Their Debt Ceiling Vote Explained

When the debt ceiling was raised, we wondered “The Deficit – What’s the Strategy Now?

The four Congressmen who represent Palm Beach County cast their votes for different reasons and many of their constituents were not happy with their votes. So the Palm Beach County Tea Party asked them some specific questions about their reasoning and where we go from here. They were asked to respond in writing for posting on our websites. Congressman Alcee Hastings voted against the debt limit bill while Ted Deutch, Tom Rooney and Allen West all voted for it.

Ted Deutch
19th District

Alcee Hastings
23rd District

Tom Rooney
16th District

Allen West
22nd District

As of today, only Tom Rooney and Allen West have responded and their answers can be found below. When responses are received from the others, their answers will be added to the table, so check back from time to time. If we get no response from a Congressman, we will report that as well. That is an answer of sorts.

1. The bill cuts about $1T over 10 years, but the reduction from planned spending over the next two years is pocket change.
a. Since this Congress can’t bind a future Congress to a course of action, why is anything in the out years even relevant? Tom Rooney: It is not binding and it is pocket change. There is no dispute there. The very fact that that we are getting cuts this year, though they are small, is much better than what we would have gotten with a Democrat-controlled House. In the past, the debt ceiling increases were not even reported on in the media. This time we were able to get dollar for dollar decreases in spending for each dollar increase in the debt ceiling. The Tea Party had much to do with this.

Allen West: I, along with millions of Americans, are frustrated with what has occurred over the last six months in the United States Congress and its dealing with President Barack Obama.

The New Republican Majority in the House of Representatives was elected to change the way Washington does business. However, the Republicans only control one-half or one-third of the Federal Government. While the Budget Control Act is not what Republicans would have written if they controlled the United States Senate and White House, it’s a step in the right direction.

While I, and my Freshman colleagues, wanted to come to Washington and make immediate changes, the intransient US Senate and President Barack Obama are making us make incremental changes – but make no mistake, they are happening. We moved the discussion from a clean debt ceiling increase which the President wanted – to an acceptance, with his signature, that we are moving to cut spending – $917 billion in immediate spending cuts.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board calls it “a victory for the cause of smaller government, arguably the biggest since welfare reform in 1996.” If we had done nothing, the Treasury Department would have been forced to use incoming tax revenues (approximately $200 billion per month) to pay obligations as they came due.

With approximately $300 billion in expenses each month, there was no way to ensure that the Obama Administration would appropriately prioritize payment of the federal government’s bills. America has always paid its debt, and I would not be part of a default by the United States Government. The President’s irresponsible lack of a Plan B, and a willingness to lead by intimidation, meant he was willing to have seniors miss a Social Security check or soldiers in the field not paid on time in the name of politics.

Regardless of how President Obama would prioritize spending, the fact of the matter is that there would come to a point when the Federal Government could not meet some of its obligations. I believe that I have a Constitutional obligation to not allow that to happen. This bill ensures that the Federal Government will meet all of its commitments in the immediate term while we make substantial cuts in the coming years and put the Federal Government on a path to finally live within its means.

This is absolutely correct (can’t bind a future Congress), a future United States Congress could choose not to follow through and could change the law. However, it is also true that a future Congress can change the law to do anything they see fit even increase the amount of spending cuts. In order to ensure that we continue on a path to meet these reductions we need to elect a US Senate and a President committed to reducing spending. It is my belief the American people will elect legislators who will represent their principles that each bill we have sent to the US Senate, such as the repeal of Obamacare and Cut, Cap, and Balance, has met a brick wall. It will take a strong majority in the Senate, and a Republican in the White House to ensure that the principles we believe in are enacted.

Alcee Hastings:

Ted Deutch:

b. What can be done to insure that the planned reductions after two years are met? Tom Rooney: There is nothing that can be done except get another Senate. Get rid of Obama; get rid of Nelson. Then we can get even more reductions because I realize that the cuts we made were indeed pocket change.

