BY REP. DAVID SCHWEIKERT | DECEMBER 19, 2012
Standing on principle matters
In Washington, principle is a frequent casualty of the unrelenting pursuit of power.
In order to climb the ranks, to get appointed to the plush committees, to advance a bill or to just get a seat at the table, you have to be a loyal foot soldier.
For conservative Republicans, this means a choice: stifle our beliefs in support of allegedly more palatable positions, or stick to our guns. We are courted, coaxed, pressured and when all else fails, we are threatened.
Inside the Beltway, they call this “being a team player.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a proud Republican, and I want to support my party. I am a firm believer in the Republican principles of smaller government, low taxes and economic freedom. I have spent my time in government service fighting for these principles.
I ran and was elected to Congress on a platform of shrinking the size and cost of a federal government that has ballooned out of control. I promised my constituents that I would fight for them — for their hard-earned tax dollars, their small businesses, their jobs and their families.
I respect my leadership and colleagues, but when the required position deviates from the promise I made to my constituents, I will pick my constituents every time.
For me, that promise trumps politics.
I have now learned the harsh truth: There is a price to be paid for being principled in Washington. Three of my colleagues and I were kicked off the high-profile budget and financial services committees for bucking our party’s leaders on key votes.
Most of these votes were crucial spending votes over the course of my freshman term in Congress. The largest of these was the debt-ceiling deal hammered out by Republican leaders and President Obama during the summer of 2011. The deal raised our debt ceiling by $900 billion initially with the potential for an additional trillion-dollar increase, allowing our government to continue borrowing and spending. In exchange, Republicans received $900 billion in spending cuts over a 10-year period, $21 billion of which occurred in the fiscal year 2012.
At the time, I listened to the arguments my colleagues made and I respected their reasons for choosing a different path, but I could not support a deal that ignored our country’s spending addiction. I could not support a bill that mortgaged our grandchildren’s future in exchange for the convenience of avoiding the tough choices.
The Budget Control Act, as the final deal was called, did what Washington does best — kick the can down the road. The most substantial spending cuts were postponed for future years and future Congresses.
More than a year later, the super committee has failed, Washington is scrambling to undo many of the spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act, our deficits continue to top $1 trillion a year, and we are staring down the ravine of a potentially devastating fiscal cliff.
Throughout the 112th Congress, we were asked to quietly swallow spending bills that exacerbated our skyrocketing deficits. I was told to take one for the team, to go along to get along. I was told there would be other opportunities to cut spending, other fights to stand our ground.
But these were not small votes. Our government’s unsustainable debt and the debilitating effect on our economy is perhaps, the most pressing problem facing our country today. If we don’t act now, we may not have other opportunities. There may not be other fights.
I promised my constituents I would do everything I could to bring fiscal responsibility to Washington, and that is what I did because it’s all about the numbers and they simply do not add up.
I am proud of these votes, even though they cost me a seat on the Financial Services Committee. I am proud to vote my conscience and to stand up for the conservative principles I campaigned on. Given a choice, I would do it all over again.
I didn’t come to Washington to fight against my Republican colleagues, or even against my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. I came to Washington to fight for the values that make our country unique — for the economic freedom that gives life to the American Dream. I came to fight for the people back home who still can’t find a job, for the families who worry about their children and grandchildren’s futures.
No matter the price, that is what I intend to do.
Rep. David Schweikert is an Arizona Republican.