Beam: Compromise holds future promise

By By Jim Beam / American Press

The Republican leadership in the U.S.

House of Representatives has finally come to its senses, and so have

four members of

the Louisiana delegation. That quartet — along with 328 other

House members, voted for a budget compromise that ultra-conservatives

and tea party groups attacked before they knew what it contained.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner

of Ohio defended the compromise in extremely strong terms and let the

critics know they

had already caused too much havoc for the GOP. Rep. Charles

Boustany, R-Lafayette, who represents this corner of the state,

once again put his country’s best interests ahead of his own.

Boustany said the compromise means Congress will quit floating from one self-created calamity to another. The budget deal

turned off automatic budget cuts for two years, he said, and refocuses on domestic priorities and “certainty for families

and businesses across Southwest Louisiana without increasing taxes on them.”

Congressmen like Boustany who backed

the deal know the far right plans to field candidates to oppose them in

the 2014 congressional

elections, but their votes show they are ready for the challenges.

Boustany had little trouble defeating Jeff Landry of New

Iberia, one of the most conservative House members, in 2012. He

led the primary with 45 percent of the vote, and polled 61

percent of the runoff vote to 39 percent for Landry.

Other Louisiana Republicans voting for

the budget compromise were Reps. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge, John

Fleming of Minden

and Vance McAllister of Swartz. Fleming is described as the

delegation’s most conservative member, and McAllister is its newest.

Fleming said, “... These are small

steps, but they are in the right direction. He called the compromise

“the best House Republicans

can do as long as President Obama is in office.”

Reps. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, and Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, voted against the budget deal. Scalise said it doesn’t

rein in out-of-control spending. Richmond was critical of the failure to close tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy and

putting deficit reduction on the backs of federal workers, military families and airline passengers.

Boehner spoke passionately about ultra

conservatives steering his party and the nation in the wrong direction.

Although he

didn’t mention them by name, he was talking about groups like

Heritage Action, the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives

Fund.

“They pushed us into the fight to

defund Obamacare and shut down the government,” Boehner said. “That

wasn’t exactly the strategy

I had in mind. But if you recall, the day before the government

reopened, one of these groups stood up and said, ‘Well, we

never really thought it would work.’ Are you kidding me?”

Boehner added, “I’m as conservative as anybody around this place. All of the things that we’ve done over the three years that

I’ve been speaker have not violated any conservative principles. Not once”

The Associated Press pointed out one of the fallacies of the ultra conservative program. It said the groups put up candidates

to run against Republican incumbents only to see some of their candidates win the primaries and end up losing to Democrats

in the general elections. And those are seats Republicans should have won.

National Journal, a Washington, D.C. political news magazine, said Senate Republicans will benefit from House approval because

they can vote against the deal, knowing there are enough Democrats and some GOP senators to pass the bill.

Republican incumbents who supported the

deal will have some help during next year’s mid-term elections from a

group called

the Republican Main Street Partnership. It is described in

National Journal as “an outspoken, deep-pocketed player in pro-business

plans to beat back tea-party challengers next year...”

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee, helped draw up the compromise with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.,

chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee. The Senate is expected to vote on the budget compromise this week.

Ryan, a staunch conservative, had a

reason for agreeing to compromise, according to Josh Kraushaar of

National Journal. Kraushaar

said it delays “a messy fiscal fight until after the 2014 mid-term

elections, which are shaping up to be favorable for Republicans...”

Like all compromises, each side won some and lost some. The plan will crack down on prisoners who receive unemployment checks

and make certain dead people don’t get income tax refunds, a Republican goal. The GOP was also successful in stopping the

extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless. Democrats were able to protect Medicare and Social Security

from changes wanted by the Republicans.

There were other losers in the deal,

too. Airline passengers will see an increase in security fees,

corporations will have

to pay more to the agency that guarantees pensions, military

retirees under 62 will get smaller annual cost-of-living increases

and future civilian federal workers will pay a greater share of

their pensions.

Members of Congress from both parties

can take some comfort in the knowledge that an October poll by

Esquire/NBC News showed

there are more Americans in the middle than on either the left or

right. That is where members of both parties who supported

the compromise should concentrate their energies and their

re-election campaigns.

If the rest of us are lucky, this newfound agreement between the two parties may help create a better working environment

in the nation’s capital.

• • •

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or jbeam@americanpress.com