WASHINGTON – Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, Wednesday voted no on the short-term budget agreement to end the 16-day government shutdown and prevent a historic and potentially horrific federal default – a deal that several of his Western New York colleagues reluctantly supported.
“The bottom line is, I didn’t come here to kick the can,” said Collins, who was elected to Congress last year. “This doesn’t deal with any of our entitlement spending. It doesn’t change the trajectory of our deficit, which is $700 billion a year. And therefore I can’t support it, and I’m going to vote no,” he said before Wednesday night’s 285-144 vote to approve the legislation.
Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, joined Collins in voting no, saying the deal failed to provide a long-term solution to the nation’s fiscal problems while preserving the status quo of government by crisis.
“Enough is enough,” Reed said. “We cannot keep borrowing to cover uncontrolled spending without jeopardizing our children and grandchildren’s future. No one wants a default but that is exactly what will happen sooner or later if we do not deal with this problem.”
Asked if his “no” vote meant that he was willing to risk a federal default – which, many economists have said, could result in a recession or worse – Collins said: “While I am concerned by it, quite frankly, in the long run, the biggest threat to long-term interest rates, whether it’s mortgages or credit cards or business borrowing, is a national deficit of $700 billion a year that goes unchecked.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., all voted for the legislation to fund federal agencies through Jan. 15, lift the debt ceiling through Feb. 7 and make no major changes to the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” the health care overhaul that Republicans wanted to defund or delay.
For Higgins and Schumer, the legislation is nothing more than the lesser of evils. “It averts what would otherwise be a financial disaster, but it doesn’t provide a long-term solution,” Higgins said.
“It will continue to send the wrong signal to the financial markets and the larger economy because what we’re coming down to here is a quarterly budget battle and debt ceiling battle that do not provide any kind of long-term outlook that requires stability and certainly.”
Still, Higgins said he supported passage of the short-term stopgap out of fear of a federal default – which, according to some economists, could have produced an immediate stock market drop of 30 to 40 percent.
“That is serious, serious stuff,” said Higgins, chiding the tea party Republicans in the House who pushed the GOP leadership into a shutdown and debt ceiling showdown over defunding or delaying the Affordable Care Act.
“What you’re basically saying to a retiree is that here is a tea party-influenced capital gains tax on you.”
Higgins called the stopgap spending measure “the best of bad choices,” and Schumer agreed.
“This isn’t a day for happiness or exaltation,” Schumer said. “We spent two weeks risking extreme danger merely to end up right where we started: opening the government, paying our bills and negotiating a budget.”
Gillibrand said it’s time for Congress to move on. “I’m relieved we have bipartisan deal to avoid default and reopen the federal government. Now Congress must refocus on creating jobs and growing the economy for the American people,” she said.
Schumer sounded relieved, as well.
“If there is a silver lining in this cloud,” he said, “it’s that hopefully this debacle means that the power of those that favor confrontation has peaked and we can start legislating again, in a bipartisan way, without this dangerous brinkmanship.”