After the Deluge: New York's Congressmen Explain Why Yes, Why No on the Debt Ceiling Vote

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, US Representative Jerrold Nadler of NY-08 explained his no vote on the debt deal, followed by Congressman Michael Grimm of NY-13, representing Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, who talked about his yes vote on the deal. 

After an epic and often nauseating Congressional battle over the extension of the Federal debt ceiling, to pay bills for debts already incurred, progressive Democrat Jerry Nadler could not bring himself to support the compromise.

I voted 'no' because I think it's a) a terrible deal, it will really hurt the middle class, b) it will make it harder to get out of the recession we're in and it almost guarantees that the unemployment rate will continue over 9 percent for a good many years to come. Three, it sets a terrible precedent.

Nadler argued that the bill will increase unemployment in New York City and potentially take benefits away from recipients of the Zagroda bill as well as hospitals, major employers in the state. He added that Republicans have misconstrued the truth of why the country is in a debt crisis.

The reason we have this huge deficit now is not because spending has run amok, discretionary spending is about the same now adjusted for population and inflation as it was in 2001 when we were running a very large surplus. What has changed is number one, accounting for about half the deficit, is the Bush tax cuts, number two, two unfunded wars, and number three, the recession, those are what have caused the deficit.

He criticized Obama for underestimating the ruthlessness of the Republicans, and says in hindsight, the President should have dealt with the debt ceiling right after extending the Bush era tax cuts, instead of assuming the GOP would compromise.

Freshman Republican Michael Grimm considers himself part of the Tea Party, but ended up voting for the bill even as other Tea Party freshman held out for more cuts. He said he didn't feel the bill went far enough but he has accepted that this government is so broken it will take several steps to fix it.

Unprecedented in U.S. History

Nadler and Grimm agreed that the Republicans had done something unprecedented in American history, but disagreed on what that was.

According to Nadler, the Republicans "hijacked" the economy:

What the Republicans did here was not negotiate in good faith, they literally said to everybody, like a bunch of gangsters, 'that's a nice economy you got here, a pity if something would have happened to it.' They threatened to destroy the economy and that was a threat. This was not normal negotiations, this was hostage taking and giving into the hostage takers lest they murder the hostages, the hostage being the economy.

According to Grimm, Republicans pushed Congress to be responsible for the first time:

Republicans are saying we can't just raise the debt ceiling irresponsibly and not put a plan in place to tell the rest of the world that yes, we recognize we have a problem, and yes, we're going to deal with it in way that is responsible and will eventually bring economic security for this great nation.

The next fight

Grimm denied Nadler's claim that raising taxes on the wealthy would improve the deficit. "They want to say it's a revenue problem but every economist who looks at it understands its a spending problem," he said. However, he did say that he backs closing tax loopholes for corporations and simplifying the tax code. We'll see if that remains true over the next six months, as the playground is sure to get bloodied again before the next debt ceiling deadline, the day before Thanksgiving.