Debt Ceiling Debate Causes Freshmen To Play Activist Role


The president did actually make a proposal to congressional leaders to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years by a series of spending cuts and tax revenues — but he was told by Republican leaders that it was a nonstarter in the House, and the freshmen said they don’t trust that he was proposing spending cuts anyway. That’s why they want it in writing.

“We’re hearing speculation on the Hill that the $4 trillion he’s talking about in those speeches is a bait-and-switch, that they’re actually tax increases,” Reed said.

Ohio Rep. Bill Johnson said when Republicans “took tax increases off the table, the $4 trillion-dollar deal that the president supposedly advocated fell apart. That’s why we don’t use tax increases to right this ship.”

Never mind the polls that suggest Republicans are losing the messaging war — one this week showed that 71 percent of Americans disapproved of how congressional Republicans were handling the debt ceiling war and another that 67 percent support raising taxes on corporations. The freshmen have their own polls to cite: one by Rasmussen suggesting 55 percent of voters oppose tax hikes and another showing 81 percent of Republicans support a balanced-budget amendment.

Some blame the media for not questioning the president strongly enough or reporting on their efforts to pass spending cuts through the House.

“The president can say whatever, but I think you all need to push him. When he says he has a big plan, and he has taxes that he can put on the table and he has all of these pieces, you all need to push him and say, where is it? We want to read it. I haven’t heard you all do that. Don’t let it just be our voice,” Black said to reporters.

The freshmen were largely noncommittal on the president’s statement of support for the Gang of Six’s efforts, which the president put squarely at the center of the debt ceiling debate on Tuesday.

“I have a great deal of respect for Mike Crapo — he’s a great conservative senator — and the other Republicans on that panel. So I need to look at it and study it. I can’t embrace it right now because I haven’t studied it, but I’m not rejecting it,” said Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, a freshman elected with significant tea party support.

Many of the freshmen are still imbued with the idealism that got them elected in last year’s historic Republican sweep and seem adamant about resisting the bipartisan deal-making that will likely happen if there is to be a debt-limit breakthrough.

“We came to Washington not to get reelected,” Reed said. “We as a freshman class came to Washington — we don’t care about reelection. We’re here to do the work.”

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