Political extremes calling the shots?
July 26th, 2011
06:05 PM ET
9 years ago

Political extremes calling the shots?

Washington (CNN) - Who's really in charge up on Capitol Hill? House Speaker John Boehner or people like Joe Walsh? Not the guy from The Eagles. U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Illinois, is one of dozens of new tea party-backed House Republicans who are pushing the Speaker for steep cuts to entitlements and federal spending in exchange for an increase to the debt ceiling.

Walsh blames President Obama for bringing the country to the brink. But he is also candid that he and other Republicans will be partly to blame if the nation goes into default.

"If we do default it will be all of our faults," Walsh said in an interview with CNN. On Tuesday, Walsh's office said the congressman opposes Speaker Boehner's plan to reduce the deficit.

Like many of his fellow GOP upstarts, Walsh is vehemently opposed to the President's agenda. Walsh posted a video on his House website that accused the President of misleading senior citizens about the possibility that Social Security checks could be delayed if the U.S. hits the debt ceiling.

"President Obama, quit lying," Walsh said in the video.

It's that kind of rhetoric that has veterans of past budget battles in Washington bracing for the worst. Alice Rivlin, a former member of President Obama's debt commission, believes the tea partiers in the GOP House are out to "frustrate" the president at every turn.

"I have never seen anything like this. I think it's very scary and very embarrassing for our system of government," Rivlin told CNN.

A former budget director under President Clinton, Rivlin did not hide her disappointment in Mr. Obama for walking away from the recommendations of his own debt commission.

"I think everybody missed an opportunity, both the President and the leadership of the Congress," Rivlin said.

That's in part because Congressional leaders are doing more listening than leading. Each side is being forced to answer to its base. So far, House Republicans have succeeded in blocking tax increases from the current debt deals on the table. And Democrats, for the moment, have saved Medicare and Medicaid from drastic cuts.

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona, a prominent member of the House Progressive Caucus, believes the White House is operating with the assumption Democrats will line up behind the President to support any deal.

"I think there's been an understanding that we have nowhere else to go. But I think that's a miscalculation by the White House," Grijalva said.

Democrats have at times created their own political sideshows.

Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, a longtime member of the Congressional Black Caucus, took to the House floor to question whether Republicans are sticking it to the President because of his race.

"Why is he different? And in my community that is the question that we raise," the congresswoman said.

In an interview with CNN, she defended her comments.

"I posed the question and I think those individuals need to answer the question," Jackson Lee said. "I think it's a fair question," she added.

Or perhaps it's simple political gamesmanship.

Under President George W. Bush, Congress raised the debt ceiling seven times. On nearly all of those occasions, dozens and sometimes hundreds of Republicans, voted yes. Boehner and current House Majority Leader Eric Cantor often voted with the majority.

Centrist Democrats and Republicans, the forces for compromise in any Congress, were in greater supply under President Bush. These days, moderate lawmakers are nearly extinct on Capitol Hill. Arkansas Democratic Rep. Mike Ross, a fiscally conservative "Blue Dog" Democrat, announced Monday he is stepping down.

Republicans cheered his retirement and predicted he won't be the last.

Adding to the polarization in Congress are special interest groups standing on the sidelines of the debt ceiling debate.

On Tuesday, the tea party organizer FreedomWorks joined a pro-business group, the Club for Growth in opposing the Boehner plan.

MoveOn.org also came out against the Speaker's proposal and warned Democratic lawmakers not to touch it. "We're watching," a MoveOn email stated.

Filed under: Debt • Deficit • John Boehner • President Obama • Tea Party movement
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Voice of Reason

    "If we do default it will be all of our faults"

    Well, you're half right, but I dont recall the democrats signing any 'pledges'...

    July 26, 2011 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  2. Voice of Reason

    "If we do default it will be all of our faults"

    If, by 'all' you mean, "We, the Tea-party – over-caffeinated zealots who can't add" – then YES, you are correct.

    July 26, 2011 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  3. bj

    Who cares, they are all cut from the same cloth of racial hatred and bigotry.

    July 26, 2011 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  4. Ed

    Now here is an interesting thought:

    Fathom the hypocrisy of a Government that wants to require every citizen to prove they are insured, but does not require them to prove that they are citizens!

    I would have to say they only care about getting re-elected the hell with us. We need to impose term limits and vote them out of office all of them that will not listen to us the majority.

    July 26, 2011 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  5. GOP = Greed Over People

    As we slide into the abyss of economic collapse, no whining from those of you that voted for these economically illiterate tea baggers.

    Your votes were successful, as "America will fail".

    July 26, 2011 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  6. Billy

    The Tea Party needs to go away, they are killing our country.

    July 26, 2011 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  7. A Real Patriot

    Joe Walsh represents the same kind of "Fire Eating" pro-slavery Congressmen on the eve of the Civil War who refused to even talk about the subject. Their unwillingness to negotiate or compromise with Abraham Lincoln and even with his two predecessors caused secession and then Civil War.

    America was based on compromise. The very documents these Tea Partiers claim to revere (Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution) were products of tremendous compromise.

    A people ignorant of their history are doomed to repeat it. Congressman Walsh and his fellow Tea Partiers would do well to crack open a history book before they dig in on a "principal" that will very likely throw the country into economic, and then political and maybe even social chaos.

    July 26, 2011 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  8. Bruce

    WOW...the election of an African-American man has exposed all that is wrong with Washington, DC. In the pass, these things were overlooked as long as a Caucasian was running the country...lobbying, debt ceiling increases, increacing debt, deficit spending, etc. The big pink elephant in the room is RACE!!!!!

