Vermont liberals cheered when Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) voted against the deal crafted in Washington that raised the government's debt ceiling in exchange for trillions in dollars in future budget cuts.
"I voted against it because it is not a balanced plan with shared sacrifice," Welch said in a written statement after last night's House vote. "It ignores glaring inequities in the federal tax code while cutting programs important to the middle class, seniors and low-income Americans."
Sanders indicated last night he would vote against the bill when it came to the Senate. He did when it arrived this afternoon.
Hooray! Vermont's liberals cried.
Green Mountain Daily bloggers, who had issued an open plea with the delegation to vote against the deal, published Welch's statement in its entirety. "As GMD urged him to do this morning, Peter Welch voted against the debt ceiling 'compromise,'" they wrote.
So, I wonder how Vermont's liberal cognoscenti will take the news that Rep. Welch only voted against the bill because, well, he knew it would pass. In fact, he would have voted for the debt ceiling bill — including the trillions in cuts with no "shared sacrifice" — had he cast the deciding vote.
Now, there's standing by your convictions. Shared sacrifice, indeed. More like spine sacrifice.
Welch 'fessed up to radio host Mark Johnson this morning on WDEV-FM. Johnson asked Welch if he would have voted against the deal if he had had the deciding vote.
"No, I would not have allowed default," Welch said. That seemed to raise some questions for Johnson about Welch's sincerity. To hear the whole exchange, check out the show's podcast. (Note: The interview with Welch occurs in the last 15 minutes.)
"What I've been pushing from the beginning is an increase in debt ceiling to avoid default, but have a clean debt ceiling vote," Welch told Johnson. That means, just a vote on increasing the debt ceiling and debate budget cuts and tax increases another day.
"We have to have a balanced outcome," Welch added. "If we're going to move to a fiscal balance, there's got to be shared sacrifice. This [Republican] plan in my view lacks that balance there's no revenues whatsoever."
To which Johnson added, "Wait, I'm confused here. You say you would have voted in favor of this bill if you had been the deciding vote?"
"Yes," Welch added. "If we had the choice between the default and a raw deal, I was always clear I would avert a default."
"Then why did you vote against the bill yesterday?" asked Johnson, noting that the bill, in fact, was about avoiding a default.
"Because there was no issue of default," said Welch. "Once the Republicans succeed in striking a deal with the president, they released a hostage."
The "hostage" in this doomsday scenario was raising the debt ceiling in exchange for agreeing to budget cuts. So, with the hostage freed and the votes necessary to pass the bill, Welch was casting a vote against the budget cuts, not raising the debt ceiling, which he supports. Supports enough that he would have allowed those unbalanced budget cuts to be enacted into law if he had been the deciding vote.
Got it? Keep up with him — it's complicated Washington-speak. The exchange between Johnson and Welch lasts only 15 minutes and Johnson does his best to pin down Welch.
I'm sure all those liberals who call for Sanders — or some such progressive pol — to "primary" President Barack Obama will start calling for someone to challenge Welch.
In fact, Jane Hamsher, founder of the progressive blog Firedoglake, is suggesting that progressives do to Democrats what the Tea Party is doing to Republicans: purge, purify and primary.
"If you want my attention, tell me how you’re going to take out Bernie Sanders or Jan Schakowsky or Raul Grijalva or Peter Welch," wrote Hamsher. "Let me know how you plan to send a message and enforce discipline with the people who claim to represent your values, but betray them over and over again because they have no fear whatsoever of you."
Hamsher decried Congressional progressives for being "the same people whose job it is to put the Good Liberal Housekeeping Seal of Approval on whatever piece of neoliberal shit the White House cooks up to please the bond vigilantes."
(h/t to Snarky Boy for alerting me to Welch's interview on WDEV-FM. He's got his own take on the Welch-Johnson exchange, as well as a lesson on Jewish terminology. Welcome back to the blogosphere, Snarky. I think.)