The House of Representatives voted today to pass a bill authorizing 15.25 billion dollars in emergency relief aid for the victims of hurricane Harvey; it was attached to a continuing resolution that would raise the debt-ceiling and fund the federal government through Dec. 8. The vote tally was 316 yeas and 90 nays. All ninety nays were Republicans including the
five six Republican members of the Missouri House delegation.
The Senate voted on the measure on Thursday and passed it on a 80-17 roll call vote. Both Missouri Senators, Republican Roy Blunt and Democratic Claire McCaskill, voted for the measure.
McCaskill’s vote is no surprise, but ol’ Roy? Maybe no surprise there either. It’s not necessarily a case of the the tiger changing its stripes – it’s just that some of those stripes are more attractive than others. In short, Blunt is a pragmatist, a corrupt, power-seeking, self-interested pragmatist, true, but he does understand what’s involved in raising the debt ceiling. And he knows that the economic nightmare that would result from a default would not serve anyone’s interest.
In 2013 Bunt indicated that he couldn’t support using the urgent need to raise the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip to deny funds to Obamacare, remarking that “I think holding the debt limit hostage to any specific thing is probably not the best negotiating place.” So now he’s reversed himself, showing admirable flexibility; the new circumstances, he implies, justifies the contingency. He observed that that tying the debt ceiling to Harvey aid is “one way to do it, ” i.e., raise the debt ceiling, a crucial must-do, adding that the need to address the destruction left in the wake of the hurricane is “another reason as to why you’d want to keep the government open.” Even though it looks like a flip-flop, Blunt’s consistent about one thing. No debt ceiling default. Ever.
Sadly, the other members of the Missouri GOP delegation don’t get it. Perhaps it’s because they don’t actually understand that extending the debt ceiling has nothing to do with increasing Government spending, but simply permits Treasury to pay the bills Congress has already run up.Or maybe they want their constituents to believe that they had a “fiscally responsible” reason for voting to leave Harvey victims high and dry (so to speak), while undermining the functioning of the federal government and maybe even wrecking the heretofore sterling credit worthiness of the United States.
Here’s a sample of the debt flim-flamming we’re hearing from our Missouri congressional representatives:
Rep. Ann Wagner (R-2): “I promised the people of St. Charles, Jefferson, and St. Louis counties that I would go to Washington to cut up the government’s credit card and put a stop to wasteful federal government spending.”
Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-3), also thinks that raising the debt limit so that Treasury can pay the bills that he and other congressmen have already run up represents a failure to “curb future spending.”
(You’d think that folks who’ve worked so assiduously as Luetkemeyer and Wagner to assist the financial industry would understand what the debt ceiling is and how it works. But, evidently, you’d be wrong.)
Rep. Billy Long (R-7) explained his “no” vote by declaring that “simply raising the debt limit is not the answer to fixing our nation’s fiscal mess. (Note to Billy: nobody said it was. The answer, that is, to a supposed fiscal mess. Different topic totally).
Give Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-4) points for originality: she purports to think that extending the debt ceiling for three months “freezes defense spending at current levels and ties the hands of our Defense Department, preventing them from making desperately needed investments to meet the threats we are facing.” Nu-uh, Vicky! Talk about deflecting from the actual topic.
What really puts these excuses to the lie is the fact that House and Senate leadership wanted to go for an eighteen month extension of the debt limit. They were hoping to avoid the inconvenient messiness that would be sure to ensue when the limit has to be negotiated again at the very beginning of the midterm political season come December. Are you willing to bet good money that had that deal come down the line, all of these GOPers – even go-along-to-get -long types like Wagner – would have oppposed it?
And, in case you are persuaded by occasional claims that these folks were willing to vote “yea” on Harvey relief, but balked at voting on the debt ceiling because they believe the debt ceiling vote ought to be “clean,” with no need-to-pass riders, just think back to the behavior of almost all of these stalwarts when it came time to take debt ceiling hostage during the Obama years. Dead-enders, every one of them.
Addendum (9/9/2017, 11:56 am): You will notice that there’s nothing in the post above about the positions of Jason Smith (R-8) and Sam Graves (R-6). That’s because I couldn’t find anything. Too early? It struck me that the absence of online info about these two lawmakers actions is pretty predictable. Takes them a while to issue a statement if they ever do. Don’t their constituents care? Do folks in their districts just reflexively vote Republican, relieving them of any obligation to take care with their votes or to explain them? Do I need to subscribe to their newsletters? Do they have newsletters? Guess I’ll have to check it out.