Allen West: As mentioned above, the US Congress must meet its obligations of planned reductions or face the prospect of being fired by their constituents. Based on the savings identified in our Budget Resolution and in the Biden Group negotiations, I hope we can find a bipartisan agreement on savings from mandatory programs that can be agreed to without tax increases. I believe this is what we must demand from the Joint Committee as it begins its work.

Alcee Hastings:

Ted Deutch:
2. The second “tranche” requires agreement of six Republicans and six Democrats, yet to be named, or else massive cuts will be applied to the military budget and to Medicare providers.
a. How do you justify risking the possibility of significantly reducing our military budget? Tom Rooney: That is the tough one that keeps me awake at night. I am putting my faith in the Super Committee that they can get to the $1.2 trillion in cuts. If I am wrong, I will fully admit that this was a mistake.

Allen West: I will not support raising the debt limit – by any amount – without first cutting a larger amount of wasteful federal government spending. I did not, and I will not, give the President a blank check. If Democrats want the help of the Majority in the House to pay the bills they have racked-up after their historic spending binge over the last four years, Democrat appointees to the Joint Select Committee will be forced to work with us to find $1.5 trillion in savings.

Only then can the President request another increase in the debt ceiling in an amount that will take him past the date on the calendar that he is focused on – Election Day. In the event that this Joint Committee does not achieve its deficit reduction target, then across-the-board spending cuts, subject to certain exemptions, would occur. This amount would equal the amount of the increase of the debt ceiling.

In the Budget Control Act defense funding would be a range of plus-or-minus two percent from last year’s level. During negotiations, Democrats tried to insist on locking in defense cuts, but Republicans strongly opposed this. Instead the legislation creates a “firewall” that separates all security spending (including Defense, Homeland Security, and foreign aid) from non-security spending. This structure allows House Republican committee leaders to work with both parties to protect defense funding and ensure our troops get the resources they need, while cutting spending elsewhere.

The discretionary caps put in place by this bill are designed to change the trajectory of federal spending in the next decade. That means that hard choices will have to be made to prioritize the spending of taxpayer money. House Conservatives remain steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that troops in the field have the equipment they need to perform their jobs safely and effectively and that any cuts to slim down the Department of Defense bureaucracy will not put that at risk. The sequestration spending cuts that would be triggered in this bill, if the Joint Select Committee does not report sufficient deficit reduction legislation, would be severe for all programs so it is important that this group reach a bipartisan and balanced approach to reduce the deficit that does not jeopardize our national defense.

Alcee Hastings:

Ted Deutch:

b. Which specific cuts in the military budget would you support? Tom Rooney: There is waste, fraud, and abuse in all the departments in the government, and we need to find them in the Department of Defense. For example, contracting with GE for a 2nd jet engine that would probably never be used was something that needed to be cut. The fact is that we will lose our Super Power status in 10 years if we cut much beyond the waste, fraud, and abuse. That could happen with the trigger

Allen West: On March 29, 2011, less than 90 days since first being sworn in as a Member of the House of Representatives, I introduced three bills aimed at cutting wasteful spending at the Department of Defense.

• H.R. 1246 – reduces the printing and reproduction budget by 10%. It would generate $35.7 million in savings in Fiscal Year 2012, reaching nearly $180 million in savings through Fiscal Year 2016. This resolution passed the House of Representatives on April 4, 2011 by a bipartisan vote of 393-0.

• H.R. 1247 – reduces funding for Defense studies, analysis and evaluations by 10%. Would generate a savings of $24 million in Fiscal Year 2012, returning up to $120 million to the treasury through Fiscal Year 2016.

• H.R. 1248 – restricts payout of annual nationwide adjustment and locality pay for below satisfactory workers. Would generate approximately $21 million in savings while increasing productivity in the workforce. As employees become more satisfactory in future years, the savings would be approximately $80 million through Fiscal Year 2016.

All three of these bills were accepted as amendments to the Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which passed the House of Representatives on May 26, 2011. In total, my three bills cut wasteful defense spending by over $80 million in Fiscal Year 2012 alone, with $380 million in savings through Fiscal Year 2016.

