On May 31, 2011 the US House responded to the Presidentâ€™s request to increase the statutory limit on the public debt with a resounding NOâ€¦ to the tune of 318 to 97. Interestingly, unlike in recent years, 82 Democrats stood with the GOP majority this time around.
I had the honor of getting to ask Freshman Rep. Dan Benishek (R, MI-01) a couple quick questions about what happened just before that vote. Our conversation follows:
An article in â€œThe Hillâ€ quoted you, from your floor speech prior to the vote, as saying â€œshame on youâ€ when you addressed those that are â€˜trying to scare Americaâ€™s Seniorsâ€™ by suggesting the GOP wants to hurt them.
Q-What is the true reality facing all of us, including seniors, regarding the debt crisis and where Medicare (and the larger American entitlement system) fits into that bigger picture?
Congresman Benishek: The reality is we have to act now. We canâ€™t afford to wait until our country is bankrupt. People in Northern Michigan, and the rest of the country, understand you canâ€™t spend money you donâ€™t have. What we have to do is decide the smartest way to reform our spending programs so they are sustainable. I believe the way to do that is keep our promise to seniors and not make any changes to Medicare for those at or near retirement. But I think we can agree that we need serious reforms in order to ensure Medicare is available for our children and grandchildren.
Q-Do you believe the Democrat messageâ€¦the smoke screen you referred to in your speechâ€¦ has been effective? And why/how?
Congresman Benishek: I donâ€™t believe it has been effective. What they are trying to do is scare our senior citizens into voting the way they want them to. Plain and simple. But the truth is, they have no answers to keep Medicare from going bankrupt. The only solution they have put forward is Obamacare.
Q-Does the GOP intend to call them out more publicly and more frequently on these falsehoods you mention, and is there an active plan to set the record straight?
Congresman Benishek: I intend to keep calling them out. I just got tired of these false attacks and as a physician I take these false claims personally. I didnâ€™t come to Congress to get reelected, I came here to help create economic growth in my district and cut our federal governmentâ€™s out-of-control spending. We need to make it clear that we have a logical plan to cut spending and save Medicare for future generations.
Q-You suggested that â€œthese falsehoods represent a new low in political attacksâ€ and that it is time to stop playing politics and do what the American people sent you there to do. How are you going to get the Democrats to do as you have suggested?
Congresman Benishek: Look, I donâ€™t know exactly whatâ€™s going to happen. I think Americans are going to see that we have a plan that cuts federal spending and saves Medicare, and the other side has yet to put forth something logical. Our budget plan makes sense, and in my opinion, the plan put forward by Mr. Obama is fantasyland.
Q-What can the American people do in order to facilitate your proposed change in the Democrat partyâ€™s behavior?
Congresman Benishek: Honestlyâ€¦vote them out.
As always, I thank Congressman Benishek for his time, and his honesty and forthrightness. As to his answer to the last question? Yeah…I really can’t add anything to that.
Can we have 434 more Dr. Dan’s in the House?