The Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives has finally come to its senses, and so have four members of the Louisiana delegation. That quartet — along with 328 other House members, voted for a budget compromise that ultra-conservatives and tea party groups attacked before they knew what it contained.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio defended the compromise in extremely strong terms and let the critics know they had already caused too much havoc for the GOP. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, who represents this corner of the state, once again put his country’s best interests ahead of his own.
Boustany said the compromise means Congress will quit floating from one self-created calamity to another. The budget deal turned off automatic budget cuts for two years, he said, and refocuses on domestic priorities and “certainty for families and businesses across Southwest Louisiana without increasing taxes on them.”
Congressmen like Boustany who backed the deal know the far right plans to field candidates to oppose them in the 2014 congressional elections, but their votes show they are ready for the challenges. Boustany had little trouble defeating Jeff Landry of New Iberia, one of the most conservative House members, in 2012. He led the primary with 45 percent of the vote, and polled 61 percent of the runoff vote to 39 percent for Landry.
Other Louisiana Republicans voting for the budget compromise were Reps. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge, John Fleming of Minden and Vance McAllister of Swartz. Fleming is described as the delegation’s most conservative member, and McAllister is its newest.
Fleming said, “… These are small steps, but they are in the right direction. He called the compromise “the best House Republicans can do as long as President Obama is in office.”
Reps. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, and Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, voted against the budget deal. Scalise said it doesn’t rein in out-of-control spending. Richmond was critical of the failure to close tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy and putting deficit reduction on the backs of federal workers, military families and airline passengers.
Boehner spoke passionately about ultra conservatives steering his party and the nation in the wrong direction. Although he didn’t mention them by name, he was talking about groups like Heritage Action, the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund.
“They pushed us into the fight to defund Obamacare and shut down the government,” Boehner said. “That wasn’t exactly the strategy I had in mind. But if you recall, the day before the government reopened, one of these groups stood up and said, ‘Well, we never really thought it would work.’ Are you kidding me?”
Boehner added, “I’m as conservative as anybody around this place. All of the things that we’ve done over the three years that I’ve been speaker have not violated any conservative principles. Not once”
The Associated Press pointed out one of the fallacies of the ultra conservative program. It said the groups put up candidates to run against Republican incumbents only to see some of their candidates win the primaries and end up losing to Democrats in the general elections. And those are seats Republicans should have won.
National Journal, a Washington, D.C. political news magazine, said Senate Republicans will benefit from House approval because they can vote against the deal, knowing there are enough Democrats and some GOP senators to pass the bill.
Republican incumbents who supported the deal will have some help during next year’s mid-term elections from a group called the Republican Main Street Partnership. It is described in National Journal as “an outspoken, deep-pocketed player in pro-business plans to beat back tea-party challengers next year…”
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee, helped draw up the compromise with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee. The Senate is expected to vote on the budget compromise this week.
Ryan, a staunch conservative, had a reason for agreeing to compromise, according to Josh Kraushaar of National Journal. Kraushaar said it delays “a messy fiscal fight until after the 2014 mid-term elections, which are shaping up to be favorable for Republicans…”
Like all compromises, each side won some and lost some. The plan will crack down on prisoners who receive unemployment checks and make certain dead people don’t get income tax refunds, a Republican goal. The GOP was also successful in stopping the extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless. Democrats were able to protect Medicare and Social Security from changes wanted by the Republicans.
There were other losers in the deal, too. Airline passengers will see an increase in security fees, corporations will have to pay more to the agency that guarantees pensions, military retirees under 62 will get smaller annual cost-of-living increases and future civilian federal workers will pay a greater share of their pensions.
Members of Congress from both parties can take some comfort in the knowledge that an October poll by Esquire/NBC News showed there are more Americans in the middle than on either the left or right. That is where members of both parties who supported the compromise should concentrate their energies and their re-election campaigns.
If the rest of us are lucky, this newfound agreement between the two parties may help create a better working environment in the nation’s capital.