So to answer this question, there are plenty of wasteful programs at the Department of Defense that can be cut without cutting funding to programs necessary for both the war fighter, as well as our national security as a whole.

As a member of the Committee on Armed Services, I look forward to working with my colleagues to identify areas where we can trim the fat. But as a retired Lieutenant Colonel with over 22 years in the US Army, I will fight to make sure that any cuts in defense spending are not at the expense of our national security, nor at the expense of those who are wearing or have worn the uniform

Alcee Hastings:

Ted Deutch:

c. How will you address unconstitutional military actions that cost all of us? Tom Rooney: We have to follow the rule of law. For example, with regard to Libya, the president violated the War Powers Act and the intent of the founders who left it to the Congress to declare war. I was the lead sponsor for defunding the kinetic military action in Libya, which is Obama-speak for ‘war’. My bill was defeated by only a handful of votes. The only power we have in Congress now is the ‘power of the purse’. President Obama will have to come back to us for more money.

Allen West: On June 3, 2011, I voted for H. Con Res 51 by Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) that called for the immediate cessation of military operations against Libya. On June 19, 2011, 90 days had passed since President Obama informed the United States Congress of the introduction of American forces into Libya. To this day, since the introduction of American forces into Libya, Congress has not declared war nor enacted a specific authorization for the use of force.

While President Obama used the provision on the War Powers Act to give notification to Congress that he was going to take military action on Libya, after the 90 days had passed the President claimed that our Armed Forces are not in ‘harm’s way,’ and thus the conflict in Libya does not require the approval of the United States Congress because there is ‘little risk’ to our Armed Forces.

As a 22 year US Army combat veteran, I know that every time our American men and women are committed to military action, they are in harm’s way. As the Commander in Chief, the President should realize that as well. It is an affront to the family members of the pilots flying in this conflict and supporting this mission to say that they have not been placed in harm’s way.

Since the opening hours of military action on March 19, 2011, President Barack Obama has had no clear direction in Libya. The President has not defined the mission nor the end state of this conflict. Further, the President has not identified who the so-called rebels are that continue to receive millions of dollars of American support in terms of weapons, ammunition, and resources.

President Barack Obama is in violation of the law – plain and simple – and he must be held accountable. We do not need to give the President any more time. Many Americans, myself included, still do not understand how America is benefitting from having forces in Libya in the first place. The very foundation of our Republic lies on the system of checks and balances, and as a Member of the United States Congress, I have a Constitutional obligation to ensure this system is upheld.

It is my opinion that the United States Congress should hold hearings on the President’s violation of the War Powers Act. The Leadership should also move forward to eliminate funding for these military operations. Finally, the Leadership must hold the President accountable to the law in order to ensure the checks and balances that have been in place since the enactment of the War Powers Resolution are upheld.

As one of 435 Members of Congress and 100 Senators, there is only so much I can do, but I have been adamant on this since the very beginning

Alcee Hastings:

Ted Deutch:

d. With regard to Medicare, won’t cutting doctors and hospitals create massive supply disruptions that will make care for seniors difficult to obtain? Please explain. Tom Rooney: If the trigger happens, what you are going to see is doctors and hospitals dropping Medicare patients. For this reason both the Republicans and Democrats will be incented to revise the tax code rather than move to the triggers. The Ryan plan will not move us to this situation. It will be based on a ‘means testing’ for care and only impacts people who are under 55 today.

Allen West: Cutting funding for doctors and hospitals will have a negative effect on senior health care. The Obama Administration’s health care reform legislation –the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – which was signed into law in 2010, provided for a reduction of $575 billion in the Medicare system over the next 10 years.

Further, the legislation created a panel of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats – the Independent Payment Advisory Board – who will be involved in patient medical decisions to enforce price controls and reduce the volume of care which could lead to rationing and seniors being denied certain treatments. The Board, instead of your doctor, will constitute what is “necessary care” and will move to create a “one size fits all” solution when it comes to medical care. The Board recommendations must be adopted and Congress is denied the power to overrule its decisions with the first report scheduled for release in July 2014.

