05.21.2012 0

House freshmen: Hype, or hope?

By Robert Romano

Remember the hype of the so-called Tea Party Republican freshmen class of 2010, a group that promised to restore fiscal sanity to Capitol Hill?

House Republicans pledged in 2010 to “put us on a path to balance the budget and pay down the debt”.

Well, it appears changing Washington, D.C. may take a little more than a single midterm election, according to a new study by the Club for Growth, “Just how Tea Party are they?”

“[T]he Club for Growth has found that for many of the freshmen Republicans, promises of fiscal responsibility have proven to be empty,” states the group’s press release.

That’s actually true.

Only 49 out of 94 freshmen Republican representatives voted in favor of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) alternative budget in 2012. In fact, GOP veterans voted in favor of the proposal at a higher rate than did the freshmen, with 87 in favor and 59 opposed.

Overall, by a vote of 136 to 104, Republicans clearly favored the alternate measure proposed by Rep. Scott Garrett and Rep. Jim Jordan over the plan that had been proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan.

It was practically a vote of no confidence in the more tepid Ryan approach, which would not balance the budget for about 30 years, compared with the RSC’s approach of balancing it within five years.

But why? If the nation is in such dire fiscal condition, shouldn’t members be opting for more aggressive approaches to restoring order to the nation’s fiscal house?

Part of the reason may be that many freshmen voting against robust fiscal proposals are not in as safe seats as long-standing incumbents. For that reason, many of those freshmen may be more likely to acquiesce to House leadership.

Another problem may be that some members simply do not take the threat of insolvency very seriously, or do not believe a funding crisis could be on the near horizon.

But overall, a flock is only as good as its shepherd.

House Republicans, freshmen and incumbents, united and rallied around the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” approach that would have required a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget with a 20 percent spending cap in return for increasing the then-$14.294 trillion debt ceiling.

But House leadership was unwilling to fight for that position. And in the end, House Speaker John Boehner’s demands to tie big spending cuts to the debt ceiling vote proved to be an empty ultimatum.

Unwilling to actually let the debt ceiling to be reached — buying into the false narrative it would provoke a default — all of the House’s leverage on the issue was ceded in a Hollywood minute.

Soon, the House was instead voting for the ill-fated Supercommittee to do all of the heavy-lifting, ceding its constitutional power of the purse to an ineffectual body that ultimately got nothing done.

In the meantime, the U.S. lost its gold-plated Triple-A credit rating, and now the $15.7 trillion debt is larger than the $15.4 trillion economy.

Ironically, with ample revenue to pay interest owed on the debt, and the ability to refinance debt up to the limit, the possibility of an actual default was quite low. The only way a default could have ever occurred was if Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner had deliberately chosen not to make debt service payments out of revenue.

Fortunately, there will be more opportunities for the House, including its freshmen class, to redeem its on this issue. With the now-$16.394 trillion debt ceiling set to be reached perhaps before the election, members can take a stand and give Obama a resounding, “No” to his request to borrow and waste even more money.

Perhaps as the days get shorter and the election becomes near, the freshmen will remember the spirit of Nov. 2010 and their local Tea Party supporters who put them there — and live up to the hype. For the sake of the nation, one can only hope.

Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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