Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Gerry Connolly: It was Between This Proposal and Catastrophic Default Today

As the debt ceiling bill has now passed, Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have been making the rounds explaining why they voted for or against the bill. That included Gerry Connolly, who had a conference call with reporters this morning to explain why he voted in favor of the bill.

Even before the final deal was reached, Gerry was strongly advocating for a compromise so that we could avoid a “devastating default.” When it looked like we had a strong chance of failing to reach a deal over the weekend, Gerry took to the floor of the House to go after the GOP for acting as though compromise was a dirty word and being “more interested in scoring political points than ensuring the stability of the U.S. economy and preserving the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.”

After going after the GOP for promoting the “rigid orthodoxy” instead of what’s best for the American people, Gerry practiced what he preached and voted for a compromise yesterday even though he admitted that there were several things he didn’t like about the bill. Both in a statement released last night and on the conference call today, for instance, Gerry pointed out that there was nothing in the bill that addressed revenue reform. Despite these disappointments, he said that when it came down to casting a vote it "wasn’t between the ideal and this proposal, it was between this proposal and a catastrophic default today.”

Since there’s been a number of outspoken folks on the left who have expressed opposition to the deal, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Gerry took some time on his call today to discuss what Democrats could like about the compromise. He started out by saying that there “was something for everyone to love and everyone to hate” in the bill, which would obviously explain why there’s people on both the left and right who have come out both in support and in opposition to the deal. Specifically in regards to Democrats, however, he pointed out that one of the major wins we had was that the bill gets us past 2012. Gerry also highlighted how this adds more stability than the short term deal that the GOP was trying to ram through at the last minute.

While it’s true that the entire deal gets us through 2012, I’m not fully buying into that argument because the joint committee still has to come up with a deal for the second round of deficit reduction. With the way things have been going lately regarding tough negotiations, I’m not sure how confident we should be that something actually will get something done. And with the rumors already circulating that Boehner and McConnell won’t appoint anyone to the committee who would support revenue reform, I’ve all but given up hope that we’ll see anything addressing revenue come out of this deal.

Gerry appeared to have more hope on this than me though because he believed that the enforcement mechanisms put in place are disdained by enough members on both sides that folks will be motivated to make a deal that could pass. The Congressman also went on to say the actual spending cuts are relatively low in the first two years, so that provides us some more room to recover before the impact of the cuts are felt. While that’s not terribly comforting, it is better than having to face the full blunt of the cuts while we still haven’t fully recovered from the worst economic disaster since the great depression.

All in all, what this means is that Gerry Connolly believes the debt ceiling deal was far from perfect but needed to pass in order to prevent a “catastrophic default today.” While it might not be extremely politically popular, I think that position and the action he took prior to the vote are an example of the strong leadership we need in Congress right now. He fought for progressive values, went after those who were preventing progress, and eventually voted for the best interests of the American people even though we didn’t get everything he wanted.

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