WASHINGTON – In a little-noticed vote last week, House Republicans and Democrats voted overwhelmingly against a bill modeled on a bipartisan panel’s recommendation to reduce the national debt through spending cuts and tax hikes.
The amendment by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) which was based on the Simpson-Bowles’ report in 2010, failed overwhelmingly, with 223 Republicans and 159 Democrats joining forces to vote it down.
All four House Republicans in the Colorado delegation voted against Cooper’s amendment, as did Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver). The five did not oppose the legislation in a show of bipartisanship or solidarity, however. The four House Republicans voted Thursday for the budget reform plan proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) while Rep.DeGette voted against it.
But two Colorado House Democrats voted for Cooper’s amendment: Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Lakewood and Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder.
In their public statements, both Perlmutter and Polis suggested that Simpson-Bowles’ budget recommendations represent the political center.
“Congress needs to spend less time passing partisan proposals and instead bring Democrats and Republicans together around a responsible ‘go-big’ budget that creates jobs, balances the budget, and invests in long-term economic growth. I was proud to join a bipartisan coalition of House members who offered a budget based on the work of the Simpson-Bowles Commission,” Polis said.
“(I)t is a balanced plan putting both spending cuts and revenue on the table. It makes significant cuts big enough to matter — $4.2 trillion in deficit reduction — reforms the tax code to lower rates, broadens the tax base and reduces the deficit. It’s not perfect, but it is a start to real economic security for our nation,” Perlmutter said.
The Bowles-Simpson Commission’s recommendations included $200 billion in spending cuts and $100 billion in increased tax revenues, such as introducing a 15-cent gasoline tax. The panel was named after its two co-chairman, former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles under President Clinton and former Senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.).
Both Perlmutter and Polis have compiled a liberal fiscal track record. For instance, each voted for President Obama’s $892 billion stimulus plan in January 2009 and the health care law in March 2010.
Yet their votes for Cooper’s amendment show their willingness to sometimes break ranks with House Democrats.
Floyd Ciruli, an independent Colorado pollster, said “Bowles-Simpson is quite popular out here. It cuts spending a lot and raises taxes some in the name of getting something done … What’s really disliked is the failure to do something.”
Of the two House Democrats, Perlmutter is more likely to face a strong Republican opponent this November. And Joseph Coors, Jr., the great-grandson of beer magnate Adolph Coors, lists reducing the national debt as his top priority on his online campaign site. Yet Coors did not attack Perlmutter for his vote on the Cooper amendment.
Dan Scarpatino, a regional press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Coors will give Perlmutter a competitive race this fall. “The district has lost some Democrats because of redistricting and we got a strong candidate with built-in name ID and independent funding,” he said.
For Cirulli, there is a reason national Republicans don’t predict Polis and Perlmutter will be defeated this November: The two House Democrats are locks for re-election.
“Generally speaking, they are not endangered. They’re going to be safely re-elected,” he said. “Their votes for Bowles-Simpson show that they don’t see any vulnerabilities in a general election. They calculated they can be on the side that wants to spread the pain [of deficit reduction] all around. It’s probably a smart move on their part.”