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GOP, Messaging on Cuts, and Political Ignorance...


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Something cool happened this week. On Tuesday we got to see the full Congressional Record for the HR 1 spending cut debate. As we all know the end of the debate was bill with "$100B in cuts" (I'm assuming we are using the FY2011 budget as the baseline).

First of all, one thing interesting about the debate that I don't think the GOP wanted the country to know. They targeted cuts politically to target liberal/Democratic programs. Do you want to know what one GOP member did in response? At 3 AM on Saturday morning, one hour before the final vote; he proposed an amendment to cut a bigger amount ($120B), but he spread the cuts out evenly throughout the government. Here is his statement on the amendment:

I hate across-the-board cuts. I really don't support across-the-board cuts; but I've got to tell you that this CR, as it currently stands, is the byproduct of the fact that we didn't get any appropriations bills done last year and that we have a deadline of March 4. I don't think the chairman of the full committee likes very much the CR that we are considering. If he did, he wouldn't have been required to write it three times in order to get the bill to the floor. As for the salient points, the substitute that we are presenting tonight is a deeper cut than the base bill. The base bill is advertised as saving, I believe, $106 billion. This amendment cuts $120 billion. It adopts numbers on Defense, MILCON, Homeland, Israel, Gitmo; the earmarks are gone; the stimulus money is back. To my Republican friends, I would say that, if this debate is really about the number, this is a bigger number, $120 billion, as opposed to $100 billion. If it's about social engineering, then you'll vote ``no'' on this particular amendment.
Interesting, eh? He's completely challenging the GOP leadership.

Here's his closing remarks:

I certainly don't wish to waste anybody's time, but I've sat through a lot of interesting debate over the last 3 or 4 days, and my time has been wasted plenty with silly things like not wanting to pay for the repairs at the White House, but we went through that exercise today. This was a serious attempt to talk about shared sacrifice and the belief that, in some parts of the country, some programs are more popular than others. So our belief was, if we're going to have shared sacrifice, everybody should be in the game. We shouldn't pick programs the Republicans like and keep them and pick programs that Democrats like and be done with them.
I'm not going to apologize for taking 20 minutes out of 80 hours--or whatever we had here--to talk about the vision of some people on our side who don't think this bill represents shared sacrifice. In Cleveland, Ohio, people listen to the radio, and some of them like to listen to NPR. We don't think that that should be zeroed out. In Cleveland, Ohio, some people value the arts, and we don't think that there should be a tremendous cut to the National Endowment for the Arts. In Cleveland, Ohio, we build our communities with the Community Development Block Grant, and we don't think it should get a 66 percent cut. As Americans, we happen to value the Food for Peace program, which not only feeds hungry people all across the world, but is really the last bastion, if we're going to talk about jobs around here, the merchant mariner, it's one of that merchant mariner's lifelines for employment.
Who knew?

Now, about that messaging. Heritage Action for America (Heritage Foundation blog) made a list of most-reluctant GOP cutters. LaTourette was the 2nd most reluctant GOP cutter. Which is somewhat funny if you consider the fact that his objection to the bill was because the cuts weren't spread out evenly, but politically targetted... and as part of his opposition to that approach he put up an amendment that would've done what Congress claimed to do in 20 minutes but spent 4 days doing.

I imagine he's going to get an earful from "tea party" folks in Cleveland... but kudos to Mr. LaTourette. Sure, he takes a moderate course, but I admire the fact that he was able to challenge the GOP leadership by offering an amendment the put the cuts at a higher level, and spread them out across different government programs. Most of the tea party folks calling him angry won't realize that he was proposing cuts at a higher number, just spread across different government programs.

Unfortunately his amendment cut out $30B in supplemental spending for the DoD... and it never got a vote since he didn't want tea party folks getting hit with political ads which say they voted to cut funding for DoD wars.

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Love his stance. It's nice to see a broad minded view.

How many of his 'colleagues' do you think will listen?

Probably a lot of them... but none will do anything for fear of falling out of step.

He should prep for the firing squad.


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In my current field, we call what that guy's doing "modeling." I hope to hell his peers take it to heart. The traits he's displaying in that message---such as honesty, rationality, equitability, reasonableness, genuineness, and competency---are even more rare in congress than in this forum. :D

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He was joined by Chris Gibson (NY) and Charlie Dent (PA) both Republicans.

Here is a portion of Gibson's speech:

This substitute amendment was intended to be a nonpartisan approach to an American issue: cuts across the board; Democratic and Republican priorities treated the same in this CR; rolling back to 2008 levels rather than eliminating programs outright in the CR. There will be time for those kinds of investigations later on in the budget process and in committees where programs can be singled out for deeper potential cuts and long-term structural changes. As has been pointed out, in the process of writing this, there were some technical issues with it that we regret; but the point of this substitute amendment remains the same, that this is an American issue. We both have to come together to solve this. We're going to have to get our fiscal house in order, and to do that, many steps are going to be necessary, and among them is rolling back spending.
If you add back the $30B they forgot to cut it would represent $90B, which was about $10B less than the total cuts the GOP proposed. Gibson suspended his pension while he was serving in Congress (he retired from Army at O-6). His pension was $68k but a Congressional salary is $170k, so it's not a huge sacrifice... but its the thought that counts at least.
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In reality, don't get your hopes up. He's just one member of the rank-and-file. I've heard him speak passionately on things before and I think he's smart, but I also think that is the problem. Smart enough to know he doesn't want to go anywhere near a leadership position... I don't know why anyone would aspire to be a leader of one of the political parties. Too much mud-slinging, muck-raking, BS.

But I prefer guys like LaTourette to the rank-and-file party-toers like Cantor, McCarthy, and Tom Price.

The same reason I prefer guys like Brad Sherman to Pelosi, Emanuel, Hoyer on the Democratic side.

The leadership folks have to pretend they despise the other party and play to the base... yet at the same time they have to wheel and deal with them to get things passed.

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