Congressman Richard Nugent

Representing the 11th District of Florida

SITREP - October 27th, 2013

Oct 27, 2013

As you’d expect, a lot of people on both sides of the fence have been asking me why I decided to vote against the “deal” that would end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling by another several hundred billion dollars.  The editor of the Ocala Star Banner was one of those people.   The Star Banner offered to run an op-ed from me this morning explaining my position.  I sincerely appreciated the chance.  Below is what I wrote:

If you are reading this, there is more than a 90% chance that you are furious with Congress.  According to polls, the likelihood that you have lost all measure of faith in government is only slightly lower.  

After what’s transpired over the last few years, and in particular the last few weeks, I don’t think anybody could blame you.  Everybody I know is frustrated – on the right, on the left, and especially in the middle.

Some of us are giving up because of that.  Others are still holding out hope of finding a new way forward.  Here’s why:

It’s not as well known across America as it could be, but over the last couple of years, Congress and the White House have come agonizingly close to reaching an agreement that would put us on a path to a balanced budget and sustainable safety net programs.  Tragically, partisan bickering and mistrust have scuttled those chances at the last possible minute.

As a result, many Americans have given up.  They’ve resigned themselves to the fact that our country will continue its slide into second-rate status.

That has to change.  We have to focus on what can be done to improve our nation.  Both sides agree on a number of major policies.  The President, in his State of the Union address, highlighted the need for preventing Medicare from going bust in thirteen years.  He’s called for comprehensive reform to our 74,000-page tax code.  On the basics of those two things, for instance, both sides overwhelmingly agree.  Only the details prevent us from moving forward.

And if most Americans agree on the needs, the goals, and the rough outlines of how to get there, why on earth would we throw our hands up and walk away?  Why would we settle for zero accomplishments when there is so much that our government can achieve on behalf of the American people?

That, at the end of the day, is why I voted against the decision to punt on these issues all over again.

The shutdown started originally because conservatives felt it was their responsibility to do everything possible to stop the President’s takeover of healthcare from going into effect.  Supporters insisted, “Healthcare is the law of the land.  Congress passed it, the President signed it, and the Supreme Court upheld it.”  Of course, all of those things are true.

What supporters of the law did not readily acknowledge was that in the history of our country, virtually no sweeping legislation has ever been enacted without some meaningful degree of minority input and buy-in.  Not Social Security, not Medicare, not the Civil Rights Act, or anything else you could readily think of.  The reason is simple.  When all Americans are going to be equally subjected to a massive change in our country’s laws and fully half are excluded from having any say in what those changes will look like, the backlash will inevitably be severe.  The seeds of anger, mistrust, resentment and fury are sown and as long as the law remains, those emotions will remain.

So although most conservatives, including notably the president of Heritage Action, recognized that there was no chance of actually repealing or delaying Obamacare (as long as the Democrats controlled the Senate, and President Obama, the White House) that anger and desperation manifested itself in a last-ditch effort to use the constitutional purse strings to refuse to move forward with the law.

When that last-ditch effort had run its course, the question moved to the debt ceiling and whether or not Congress, having set the issue of healthcare aside, would grant another several hundred billion in new debt authority without any reforms to the budget that was driving the need for more debt.

Since the 1970s, the debt ceiling has been raised more than fifty times.  On twenty-seven of those occasions, agreements to raise the debt limit were accompanied by major fiscal reforms which would lessen the need to raise the debt ceiling going forward. There is sufficient enough agreement now on what reforms are necessary that we should not allow our government to shirk its responsibilities any further.  Therefore, I could not in good conscience, support such a dereliction of our collective duty.  I understand why many disagree with my vote seeing only its implications for the short term, but I hope they also understand why I think it’s the right stand to take over the long term.