Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tennesseans in Congress Split on Debt-Limit Vote

Posted By on Tue, Aug 2, 2011 at 11:48 AM

Cohen: bill a Trojan horse
  • Cohen: bill a "Trojan horse"

9th District congressman Steve Cohen went Greek in his disdain for the debt-limits bill passed by the House of Representatives Monday. The Memphis Democrat likened the bill to a “Trojan horse,” containing a no-win “Scylla and Charybdis” choice.

Said Cohen in a floor speech before the vote and the bill’s passage: “…This country has been taken to this point by a group of ideologues that don’t like government, want to reduce it, are reducing it, want to hurt employment figures to hurt the President of the United States, Mr. Speaker, and I don’t want to hurt him. Justice Louis Brandeis said the greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding. Justice Brandeis is with us today.”

Two other Memphis-area Representatives, Marsha Blackburn (R-7th) and Stephen Fincher (R-8th) voted Aye on the bill, Blackburn explaining her stand this way: "This bill is not perfect, but it accomplishes two significant tasks. It gives the American people the security of avoiding the possibility of default and charts a new course for fiscal responsibility. Republicans have stood by our principle that Washington doesn't have a revenue problem — it has a spending problem…. I voted for this bill knowing that these spending cuts aren't the first cuts we've achieved, nor will they be the last. This plan will also ensure that we get a clean vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment in both chambers….”

Besides Cohen, two other members of the Tennessee congressional delegation opposed the debt-limits bill — U.S. representatives Chuck Fleischmann (R-3rd) and Scott DesJarlais (R-4th). Fleischmann, like DesJarlais a Tea Party favorite, put it this way: “I have said all along that a debt ceiling raise must be accompanied by a Balanced Budget Amendment and significant budget reforms. While ‘Cut, Cap, and Balance’, and an earlier version of the ‘Budget Control Act’, did these things, the bill put forth today did not do so….”

The state’s two U.S. Senators, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, both Republicans, also said the bill hadn’t gone far enough, but voted for it anyhow.

Said Corker: “…[R]egrettably, with the current administration and Republican control of only one house of Congress, I believe this is the largest package we can get at this time. In the final analysis I had to ask myself: do I believe two to four more weeks of negotiating would produce a better deal? The answer is no, and I think the deal could get even worse.”

The Senator went on: “I’m encouraged that passage of this agreement changes the paradigm in Washington by requiring real cuts in order to raise the debt ceiling. I view the $900 billion down payment as a start and the additional $1.5 trillion the select committee is charged with finding as the floor for their work and will be pushing hard between now and December to get them to work toward something that is much more significant. In business, I learned that you shouldn’t say no to taking a profit, and in Washington I’ve found that you shouldn’t say no to a cut in spending.”

In a “corrected” version of the press release issued later on Monday, that last sentence was altered to read: “In business I learned that you can never go broke taking a profit, and in Washington I’ve discovered a similar adage: that you should never say no to spending cuts.”

Before casting his vote, Alexander, too, had been warily watching his words, promising only to “review carefully” the terms of the agreement between congressional leaders and President Obama. On Tuesday, Alexander characterized the bill as”an opportunity to take an important step in the right direction—toward stopping Washington from spending money it doesn’t have,” emphasizing, “Make no mistake. This is a change in behavior—from spend, spend, spend to cut, cut, cut.

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