectively lowering the taxes they were to begin paying today.”
After voting against the compromise forged by Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Labrador focused on the deal’s sizeable shortcoming: a delay in spending cuts.
“This was a difficult vote, but as far as I am concerned the Biden-McConnell deal is worse than no deal at all. ... The deal does nothing to address out-of-control spending and delays the only meaningful cuts Congress has been able to pass in the last two years.”
Difficult vote? I don’t buy that.
Labrador didn’t have to hold his nose and support something he didn’t like (despite all the drama leading up to Tuesday night’s vote, House leaders had ample support for the plan). And now, Labrador gets to say that this deal was “worse than no deal,” secure in the knowledge that there is no proving him wrong.
We’ll never know for sure that the analysts were right. We’ll never know that congressional inaction would have triggered a recession. We’ll never know because Simpson and 256 other House members (along with Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo, Jim Risch and 87 other senators) cast what I would consider the more difficult vote.
Labrador has a point when he labels the fiscal cliff compromise a temporary fix. He also questions, fairly, whether either
party is serious about addressing the debt. And he is right when he says the nation cannot erase a $16 trillion debt through revenues alone (although it would be just as impossible to erase this debt through spending cuts alone).
The bill before Labrador and his colleagues Tuesday was a mere stopgap, one that leaves a mountain of unfinished fiscal business for another day. Yes, this compromise came one day late and comes up well more than a dollar short. The fact that Congress seems incapable of governing beyond the short-term should be an embarrassment to its members.
But sometimes, elected officials simply have to look at the actual bill they have in front of them, rather than merely wishing for something bigger and better.
On Tuesday, three members of the Idaho delegation aligned with the governing wing of their party. Much as they did in the summer of 2011, when they voted to increase the federal debt ceiling and honor the government’s spending commitments.
Meanwhile — and as he did on the debt ceiling issue — Labrador again aligned himself with the naysaying wing of his party.