You are also aware, that reduced reimbursement even today means even fewer doctors will accept Medicare and seniors are already facing reduced access. Nearly a third of primary care physicians are already restricting the number of Medicare patients in their medical practices.

The Medicare Trustees have made the situation clear. Medicare’s trust fund will be insolvent in 2024, less than 13 years from today. Medicare’s unfunded liabilities are more than $24 trillion and growing, which means there is a $24 trillion gap between Medicare’s future benefit costs and the future taxes and premiums it already expects to collect.

Since President Obama has not submitted a plan to save Medicare, earlier this year, I voted in the House of Representatives for Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget resolution for Fiscal Year 2012. I voted in favor of this budget because I understand Americans are ready to embrace a bold path forward to ensure that our nation pays down its debt and sustains a solvent Medicare program for both you and future generations.

Alcee Hastings:

Ted Deutch:

e. What free market alternatives for Medicare are you going to support? Tom Rooney: Let’s start with the Ryan Plan that allows for competition in Medicare. It works a lot like Medicare Advantage where seniors can pick and choose what is best for them. That is free market.”

Allen West: House of Representatives Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced the Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2012 (H. Con. Res. 34) on April 11, 2011. On April 15, 2011, H. Con. Res. 34 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 235-193. I supported this resolution because I believe it is an important step to rein in out of control Federal Government spending. This budget resolution cuts $6.2 trillion in spending from President Barack Obama’s budget over the next 10 years, reduces the debt as a percentage of the economy, and puts the nation on a path to actually pay off the national debt.

The budget’s reforms will protect health and retirement security. This starts with saving Medicare. The open-ended, blank-check nature of the Medicare subsidy threatens the solvency of this critical program and creates inexcusable levels of waste. This budget takes action where others have ducked—but because government should reorient its policies without forcing people to reorganize their lives, the budget’s reforms will not affect those in or near retirement, at the age of 55, in any way. Starting in 2022, new Medicare beneficiaries will be enrolled in the same kind of health care program that members of Congress enjoy. Future Medicare recipients will be able to choose a plan that works best for them from a list of guaranteed coverage options. This is not a voucher program, but rather a premium-support model. A Medicare premium-support payment would be paid, by Medicare, to the plan chosen by the beneficiary, subsidizing its cost. In addition, Medicare will provide increased assistance for lower income beneficiaries and those with greater health risks

Alcee Hastings:

Ted Deutch:

f. Why would any of the members on the commission have incentive to compromise? Tom Rooney: The triggers are not acceptable for either side. The Democrats do not want the Commission to end in deadlock because the trigger would be unacceptable cuts in Medicare. The Military cuts would be not be acceptable for the Republicans.

Allen West: If the motivation is to think about the next election rather than the next generation then we have reason to be very concerned. Further, if President Obama and Capitol Hill Democrats believe that a “balanced” approach means advocating job-killing tax increases on the American taxpayers and small business and in return smoke-and-mirror entitlement reforms, then we have reason to be concerned.

However, the Joint Select Committee’s reported legislation will be judged against the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) current law baseline, which already projects that revenues will increase by $3.5 trillion over the next decade due to across-the-board tax rate increases coming in 2013. Additionally, due to the way CBO measures deficit reduction, any reduction of these taxes would increase the deficit—the opposite of the Committee’s assigned task. For this reason, the de facto mission of the Committee will be to cut spending in order to achieve the deficit reduction directed.

Alcee Hastings:

Ted Deutch:

g. Where would you support or not support compromise? Tom Rooney: I would not support increasing tax rates period. I would support reforming the tax code to close loopholes that enable large corporations, for example, GE, Verizon, and others, not to pay any taxes at all. GE even got a refund

Allen West: At this point in time, I cannot make a prediction on what the Joint Select Committee compromise will entail. I can assure constituents that I will look at the recommendations from the Committee and will make a decision on what I believe are in the best interest of the Congressional District and the United States.

