Update August 1: The House has passed the compromise measure 269-161 late today. Rep. Hunter voted no. His explanation may be found here: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/6852
August 1, 2011 (San Diego’s East County) –Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon) has served in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. But now he’s facing fire from both sides of the political aisle as tomorrow’s deadline draws near to approve a plan to raise the debt ceiling, or see the U.S. default on its debts.
Rep. Hunter has reportedly not yet made up his mind how he will vote on the high-stakes measure.
Hunter voted for a plan by Republican Speaker John Boehmer last week, but that measure was quickly defeated by Democrats in the Senate. Now legislators must decide whether to support a compromise measure hammered out by President Barack Obama and bipartisan leaders in the House and Senate. The compromise appears to please almost no one, drawing criticism from many members of Congress as well as voters from both conservative and liberal camps. But time is running out, and the consequences of a default have massive global economic implications.
The North County Times reports today that Rep. Hunter is “leaning against” the compromise bill but has not yet decided how he will vote. Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper told the Times that “this latest proposal could put as much as $400 billion in security funding on the chopping block,” and added that defense spending is not the primary cause of the nation’s “fiscal sinkhole.”
The compromise would make modest short-term cuts and allow a new bipartisan committee to make recommendations that would be binding if approved by Congress, with the full body prohibited from making changes other than a full up or down vote. The committee could choose spending cuts, revenues increases, or a combination of both. If Congress fails to adopt recommendations of the committee by a set date, a trigger clause would implement very deep cuts in both social programs and defense—theoretically giving both Democrats and Republicans incentives to protect their favored programs by coming to an agreement.
Hunter has drawn both praise and criticism for his support of the Boehmer bill. But the criticism has come not only from liberals who think the bill went too far in slashing Medicare and Social Security, but also from some from Tea Party conservatives who think it didn’t go far enough in cutting spending and reforming the budgetary process long term.
“Duncan Hunter Jr. should be dumped for harming America,” wrote Bill Kerney, a conservative who has called criticism of the Tea Party “socialism.” In an e-mail to ECM, he wrote that “We are out of money” but opposed Hunter’s vote for the Boehmer plan. “Hunter is a lightning rod to pull in conservative votes and make sure no one who wants real change has a vote in Congress, all about retaining power for the class of people who have run American since Hamilton set up our system...Trillions of dollars of home equity has just been wiped out but McCain/Duncan Hunter/Obama all agree that everyone cover losses for the ruling class. Why are these people too big to fail?”
He also voiced anger at Obama for talking about Social Security checks not being sent in the event of default. “Think about all the payments going to salaries of government employees and the fact that they make more than taxpayers,” Kerney point out, adding that federal salaries should be cut. “Why do the rest of us sacrifice when they never do? Duncan has done nothing to cut America’s dependence on foreign oil or lower the price of gasoline…He needs a challenger and he needs to be voted out of office.”
Bonnie Price, a Democrat in La Mesa, by contrast, contends that Hunter “needs to know that he’s hurting all of us by his ideological bias and his lack of perspective on what ordinary people need, simply to survive in this bad economy.” She wants to see Medicare and Social security protected, while raising revenues by eliminating some tax cuts passed by the Bush administration for wealthier Americans and corporations.
She is helping to organize a protest rally outside Hunter’s El Cajon office (1870 Cordell Court, Suite 206) this Tuesday, August 2 at noon. “Enough dithering, Duncan!” she wrote in an e-mail urging voters to attend. “It’s time to take sensible steps to honor our debts and protect our social safety net!”
A poll on East County Magazine’s website asked readers the following question"“Pres. Obama wants Congress to ask the wealthy & big corporations to give up some tax breaks & pay a 'fair share' to prevent the U.S. from defaulting on debt & avoid deep cuts to Medicare & Social Security. Do you agree?” Three-fourths of those who responded (75%) said yes, while 25% said no.
It remains to be seen how Rep. Hunter will choose to cast their votes vote. But one thing seems certain: whatever decision he and other Republican members make is bound to meet with disapproval from some voters at a time when a usually-apathetic public is paying close attention to the high-stakes actions of Congress as the debt-ceiling deadline looms.