    July 26, 2011 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  9. ThinkAgain

    The teabaggers are the extremists – not Democrats who want to preserve Social Security and Medicare and the social safety net. The teabaggers want to turn our country into a dog-eat-dog land where the top 2% own and control everything. They don't mind unfunded wars, tax cuts for those who invest overseas and lay off Americans at home.

    The teabaggers all need to go live in a third-world country and then get back to us about how bad it is here ...

    July 26, 2011 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  10. Mike Dallas

    "A former budget director under President Clinton, Rivlin did not hide her disappointment in Mr. Obama for walking away from the recommendations of his own debt commission."

    I am still waiting for an explanation as to why President Obama walked away from the Boles-Simpson suggestions myself.

    July 26, 2011 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  11. Bloom

    Sheila Jackson Lee and Obama are the extremists. Wanting to spend us into oblivion is an extreme position. For Democrats these days actually having a budget is just too much to ask as we did not have one for two years. Annual budgets are mandated by law but I guess laws don't apply to politicians.

    July 26, 2011 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  12. john nesser

    Joe Walsh is DIRT>

    July 26, 2011 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  13. Former Republican, now an Independent

    Let's be clear, it is my former party and the one that Joe Walsh belongs to that got us in this mess. Ronald Reagan told the American public that deficits didn't matter, so he cut taxes and congress raised the debt limit 18 times at his request, funded by deficit spending. Government size grew to record numbers under Reagan and again under George W. Bush, who cut taxes, blew a budget surplus within months of taking office and for whom congress raised the debt limit 7 times at his request, funded by deficit spending. Mr. Bush also led us into 2 wars and his method of funding was deficit spending. Mr. Bush also created the prescription drug part D program and his method of funding was deficit spending. Mr. Bush and his revived Reaganomics and increased de-regulation nearly bankrupted the country, and now the republicans want to blame the current president for their mis-management of the country. Let's be perfectly clear, this problem has been created by the mis-guided policies and actions of the current day neo-con extremists that have conquered and destroyed my former party!!!

    July 26, 2011 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  14. sue

    You are right.....Your party will be blamed for this default and come election day there will no long be any of the far right conservatives that can't compromise or any far left liberals who can't compromise.......for all of the Republicans that are pushing for a One Term for Obama as President, it's going to back fire on all of you and you will be the ONE TERM House Members.......

    July 26, 2011 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  15. Mitzie

    No matter what President Obama does, the Tea Party will be against it. If the President fully endorses a Republican idea, the party then villifies it as socialism. This is a no win. I constantly try to figure out if Republicans are so against the Democratic party that they are willing to sacrifice the American people to prove it or if this is a racial issue. I cannot stomach it no matter what the issue. As a resident of a very red state, I try every day to maintain my "moderate" position, but this "Republican inflicted wound" is getting to me. The word "hyperpartisan" symbolizes all that is wrong in our country but for the life of me, I am finding myself to be more and more understanding.

    July 26, 2011 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  16. Russell Brown

    Time for the family of faith to pray .

    July 26, 2011 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  17. Thomas Mc

    Don't ever expect the GOP to do anything that helps the Middle Class, they only care about the Filthy Rich.

    July 26, 2011 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  18. raja

    Republican are in the ditch they made for President and now going to put whole nation into it along with them.

    July 26, 2011 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  19. Shannon

    This disrespectful bigoted man, needs to be voted out of office. He swears allegiance to one man, Grover Nordquist, and he lets America flounder. It should be treson.

    July 26, 2011 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  20. Chedar

    Unfortunately Joe, you will be a one term congressmen come November 2012. The Tea Party will be outnumbered after this hooploa you guys created,

    July 26, 2011 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  21. Reggie from LA

    Sorry that ol' Blue Dog is stepping down (as it has come up). Sniff, sniff. Boo Hoo. Now back to cases. Walsh has been under the radar too long and feels a need to speak to the masses. He really shouldn't be speaking to the masses. Not implying he is inept. He is just wrong and disrespectful. He's TeaParty and they eat red meet and complain about anything they are told to. We won't ALL (meaning officials) be to blame if it fails, it is Walsh and his party and any lawmakers they can scare or the Kochs can buy that are to blame. "Walsh, you and your ilk brought us to the brink. Don't try to cast off the blame on the prez because your party hates him". Did the Tea Party promise jobs as payback for rich people welfare? Nah, guess not. Kantoooor!!....

    July 26, 2011 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |

    If America defaults it WILL NOT BE the fault of "both parties". It we be the fault of the Republicans. They manufactured this false crisis. US Treasury Secretary Geithner notified Congress of this calamity back in January – said another way, President Obama [Geithner is part of the administration] notified them to take action.

    I emplore all Americans that don`t like the petty bickering and granstanding to select an offender in this and to punish them.

    If we continue to say both sides are at fault out of "political correctness" then NOBODY is going to be held responsible. Even if you are a registered Republican, put the blame where it belongs – – on the GOP politicians.

    July 26, 2011 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  23. Republican Robber Baron

    No. He is NOT candid. Walsh has been on MSNBC 10 times and only repeats the same generic talking points all the other GOP activists say. He never actually answers any questions. But the basic premise of the article is true. The extremists GOP activists have definitely hijacked their party. The Dem's hardly have any extremists except for maybe a couple like the immigration activist that got arrested today or a few that advocate ending the wars. Ending wars is hardly an extremist agenda.

    July 26, 2011 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  24. Ron

    Take as many pictures of yourself as you can while you're in congress because next Nov you get fired!

    July 26, 2011 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  25. paul

    I have heard Joe Walsh several times on t.v. and he always comes across as this angry right wing extremist. I think he secretly hopes that they don't raise the debt ceiling. He would rather see Obama fail even if it meant a downgrade to the country that will hurt us all. Congress is no place for people like Walsh.

    July 26, 2011 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
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