Alcee Hastings:

Ted Deutch:
h. Speaker Boehner’s says that the commission will not be able to raise taxes. President Obama and Harry Reid said that “balance”, i.e., tax increases, is the whole point of the commission. How are these points of view to be reconciled? Tom Rooney: The compromise is reforming the tax code; not increasing tax rates but looking at what is unfair, e.g., loopholes that reward corporations with high paid lawyers.

Allen West: In the unlikely event the Joint Select Committee was to propose tax increases without a complete restructuring led by the President of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security , I believe House Republicans would defeat the increase on the American Taxpayer, and the automatic across-the-board sequestration of $1.2 trillion would be implemented.

I will not allow Capitol Hill Democrats to use a spending-driven debt crisis to increase job-destroying taxes, especially when our employment situation is the worst since the Great Depression

Alcee Hastings:

Ted Deutch:

3. The CBO scoring of the bill assumes the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire, possibly accounting for all the “savings” from the bill over 10 years.
What is the plan to prevent this massive tax increase on small businesses and the middle class? Tom Rooney: I think this is a false assumption that the Bush tax cuts will expire. I will not support this. In fact, it would be catastrophic to the economy. This could only come up after the next election, which means the Commission has to work harder to reduce spending right now . . . and we have to get our people out to the polls!

Allen West: The Bush Tax Cuts were set to expire in 2010 and President Obama and the Democrat controlled Congress extended the tax cuts until 2012. The tax cuts were set to expire next year whether they were included in the Budget Control Act or not. As mentioned above, if the Joint Select Committee were to propose any tax increases, including letting the Bush tax cuts expire, I expect the House to defeat them on the floor. I will strongly oppose any effort to raise taxes, I support the Bush Tax Cuts, and I will hope that we can provide even greater tax relief on the American Taxpayer and small business owners.

Alcee Hastings:

Ted Deutch:
4. Balanced Budget Amendment
What are you going to do to promote and support a Balanced Budget Amendment? Tom Rooney: We are voting on a Balanced Budget Amendment in October and I am voting for it. I hope to God that it passes! This is the only hope for this country to stay great!

Allen West: The Budget Control Act that I supported requires both the House and Senate to vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. I ran on a platform to enact a Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment. I support H.J. Res. 2, a Balanced Budget Amendment introduced by Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) on January 5, 2011. In fact, I was among the first cosponsors of this legislation, signing onto it on January 19, 2011. This bipartisan legislation has 240 cosponsors, and is nearly identical to a Balanced Budget Amendment that narrowly failed to pass out of the Congress more than 10 years ago. I will bring to the attention my constituents, and to the American people, Members of Congress who vote against a Balanced Budget Amendment who have supported this or similar Balanced Budget Amendments in the past.

Alcee Hastings:

Ted Deutch:
5. We, the Palm Beach County Tea Party are committed to promoting fiscal responsibility in our governing bodies.
What is your office’s agenda in the next 15 months to curb runaway spending? Tom Rooney: Personally, we are cutting our office budget by 20%. In Congress, I am co-sponsoring the Connie Mack Penny Proposal that basically cuts some every year to eventually balance the budget. I will also be working to get like-minded fiscal conservatives elected to the House and Senate so that we can do more than “pocket change.” We really need to take the Senate and the White House! Everything rides on this election!

Allen West: I, too, as your Congressman in the House of Representatives am committed to fiscal responsibility in our federal government. President Obama and the Senate Democrats have proven that fiscal responsibility is the last thing on their agenda.

The Budget Control Act is far from perfect, but the hard reality is that fiscal conservatives control only one half of one third of the Federal Government. Remember, thanks to the support of the Tea Party, we were able to change the entire debate in Washington. With the support of the Tea Party we were able to pass the Cut, Cap and Balance Act – with a bipartisan vote. But before we even voted for it, the Democrat-controlled Senate declared it “dead on arrival,” and the President promised to veto. We are dealing with an ultra Liberal White House and Senate – they refuse to acknowledge reality, and refuse to accept responsibility of the mess they got us in.

