Posey leads battle for balanced budget amendment


Jul 29, 2011

By Mark K. Matthews, Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, is neither a freshman nor a lawmaker with especially strong ties to the tea-party wing of his party.

But in a twist on the politics of the moment — in which tea-party freshmen were credited with derailing House Speaker John Boehner’s bill to raise the debt ceiling — it was Posey who emerged as a key holdout in the hours leading up to Friday’s narrow 218-210 vote that finally approved the Republican plan to keep the nation from defaulting on its debt.

The sophomore lawmaker met three times with Boehner on Thursday and was one of the fence-sitters who forced House leadership to postpone a vote on the bill because they lacked the votes for passage.

Posey ultimately joined almost all House Republicans on Friday in passing the bill, which combined spending cuts of roughly $915 billion with a $900 billion increase in the current debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion. But the bill — which the Senate later killed — also included new language tying another increase to passage of a balanced-budget amendment in Congress.

That, Posey said, was his bottom line in his conversations with Boehner. The speaker’s original bill would simply have required a vote on a balanced-budget amendment, but not passage.

“There was no strong-arm [tactics],” said Posey of his one-on-one conversations with the speaker, nor did he ask for any favors for his Space Coast district.

“Just [him asking] what would it take to get [me] to vote for it. I told him a balanced-budget amendment,” Posey said.

“You cannot borrow forever,” he added. “Someday, you have to consider your ability to actually pay for what you borrowed.”

As passed, the bill would have required Congress to initiate a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution before raising the debt limit again. However, Democrats and President Barack Obama objected to the proposal because it would require another debt-limit increase in six months.

The idea of a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution won a strong endorsement from Gov. Rick Scott and Florida legislative leaders, who issued a release vowing that Florida “will be the first state” to ratify a balanced-budget amendment.

Posey was the lone Central Florida legislator to oppose the original Boehner bill. But one early supporter, U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden, acknowledged that he backed it primarily in hopes it would prompt the Senate to quickly pass its own measure — and lay the groundwork for a compromise to head off a threatened default on Tuesday.

“If the Senate passed something, I would be very happy,” Webster said. “I hope there is a response. Then they have a position. Then we could negotiate.

“To me, that’s the normal, historic, traditional way to work out the difference between the House and Senate,” said Webster, who served nearly three decades in the Florida Legislature.

But finding common ground on the debt issue has been notoriously difficult, not just between Democrats and Republicans but also within the GOP caucus.

There were enough holdouts like Posey to delay an initial vote, even though Boehner was able to recruit champions within the tea-party wing, including U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, who took some criticism for backing the leadership plan.

West shrugged off the criticism Friday.

“When you are a commander and if you are trying to make every soldier happy, it’s never going to happen,” said the retired Army lieutenant colonel.

U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams, R-Orlando — another Florida freshman who rode the tea-party wave into Congress last fall — said she backed the bill before the changes but applauded the addition of the new balanced-budget language.

“It’s the only way that is going to assure the federal government to live within its means,” she said.
And if there was any doubt that politics always is in play in Washington, her re-election campaign sent an email solicitation asking for campaign volunteers within minutes of the bill’s passage in the House on Friday.

“Again, thank you for helping to make a difference in our nation’s government. Without your support I would not be in Congress, fighting on your behalf to create jobs, improve our economy, and do the work you sent me here to do,” she wrote.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 202-824-8222

This article originally appeared at www.OrlandoSentinel.com

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