Tea Partiers skeptical of default

By Kathie Durbin, Columbian staff writer

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Tea Party Rally

With a vote on a Republican debt-limit bill delayed in the U.S. House Thursday, about 40 Tea Party activists rallied outside U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s Vancouver office, calling for deeper cuts in federal spending and questioning whether the nation will really default on its $14.15 trillion debt if a deal isn’t reached by Tuesday.

“I don’t think we’ll default,” said Lew Waters, a conservative Clark County blogger. But he predicted the nation’s credit rating likely will decline anyway because of its mounting debt and deficit.

Neither House Speaker John Boehner’s deficit reduction bill nor Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s bill contains real spending cuts, Waters said; instead, both plans just reduce the rate of growth in future spending.

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“I would like to see some actual spending cuts,” Waters said. “I think it should be across the board. All government spending has to be put in check.”

Terry Busch, a member of We the People Vancouver, the Vancouver Tea Party group that organized the rally, said the impasse in the House over raising the debt ceiling is proof of the Tea Party’s clout in Congress.

“We are winning this,” he said. “The Tea Party has blocked the lines in Washington, D.C. We are having an effect.”

Busch said Boehner “is selling us short” with his two-step plan to raise the debt ceiling by $1 trillion immediately and cut spending by at least that much, buying time for a bipartisan panel to design a long-term plan that Congress would act on in 2012.

“He’s wheeling and dealing with Harry Reid and (House Democratic Leader) Nancy Pelosi,” Busch said. “They think they can negotiate with these people.”

Herrera Beutler’s district staff members passed out comment sheets at Thursday’s rally, the second held outside her office in three days. The progressive group MoveOn.org held a rally there Tuesday, calling for compromise and no changes to Social Security. However, on Thursday, MoveOn.org called for defeat of the Boehner plan, noting that the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said it “could well produce the greatest increase in poverty and hardship produced by any law in modern U.S. history.”

Reid has warned that the Boehner plan has no chance of passing in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority.

Herrera Beutler did not respond to a question from The Columbian asking how she planned to vote on the Boehner bill. A survey of House members compiled by the National Journal did not list her as among House members who planned to vote against the bill, were leaning toward voting no, or were undecided.

‘Scare tactics’

Paul Andonian of Battle Ground, who attended Thursday’s rally, said he’s opposed to compromise on a deal to raise the debt ceiling and cut federal spending. He likened the federal budget to a household budget.

“My dad said, ‘Live below your means and you’ll never have a problem,’” he said.

Andonian was one of several at the rally who said he doesn’t believe threats of a default on the federal debt if Congress fails to act by Aug. 2.

“It’s a government shutdown, not a default,” he said. “Certain things won’t be able to be funded, but Social Security checks will be sent. They’re using scare tactics.”

Pat Anderson, who lives in the 18th Legislative District, also opposes raising the debt limit. “We certainly can start paying our debt as we get money” from taxes paid into the federal treasury, she said.

Sylvia Jackson of Battle Ground blamed President Barack Obama for the mess.

“I think Obama wants to default,” she said. “I think he wants to destroy the economy” so he can blame Republicans, she said. “He’s a community organizer. He knows how to manipulate people.”

State Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, said he favors a short-term fix followed by a longer-term plan to balance the federal budget, along the lines of the Boehner plan.

“Democrats should have looked ahead and fixed the problem when they controlled the House and Senate” in 2009 and 2010, he said.

Still, Harris predicted that the parties will cut a deal at the 11th hour to avert default.

“Both of them are going to cross the aisle and come up with a short-term plan,” he said.