Most of the 87 House Republican freshmen who came to Washington promising not to give ground to the establishment swallowed hard Thursday and voted for the compromise worked out by Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama on keeping the government running for the next six months.
"I'm going to take it, saddle up again tomorrow and get more," said Rep. Rob Woodall of Georgia. While the $38 billion in cuts in the current budget year may be inadequate, "nothing is worthwhile until the president signs it into law," he said.
The freshmen have been in the forefront in demanding that the Democratic-led Senate go along with a House bill requiring deeper cuts of $61 billion for the budget year ending Sept. 30.
The legislation, the result of an eleventh-hour compromise last Friday that averted a government shutdown, passed 260-167, with 59 Republicans and 108 Democrats voting against it. Among the GOP freshmen, many elected on a platform to dramatically downsize the federal government, 60 were for the measure and 27 against.
"Sometimes we need to wring the mop out a few times to clean up the mess," said Rep. Jeff Landry, explaining his "yes" vote despite the bill's smaller spending cuts than many freshmen had hoped for. He said there were other factors in his "yes" vote, such as the inclusion of a provision barring the District of Columbia from using either federal or locally raised taxes for abortions and the certainty that military personnel would not see their pay interrupted..
Also important, he said, was that the agreement reached with the White House allowed for separate votes on stripping funds from Planned Parenthood and the 2010 health care law, even though the Senate is certain to overturn the House votes.
On the whole, most freshmen appeared to agree with Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania: "There are many members with many ideas on how to get this done," he said. But at least, "we are moving the ball down the road."
Among the freshmen voting against the bill were Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who said he was against any bill that cuts less than $61 billion and was disturbed by a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that, because of federal outlays already in the pipeline and delays in putting the new spending cuts into effect, the actual savings this year would only be about $352 million.
"In the last two hours, the country has borrowed about $352 million, so we're making no progress in getting out of the red," he said.
Rep. Allen West of Florida, another no vote, said he originally voted for $100 billion in cuts "and now we are coming to find out that this is not a big cut." The Republican leadership, he said, "needs to sit down and have a 'come to Jesus' with themselves."
Another in the group, Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois, said he was "as genuinely undecided as a human being can be," but finally came down against the bill because "it was just not nearly enough for where I think we need to be in this spending crisis."
"Much of the savings reached in the compromise was achieved through budgetary gimmicks and questionable Washington arithmetic," said Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, who voted no.
Rep. Tim Scott of South Carolina said Boehner did a "fabulous job" in making the bill "digestible for a majority in Congress." But Scott, who voted against it, also noted that a survey back home in South Carolina found that 75 percent of Republicans were against the bill.
- Speaker John Boehner
- Rep. Allen West
- President Barack Obama