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Congressman: Partisan politics making work complicated

Luetkemeyer: ‘There’s not a consensus’

Friday’s U.S House vote on a continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating, but defund the national health care program many call “Obamacare,” likely set up another confrontation with the U.S. Senate.

The House’s Republican leadership and majority of the chamber’s members argue the health care law is a mistake that Americans don’t want and that shouldn’t be allowed to continue — even though it’s scheduled to begin operating on Jan. 1.

But President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and the Senate’s Democratic leaders say it’s a law upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and desired by a majority of the American people.

So, the Senate is expected to reject the House-passed resolution and send it back to the House, and the president has said he’ll veto the measure if it strips out funding for the health care law.

Without an agreement before Oct. 1 — the first day of the federal government’s new business year — the government won’t have any spending authority and will have to shut down at least some operations until a budget resolution is passed.

When he spoke to a Jefferson City Rotary Club last Monday, U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer was asked about Congress’ seeming inability to work with itself.

He said there really are two issues — one within the House, and the other between the House and Senate.

“Right now, I can tell you there’s not a consensus on any thing, from anybody,” the St. Elizabeth Republican told about two dozen people gathered at the Rotary luncheon.

In the House, he said, Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer have told the GOP leaders — Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy — that the Democrats will work to block votes until the Republicans have 218 votes lined up to support an issue.

That’s the simple majority number required to pass any bill or resolution in the U.S. House.

“We have 234 (Republican) members right now, so (Speaker Boehner)’s only got 16 guys to play with,” Luetkemeyer explained. “And, we’ve got about 15 or 20 guys who understand that, if they hold out, they can leverage themselves to get a whole lot more of what they want, against a majority of the majority (party).”

Luetkemeyer said he’s looked at the voting records, and many of those Republicans aren’t as “conservative” as the majority of the GOP members in the House.

“They call themselves ‘conservatives.’ But, whenever you defeat the most conservative option on the table and then our leadership is left with nothing but the more liberal option on the table, are you really a conservative?” Luetkemeyer asked. “Whenever you don’t have a consistent philosophy of how you believe governing should be, you don’t have a way to protect your values and advance your principles, I’m not sure that that’s really conducive to good governance.”

The third-term congressman later told reporters the disputes with the Democrat-controlled Senate follow a similar difference in philosophy.

“There is a set of principles that we in the House have. For instance, with our budget, we’re not going to allow more taxing — we believe that our tax rates are high enough,” Luetkemeyer explained. “We have sequestration in place and, as a result, we finally, for the for the first time in years — for the first time in I don’t know how long — two years in a row we actually cut the budget.

“So, as a result of the things we’ve been able to do and leverage in these negotiations, we believe we’ve got this country going on the right track.”

But, he said, “What they want to do in the Senate is go the other direction — so we have such a chasm between us, I’m not sure how it can be bridged. But we’re glad to sit down with them.”

Although there seems to be little common ground on a budget resolution to keep the federal government operating without some kind of shutdown, or on a resolution to raise the debt-ceiling so the government can pay its bills, Luetkemeyer said the two houses may find some common ground on tax reform.

“Tax reform is something that both the House and the Senate, Democrats and Republicans, are rallying around right now,” he said. “Whether we can get it done in an effective manner has yet to be seen.

“But there is a lot of discussion and a lot of hopes, on both sides.”

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