GOP Freshmen Pledge To 'Trust, But Verify' On Debt Deal After Shutdown Disappointment
WASHINGTON -- Freshman House Republicans are skeptical of striking another compromise with the Democratic-controlled White House to raise the debt ceiling. They say they're worried they will be duped into making fewer spending cuts than they would like, a wariness born of the eleventh-hour deal to avoid government shutdown earlier this year.
A top leadership aide said that the freshman class of the GOP is more leery of cutting a deal with Democrats this time around. A deal reached in April to keep the government open cut only $352 million from this year's budget, rather than the $38 billion claimed by House GOP leadership, according to a report by the Congressional Budget Office.
"It's still trust, but definitely verify now, as well," the aide said, adding that the verification process isn't limited to the debt ceiling, but applies to issues such as Libya as well.
Freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), one of the most vocal members of his class, said the tricks in the FY 2011 budget process will inform his thinking in dealing with the White House and the GOP leadership.
"It's reaffirmed my belief that we weren't bold enough in that fight and we have to double and triple our efforts to be bold in this one, because we can't let that happen again," he told HuffPost. "We will publicly let our leadership know where we stand."
Many of the freshman say they were voted into office in November to bring down spending, and they hope to get as many cuts as possible in exchange for voting to raise the debt ceiling. The government reached its current debt limit, $14.29 trillion, on May 16, but is relying on "extraordinary measures" to avoid default.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner estimated the United States would begin to default on its loans by Aug. 2 if Congress does not vote to raise the debt limit.
But GOP freshmen are not so eager to trust Geithner, who met with first-term House members from both parties on Thursday. Walsh said he was "disgusted" by the secretary's actions at the meeting because Geithner focused on raising revenues as a means for shrinking the deficit -- an option GOP freshmen have said is a non-starter because they pledged not to raise taxes.
"He just didn't seem to get it," Walsh said. "He didn't seem to understand the gravity of the situation, he didn't seem to understand how strongly and passionately these freshmen feel about the situation."
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), another freshman, also said he was "disappointed that the secretary offered no specific solutions other than tax increases."
He said the budget process to avoid government shutdown was a teaching moment for the freshman class.
Those budget cuts were "less real than appeared," Brooks told HuffPost. "The cuts need to be immediate. They need to be for FY 12. If there are no cuts now, it's meaningless."
Brooks said he's not distrustful of the House GOP leadership, just more skeptical. He echoed the leadership aide by quoting former President Ronald Reagan's "trust, but verify" line.
"It reminds me that it's my job to trust, but verify," Brooks said.
Many GOP freshmen are making their demands on the debt ceiling deal in a letter to the party leadership that will demand cuts, spending caps and a balanced budget amendment in exchange for "yes" votes on raising the debt ceiling, Walsh told HuffPost.
Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), a freshman member, compared the preconditions on raising the debt limit to how he'd treat one of his teenage daughters if she maxed out his credit card: pay the bill, and then take the card away.
"It's unfortunate we need to treat politicians here in Washington the way we do our children, but there you go," he said.