Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Stark, Lee Vote No on Debt Ceiling Bill; Criticize Tea Party Rivals

Rep. Pete Stark faulted an old rival Monday before voting against raising the debt ceiling: the Tea Party.

"There is only one reason that our country has been pushed to the brink of default: the Republican Tea Party fringe," Stark said Monday on the floor of the House of Representatives.

"We are in the midst of a completely manufactured crisis that was orchestrated by this extreme faction of the Republican Party. They are a minority in Congress and in our nation, yet they are holding our nation’s economy hostage because Republican leadership continues to pander to them at the detriment of our country and its future.

The House passed the compromise bill cobbled together by President Obama, Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and was signed yesterday into law.

In the event the House bill was endanger of failing, Stark said he would have instead voted in favor of the plan. "I will hold my nose and change my vote to yes," he said.

"I will do that because governing requires tough choices. If Tea Party Republicans refuse to govern, it is up to the rest of us to do so for them."

While other Democrats like Rep. Jerry McNerney, situated in less secure conservatives districts, used their no vote to curry favor come re-election time, Stark's sharp words were expected.

A yet-to-be appointed congressional committee will be named later this year to scour up $1.5 trillion in cuts spread over the next decade, which Stark believes will ultimately shave funding from entitlements like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, which he has strongly supported over his four decades in Congress.

"Those twelve people will have the power to cut Social Security benefits, turn Medicare into a voucher, and gut the Medicaid program into oblivion," he said. "The rest of Congress will have only the right to vote yes or no on the entire proposal. Unlike the vast majority of legislation, no amendments will be allowed.

Stark says absent a compromise by the 12-member super committee, instant cuts to Medicare will be triggered.

Rep. Barbara Lee, the East Bay's other progressive member of Congress, also criticized the Tea Party for what she termed "extreme" tactics meant to dismantle the government and continued to urge the president to invoke the 14th Amendment, which ultimately was not needed with the bill's passage.

Lee's opposition, though, centered around a common refrain from many Americans who believe the rich have not sacrificed enough of their wealth to help the nation. "We must demand that the super rich, big oil and other big corporations that enjoy tax giveaways and loopholes also contribute to deficit reduction," Lee said. She also took aim at cuts to entitlements saying, "enough is enough."

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