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October 17, 2013

Shuster defends budget vote

— Accusing special interest groups of attempted bullying and calling some within his own party irresponsible, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, defended his vote to end the federal government’s partial shutdown and lift the debt ceiling.

Shuster was one of 87 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to support the measure on Wednesday. It passed by a vote of 285-144 with all of the nays coming from the GOP.

The debt ceiling was scheduled to be reached on Thursday.

Shuster felt failing to extend the government’s ability to pay its debts could have led to dire financial consequences for the country. He reproached fellow party members for not supporting the bill.

“Most of the Republicans voted against it because they knew it was going to pass and they didn’t have the courage to stand up and make the vote they knew they had to,” said Shuster, who represents the 9th district.

He thought some conservative organizations tried to pressure politicians into opposing the plan.

“I’m not going to be bullied by the Heritage Action and the Club for Growth that are run by a bunch of millionaires and billionaires that don’t know what life is like for people in central Pennsylvania,” said Shuster. He added, “I believe that anybody that voted against this was irresponsible.”

Another local congressman, U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus,

R-Sewickley, opposed the legislation, as did U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican.

The plan funded the government through Jan. 15 and extended borrowing authority through Feb. 7.

“We just continued to kick the can down the road,” said Rothfus, who represents the 12th district.

Sen. Bob Casey voted in favor of the measure.

“I was really glad that we had a bipartisan agreement to avoid default,” said Casey. “It was essential to avoid default and have a functioning government.”

The shutdown started on

Oct. 1. House Republicans, at the time, attempted to make the spending plan contingent upon defunding the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, or at least delaying implementation of key components. The bill that passed on Wednesday made no major changes to the health care act.

When asked why he thought some GOP members voted differently at the end of September than they did this week, Rothfus said, “I think the thought was we’ll live to make the argument another day.”

President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who championed the health care act, rejected the idea of having the law involved in the negotiations.

“The one major redeeming aspect of this bill is that it reopens the government,” said Toomey.

“I disagreed with the plan to make funding the government contingent on defunding Obamacare and I am glad this bill will get the shutdown behind us. But I cannot support piling hundreds of billions of dollars of debt on current and future generations of Americans without even a sliver of reform to start putting our fiscal house in order.”

Rothfus felt it was appropriate to connect the health care act to the negotiations.

“It’s a spending issue that should be addressed in a spending bill,” Rothfus said.

No long-term plan was put into place to deal with the nation’s debt of nearly $17 trillion.

Instead, the legislation set up budget negotiations.

Going forward, there are some areas of common ground that could be explored, according to Casey and Shuster.

“Everybody in Washington, D.C. knows – in both parties – that reforms to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid have to happen. ... We’ve got to sit down and seriously do it,” said Shuster.

Casey added, “Job 1 is jobs. That is what we can focus on.”

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.

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