I just got off the phone with Congressman Rick Crawford. Apparently he caught word that I was upset about his millionaire surtax proposal. I asked him some pretty tough questions and to his credit, he responded politely, although we vehemently disagree on this issue.
My main issue with Crawford’s proposal is that it violates the Taxpayer Protection Pledge which he signed while running for Congress in 2008. I asked him to respond to ATR President Grover Norquist’s comments that his plan would violate the pledge. Crawford corrected me by saying that his plan would only violate the pledge if it came to the floor of the House and he voted for it. Oh…my bad. So I asked him if he planned to vote for it, should it receive a floor vote. His response:
Sure I would. It would be worth it. But I’m not going to violate the tax pledge for a short-term spending cut. I want this to count for something and the only thing that will count is if we’re able to get permanent reforms.
I interpret this to mean: breaking the pledge is okay, as long as we get what we want. Is that a fair summary?
Crawford then began to speak generally about the tax, saying he ‘doesn’t want to raise taxes.’
People are starting to take a harder look at it. It’s not about raising taxes. I don’t want to raise taxes. What I want is a balanced budget amendment. We need balanced spending. We need 287 votes in the House, so we are going to have to get Democrat votes. We have to have a structural reform to our spending. Only way we do that is if we do something that will bring Democrats to the table.
So I asked Crawford if he has found any Democrat support/if any Democrats are ‘coming to the table on this.’
No. We haven’t formally shopped it out. We’ve had a number of folks who have expressed interest individually.
I also asked Crawford if any members of the Arkansas delegation plan to support the effort. Crawford said he has spoken with all of them, except Mike Ross, but none are wanting to publicly support the effort at this time.
Republicans aren’t coming out and publicly supporting this. I’m hopeful that that will change.
Regarding any support from party leaders, particularly Speaker John Boehner, Crawford said they are ‘aware of the bill,’ but they have not discussed whether or not the Speaker will support the effort.
One of my main concerns with a Balanced Budget Amendment is that it will be used by politicians who have no political courage to raise taxes rather than govern and make tough choices about where to cut. Crawford did not deny that this is a possibility and concern:
There are ways around it, but it will be considerably more difficult to do that. It will be done in the light of day and will be on the record. It could be used to raise taxes, but it would be harder to do it.
Another concern of mine is that no number of constitutional amendments will force Congress to act within their constitutional limitations. Only disciplined, dedicated public servants will insure that we remain a constitutional republic. Crawford addressed this concern, saying that we can force Congress to follow the Constitution through legal action:
What we have in return is a constitutional amendment and legal standing to challenge it, rather than simply a statutory measure. We can challenge it just like Obamacare is being challenged.
I guess I have a hard time seeing how we can trust people who break campaign pledges to hold Congress accountable?
The congressman concluded by saying he’s hopeful that this effort will begin to gain support. He reiterated that people have been approaching him privately and voicing their support.
I appreciate the congressman reaching out to discuss this tough issue with me. I have had tough things to say about his plan, and it did take courage for him to call me. But he is just flat wrong on this issue, and he doesn’t appear to have any support on either side of the aisle. He is trying to bargain with people who cannot be reasoned with, and he is breaking some serious promises along the way.
This is not a winning issue for him, the party, or the country. The sooner he realizes that, the better.