The reality is that we will not get what we all know is the right kind of package that will set our economy on the proper course as long as President Obama is in the White House and liberals like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid control the Senate.

Another reality is this – the only way we will be able to bring real reform to all branches of the Federal Government is for conservatives to accept this reality we are in and unite behind a common goal of defeating Liberals in the House, Senate and White House.

On April 15, 2011, the House of Representatives passed a federal budget for Fiscal Year 2012. It has now been more than 825 days and the Democrat-controlled Senate has still not produced a budget.

Since January, the House of Representatives has passed six out of 12 appropriations bills to fund the federal government. The House is presently considering the seventh bill, while the United States Senate has considered and voted on only one.

All 12 appropriations bills are to be considered and sent to the President by September 30th each year. Upon return from the August district work period, only 24 days will be left to finish the budget for Fiscal Year 2012.

Clearly, the Senate is setting up the House to consider an Omnibus Appropriations Bill with the only alternative being to shut down the federal government. Simply put, the Senate is putting Congress on a path toward failure. I have supported each of the appropriations bills the House has considered this year because each of them makes substantial cuts to the Federal Government’s budget – each in line with what Paul Ryan’s budget has allocated for spending.

I will not support any appropriations bill unless it makes substantial cuts to the Federal Government that are in line with the budget allocations of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget.

I will continue to support legislation that shrinks the Federal Government, with the ultimate goal of getting our fiscal house in order. I remain firmly dedicated to passing a Balanced Budget Amendment through Congress to be sent to the states before the end of the year. A Balanced Budget Amendment represents the best opportunity to ensure fiscal responsibility by the federal government.

Further, please find an open letter to the Constituents of the 22nd Congressional District outlining the issues I believe the Congress needs to address.

Most importantly, I will continue to support legislation that will help spur economic growth by creating jobs. I will continue to push the Small Business Encouragement Act – legislation I introduced that will provide a tax credit to small businesses for hiring unemployed individuals. The only way to get our economy back on track is to get Americans back to work.

The reason the unemployment problem in American has worsened is because the stimulus package, burdensome regulations, and economic policies of the President that have been a failure. The President’s policies have resulted in disaster for our economy. Since Obama took office, unemployment has remained at or near 9 percent for 28 months, America has added $3.4 trillion in debt in 29 months — the equivalent of about $4 billion per day — we have an anemic housing market with record foreclosures, and an average price of nearly $4 for a gallon of gas.

The House has sent nine job creating bills to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senators Dick Durbin, Charles Schumer and the Democrat Leadership, yet they have collectively decided these pieces of legislation were not even worth consideration in the first six months of Congress.

Alcee Hastings:

Ted Deutch:

Concluding Thoughts
Tom Rooney:

Allen West: When I ran for office in 2010, I made it perfectly clear that a Republican House would not be able to reverse all the damage done by the Obama Administration and previous Congresses, but that it would only stop the bleeding.

House Republicans passed bipartisan legislation that would solve our nation’s debt problems once and for all, the Cut, Cap and Balance Act. True to form, Majority Leader Reid and his Democrat Senate colleagues killed it in the U.S. Senate.

The President and Liberal Democrats wanted a clean raising of the debt ceiling. Instead, because of voices like yours throughout the country, we were able to set the precedent for any raising of the debt ceiling to be contingent on spending cuts. The Budget Control Act ensures that: 1) we will cut spending more than any increase in the debt ceiling, 2) taxes are not increased on America’s job creators and families during these difficult economic times, and 3) both the House and Senate are required to vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. The measure also places tough caps on future spending – restraining the growth of government so the economy can get back to creating jobs – while guaranteeing the American people a vote in both houses of Congress this fall on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

To the Members of the Tea Party: It was not everything that we wanted – but it is a first step for the future of our republic.

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