By Zayida Baker

Freshman Steve Southerland, R-Fla., has resisted Republican leadership once again. He voted July 29 against the Budget Control Act, Speaker John Boehner’s, R-Ohio, second attempt at a debt-ceiling increase.

As the Obama Administration’s August 2 deadline approaches, House Republicans have offered two bills to raise the debt ceiling. Their first choice, the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act, cuts 2012 spending, caps long-term spending, and sends a balanced-budget amendment to the states for ratification. It passed July 19 with 229 Republican and five Democrat votes; the Democrat-controlled Senate tabled it July 22 along party lines.

On July 29, the Budget Control Act, Boehner’s watered-down version of Cut, Cap, and Balance, just squeaked through with 218 votes—all Republican—and was tabled by the Senate two hours later. All Democrats, both Independents, and six conservative Republicans joined against it.

The vote on the Budget Control Act was originally scheduled for July 28, but Boehner could not round up a majority for the bill without adding a requirement that a balanced-budget amendment be sent to the states. It also cuts $917 billion over 10 years and grants a $900-billion increase in borrowing authority rather than Democrats’ desired $2.4 trillion, necessitating another debt-fight before the 2012 election.

Southerland was one of 22 House Republicans who refused Boehner; other dissenters included Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Ron Paul (Texas), Jason Chaffetz (Utah), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Steve King (Iowa), Connie Mack (Fla.), Tim Scott (S.C.), and Joe Wilson (S.C.). Having e-mailed his district seeking input, Southerland seemed a fairly consistent “no” throughout the multiday process. He was counted multiple times by The Hill as a likely vote against the Speaker’s bill, which was a second attempt to spur compromise in the Senate.

Southerland explained Friday night that Boehner’s plan “did not offer solutions that rise to the level of our historic economic challenges.” Southerland had signed the Cut, Cap, and Balance Pledge ahead of the debt-ceiling debate, promising not to raise the debt ceiling without legislation to cut 2012 spending, cap future spending, and send a balanced-budget amendment to the states for ratification that would require a super-majority to raise taxes. Of the 38 other Republicans who signed the pledge, 17 also did not support Boehner’s bill.

Southerland and other House Republicans had put forward legislation July 15 to prioritize Social Security, Medicare, and veterans’ benefits, active-duty military salary, and interest on the federal debt before other obligations. The bill promptly languished in the Ways and Means Committee, suggesting that House leadership did not want to give conservatives a politically safe opportunity to resist raising the debt ceiling.

Many in the tea party are disappointed with the House’s current direction and efforts. Tea Party Patriots opposes any increase in the debt ceiling.

Once more, however, local tea-party leaders applaud Southerland. Robert Sullivan, of Walton County Tea Party Patriots, confirms that “Everybody’s very, very happy right now with the way Steve Southerland is voting and working.”

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., advanced his own debt plan in the Senate Saturday, July 30, after which Senate Republicans united to immobilize it with the threat of filibuster. Democrats delayed a vote until 1 p.m. Sunday to draw out debate and allow time for private negotiations on a different deal. Meanwhile, in the House on Saturday, Republicans and a handful of Democrats defeated Reid’s plan almost immediately.

You may wish to contact
Rep. Southerland: (202) 225-5235
Sen. Nelson: (202) 224-5274
Sen. Rubio: (202) 224-3041

Zayida Baker covers Rep. Steve Southerland and Sen. Bill Nelson for Tea Party Patriots’ Government Accountability Project. She can be reached at zayida.baker@tppjournalism.org.