WASHINGTON – Voting to keep the shutdown going and toying with default was a huge roll of the dice for Republican Congressmen Chris Collins of Clarence and Tom Reed of Corning. Reed took the greater risk, having only a small GOP affiliation advantage in a district that sprawls through a maze of cramped media markets.
Reed and Collins both claim, incredulously, in Friday’s report by News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski that they were not putting the nation’s credit in danger. That, of course, is what would have happened if their actions carried the day.
But the negatives from their votes and those of 142 other House Republicans who went the same way could dissipate by Election Day a year from now.
The hefty Republican vote against shows there was much more going on here than the boorishness of tea party anarchists. Their core House numbers, plus fellow travelers, don’t top 40.
The 2014 spending bill and debt ceiling escalator come up again in 12 and 15 weeks. President Obama appears to be aching for another fight, with his supportive media claiming he “won” and predicting the death of the Republican Party. Obama didn’t serve the public interest with his “go-win-an-election” taunt at Republicans as he signed the compromise resolution.
Here are some other items:
• Who will remember last week’s vote after the next crises?
• Obamacare. For all its popularity in the people’s republic of New York, there is an undercurrent of distrust, even fear, of it in the red Republican states. The computer collapses on individual sign-ups this month will loom even larger politically in the coming election year. The federal health insurance exchanges are a mess, and even more embarrassing exemptions by White House executive orders may be needed.
• Big government. Polls show that trust in Washington generally has followed the tanking scores of Congress as a whole. Obama’s own approval ratings are below 50 percent and some surveys show him a net negative. A Gallup survey released Sept. 3 showed that public misgivings about federal power are on the rise again, with six in 10, including 65 percent of independents, saying government has become too big. There are legitimate reasons for these worries, with the Obama administration muddying the waters on immigration enforcement, and its refusal so far to do anything at all to curb the National Security Agency sweeps of innocent Americans’ computer chats, social media postings, GPS pulses and telephone calls – all on a Democratic president’s watch. Imposition of IRS fines for failing to sign up for health care will only deepen these anxieties.
These issues might not lend themselves to big political advertising campaigns, but they provide fodder for talks across the back fence, at the breakfast table and around the coffee maker. Some view what happened over the last two weeks as democracy in action, not as disasters. It’s why some Republicans aren’t worried a lot about the stalemate.
• The national debt. Collins and Reed, like others who voted against the spending bills, opposed raising the debt limit beyond $17 trillion. Why, many ask, is the debt still spiraling out of control with our troops coming home from South Asia, with federal revenues rising and the “Obama recovery” stabilizing?
• Sequester. The prior Republican-enforced settlement mandated across-the-board spending cuts. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., wanted it lifted during the negotiations. Didn’t happen. Republicans are now comfortable with it, even with reduced defense spending. Sequester is working. It’s a reason the annual deficit will drop to the normal 3.3 percent of gross domestic product by 2015; that is if you believe the projections of Obama’s budget office.