Local Rs back Ryan budget, inviting political challenge

March 22, 2013

WASHINGTON – Another Paul Ryan budget won passage in the House today, and again Philadelphia-area Republicans voted in favor of the conservative blueprint that was used as a political weapon against them last election – and likely will be again in 2014.

Moments after the vote the Democratic House Majority PAC sent out a release accusing Bucks County’s Mike Fitzpatrick of “embracing dangerous priorities.”

Fitzpatrick, along with Congressmen Charlie Dent, Jim Gerlach and Pat Meehan (in PA) and Frank LoBiondo, Jon Runyan and Chris Smith (in Jersey) all backed the Ryan plan, which Republicans have hailed as a proposal to balance the federal budget in 10 years and rein in spending while lowering taxes. Every local Democrat voted no. (They all represent safely liberal districts, so budget votes like these carry little risk). 

It was an almost purely party-line vote – only 10 Republicans voted no and no Democrats backed the plan. Where there is risk for local Republicans, as we wrote about a couple weeks back, is that they represent moderate districts where Ryan’s deep budget cuts, proposed Medicare overhaul and tax breaks that will help the wealthy the most might not receive the warm welcome that conservatives give it elsewhere. 

The tug-of-war within the party was neatly illustrated today in a post by The Washington Post’s The Fix:

“There is a substantial portion of the GOP conference who see shrinking federal spending and eliminating the budget deficit as not just a goal but the goal,” wrote Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan. “For politicians with their eyes on bigger prizes than simply winning re-election to a House seat, however, pledging fealty to austerity over all other priorities may well be a very limiting proposition.”

Inquirer alum Dick Polman touched on a similiar theme on his blog over at NewsWorks.

“The budget debate inside the Beltway is center-right, but out in the world, the general sentiment is center-left,” he wrote.

Polman backs up his assertion with numbers from the National Opinion Research Center poll, whose researcher said, “Although nearly everybody acknowledged that the deficit is an important problem, a solid majority sees job creation as an even more urgent necessity.”

Via Polman: 74 percent of Americans said that deficit reduction was “very important,” but 92 percent said it was “very important” that the government spend more money to boost jobs. And when people were asked whether they prioritized job creation over deficit reduction, 58 percent said yes. Only 41 percent said they prioritized deficit reduction over job creation. 

Democrats will hope to take advantage of those sentiments next year, when the Philly-area swing districts will once again be potential battlegrounds.

Of course, they tried the same tactic last year and it didn’t work, even with Ryan and his budget plan in full national view as he ran for vice president. The local Republicans had all backed Ryan’s plans twice before, and they all survived election challenges waged with varying degrees of competence.

The Ryan plan is more of a policy platform than actual governing document. The Democratic-controlled Senate has no intention of taking it up, just as the GOP-controlled House has no plans to give serious thought to the Democratic budget. Each side is simply staking out its ideals.

But the policy stakes can have political consequences. Our local members are on record as supporting or opposing it. Even if it never becomes law, expect to hear lots about it in the coming months.

Jonathan Tamari @ 12:16 PM