House GOP freshmen condemn cliff deal; want spending cuts
In talking to several of the 34 Republican freshmen who were sworn into the House of Representatives last Thursday, Human Events found two common denominators: first, most of the lawmakers who were elected to the House last fall roundly denounce the tax bill enacted by the lame-duck Congress in the twilight hours of 2012; second—and most importantly—most of the freshman Republicans plan to wage an all-out war for spending cuts and especially entitlement reform in the coming Congress.
In that sense, most of the 34 Republicans elected to the House in 2012 are not unlike most of the 87 in the House GOP Class of 2010: opposed to the status quo of runaway spending on government programs and more than willing to oppose raising the debt ceiling in pursuit of that goal.
“We have two bites at the apple,” freshman Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) told Human Events in his office, hours after being sworn in. “One was on the fiscal cliff and then on the debt ceiling. I see no reason why we can’t use the threat of not extending the debt ceiling to make the White House agree to greater spending cuts and some reform of entitlements. If it’s the best weapon we have, we should use it.”
As for the tax bill enacted by the previous Congress, Hudson told us without hesitation: “No, I would not have voted for the tax bill—never. Something that adds $4 trillion to the deficit should never be anywhere near law.”
Two returning lawmakers from the Class of 1994 speak out
“The tax bill was a horrible bill,” said Steve Stockman of Texas, returning to the House 16 years after being defeated. “And, quite honestly, I was disappointed to learn that Grover Norquist (president of Americans for Tax Reform) and the American Conservative Union were giving Republicans in the last Congress a ‘pass’ to vote for it. It’s a tax increase, for goodness sake!”
Stockman added that what was even worse about the tax bill was that “it demonizes the top 1 percent of wage earners –people like (the late) Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, who send tons of revenue to the government. Why someone can say ‘I love jobs but I hate the job-makers’ is beyond me. That’s what that tax bill says.”
Regarding a vote against lifting the debt ceiling, Stockman told us: “Let’s be realistic. We have to stop the Obama agenda and that’s one of the remaining weapons we have left.”
As to what he would want in return for his vote to lift the debt ceiling, the Texan replied: “A huge number of spending cuts, or repeal of Obamacare.”
Like Stockman, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) was first elected to the House in the “Gingrich Class” of 1994 that gave Republicans their first House majority in four decades. Honoring his term limit pledge, Salmon stepped down in 2000, lost a heartbreakingly close bid for governor — to present Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano — in 2002, and is now returning to the House after a dozen years.
In discussing what it was like to be a freshman Republican congressman again, Salmon told Human Events: “It’s like déjà vu. I’m in a House with a Republican majority and a Democratic president again. The difference is that Bill Clinton really meant it when he said he wanted to work with Republicans and Barack Obama doesn’t mean it. In a sense, I’m nostalgic for Bill Clinton.”
Salmon said there was “no way” he would have voted for the tax bill “for a whole lot of reasons: I never voted for a tax increase in my life, it deals with revenue and not spending, and it’s a product of class warfare because it penalizes people for being successful. And for every $1 in spending cuts, it has $43 in additional taxes.”
As for what the Arizonan wants to do in the coming battle over spending cuts and the debt ceiling, he said he is “committed to reforming Social Security and Medicare. If we would just block grant Medicare and Medicaid to the states and say ‘if this isn’t enough to fund the programs in your states, than raise state taxes to pay for them,’ that would be great.”
As critical as taming entitlements are, Salmon added, “I still want to get rid of the Department of Education and plan to pursue that on the House Education Committee. I campaigned on getting rid of the Departments of Education, Commerce, and Energy and this is the opportunity for conservatives to take up a battle that should have been fought long ago.”