WASHINGTON — A majority of the Louisiana congressional delegation voted against the bipartisan Senate compromise that passed Congress late Wednesday to reopen the federal government and avoid a potential government default.
The Republicans in opposition contended the plan simply set up another government funding fight in three months and did little else for entitlement “reforms” and changes to the Affordable Care Act.
Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, was the only Louisiana Republican in favor of the plan. He joined Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, in support.
While Boustany said he did not like the compromise, he blamed “tactical blunders” and “false expectations” from the “Libertarian” — he did not say tea party –— wing of about 30 members of the House Republicans for creating the situation.
Boustany said he was supporting the plan to avoid risking the “full faith and credit of the United States.”
“These Libertarians have repeatedly undermined a conservative agenda in the House,” Boustany said, arguing true Republicans would never want to risk a government default.
The compromise plan to reopens the federal government after 16 days and keeps it funded through Jan. 15. It lifts the debt ceiling into February.
The legislation also provides back pay to hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal employees.
The only “Obamacare” change is to ensure verifications are put in place to make sure people signing up for insurance on the exchanges are not falsifying their income levels.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, opposed the compromise.
“It increases the debt ceiling and extends the funding of government, but only so we’ll be right back here in three months,” he said.
Scalise did say though he is “hopeful” progress can be made on larger budget negotiations in the three months “to finally start tackling the long-term spending problems.”
He called on the Democratic-controlled Senate to start passing spending bills to move negotiations along like the House has already done.
Richmond said he supported the legislation to get the government open and still paying its bills. H e said he dislikes the short-term fix and that Democrats accepted spending levels similar to the “sequester” cuts that he said attempts to balance the budget on the backs of the “most vulnerable.”
Richmond also criticized the tea party Republican wing. “They started this shutdown because they wanted to defund Obamacare and that to me was the equivalent of throwing a tantrum just because you didn’t get your way.”
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, both opposed the plan and cited the lack of the inclusion of the “no Washington exemption” Vitter amendment to require that members of Congress, their rank-and-file staffers and the president lose their employer contribution for health insurance while acquiring coverage on the “Obamacare” exchanges.
“But it’s not going away and neither am I,” Vitter said in a prepared statement.
“This is all about fairness – forcing Washington to live under Obamacare the same way as the rest of America. Once Washington insiders are forced to walk in the same shoes as other Americans, we may start cleaning up this train wreck.”
Critics call it an unfair amendment to take away employer contributions to health insurance in a way that serves as a de facto pay cut to congressional staffers. Effectively, staffers would pay for insurance entirely out of pocket unless their incomes are low enough to qualify for assistance.
“This deal does not end special Obamacare breaks for Senators or Members of Congress nor does it address the long-term threats to our debt and deficit,” Cassidy said in a prepared statement.
Landrieu voted for the plan that passed the Senate on an 81 to 18 vote and said she looks forward to sitting down to “work out a balanced approach that will put our country on a path toward the fiscal stability that we need to grow the economy and expand the middle class in Louisiana and across the country.”
Landrieu also criticized the effort prior to the shutdown of about 80 House Republicans – including Cassidy, Scalise and Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden – that asked the House leadership not to support any budget stopgap that funded Obamacare. “This entire episode was unnecessary, wrong and reckless. The antics by a few in the house – including three in our own delegation – have grinded important work to a halt,” Landrieu said in a prepared statement.
Fleming though opposed the legislation for not including enough concessions. “It’s not strident enough; it doesn’t do enough,” Fleming said Wednesday on CNN.
Influential conservative organizations Heritage Action for America and the Club for Growth that have prominent GOP scorecards on congressional votes both warned Republicans Wednesday that they would be punished in the scorecards for supporting the plan.