Local Politics

Saturday, Oct 19 2013 08:00 PM

Kern's congressmen: Budget fight is far from over

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    By AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

    House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., arrives for a meeting with House Republicans in the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 16, after Senate leaders reached last-minute agreement to avert a threatened Treasury default and reopen the government after a partial, 16-day shutdown.

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    Rep. David Valadao appeared on "First Look with Scott Cox."

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BY STEVEN MAYER Californian staff writer smayer@bakersfield.com

While both of Kern County's congressional Republicans voted this past week to support a measure that ended the partial 16-day government shutdown and averted an unprecedented default on the nation's debt, neither thought the fiscal fight was over.

Reps. David Valadao, R-Hanford and Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, each voted "yea" to the default-averting deal crafted in the Senate, which dropped demands to defund or delay "Obamacare."

Eighty-seven House Republicans, including Valadao and McCarthy, joined 198 Democrats to push the measure through with a final tally of 285-144. All of the "nays" were Republicans.

While McCarthy did not respond to interview requests this week, he released a statement following the measure's passage.

"Over the last two weeks, the House has fought to bring the president to the negotiating table in an effort to agree on a long-term fiscal plan for our country," McCarthy said in his statement. "At every turn, he rebuffed us. As a direct result of the last two weeks, the president will now sit down at the negotiating table and discuss reforms to federal spending and our entitlement programs."

Despite the outcome of the 16-day standoff, McCarthy suggested in his statement that the Affordable Care Act, the president's signature legislation that was approved by both the House and the Senate in 2010 was still on the table.

"President Obama and Senator Reid must realize that we have less than two months to seriously hash out solutions to our budget and entitlement crisis -- and yes, that includes Obamacare..."

In a telephone interview, Valadao defended the GOP's unsuccessful attempts to, first, defund the Affordable Care Act, and later, to delay implementation of the law.

"When I was elected to Congress, I campaigned on working across the aisle," said the congressman, who was first elected last year. "We started off on these negotiations with the position that we knew the president or the Senate would never pass."

But the House, he said "did a really good job of coming up with every idea under the sun to try to get some kind of conversation."

Early on in the standoff, even some Republicans were calling the GOP's tactical maneuver dead in the water.

Arizona Sen. John McCain called the shutdown "one of the more shameful chapters I have seen in the years I have spent here in the Senate," while conservative valley Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, compared those who insisted on following the Tea Party faction as "lemmings with suicide vests."

Nunes, Valadao argued, "was referring to those who wanted to see a government shutdown. I'm not one of the ones who wanted to see a government shutdown."

Democrats view it differently. Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, represented parts of Kern County for years before a change in congressional district boundaries pushed his district northward. Costa said the crisis was artificial, created for political reasons.

"The road ahead will not be easy as we again work towards a long-term deal that will hopefully shore up our finances and break this cycle of congressionally-created crises," he said in a statement. "Our economy, our families, and our political system cannot afford another set of small band-aid deals; now is the time to come together and go big. It is what the people of our valley and our nation expect and deserve."

But Valadao said no one threatened to shut down the government.

"We offered every way possible to fund the government," he said. "That was not a place we wanted to go. Leadership and myself and many others never wanted it to get to this point."

Valadao said he continues to view the debt ceiling as a valuable function of governance, a valuable tool to push toward more responsible spending.

Republican demands regarding Obamacare were not extreme, he said. "Obviously, where we started was one place but where we ended was not anywhere near anything extreme."

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