After Action Report on our After Action Report [out of date]
Over the last few weeks, we have received feedback – both positive and negative – from the Hill over our Spending After Action Report on H.R. 1. This was a great product that provided a lot of useful information on the willingness of various members of Congress to go above and beyond the minimum acceptable standard – voting for H.R. 1 and the $61 billion in cuts in it – and further cut spending. The strength of the product is confirmed by the overwhelmingly positive feedback we have gotten from the over 700,000 members of The Heritage Foundation, from the media, from our coalition allies, and from many on Capitol Hill.
The reason the information in the After Action Report is valuable is it gives people the opportunity to collect data on what a member of Congress believes beyond the information that is signaled by his being a part of the Republican Party or Democrat Party.
I think about it the way I think about the way people treat paying their credit card bill. For some people, you get your credit card bill and, if the amount due is similar to what you expect it to be, you simply pay it. The top-line number is enough information to make a decision as to whether you pay the bill or dispute a charge. For many people, partisan identification is enough information about a member to decide whether you will vote for, financially support, or work for a member of Congress.
Other people want more information. When they get their credit card bill, they look at every line item, determine whether it is a valid charge, investigate anything that is questionable, and then make a decision as to whether to pay the bill or dispute a charge. Politically active individuals – the over 700,000 members of The Heritage Foundation and millions of others around the country – want this level of information. For them, simply being a Democrat or a Republican is not enough. Our Spending After Action Report on H.R. 1, and the After Action Reports we will do in the future, provide that information.
At the top line, everybody who voted for H.R. 1 showed a willingness to cut spending. H.R. 1 cut $61 billion out of discretionary spending. People who, in the face of a $1.65 trillion deficit, are unwilling to take such a modest step as cutting $61 billion are fundamentally unserious about tackling the most important crisis facing our nation. Sen. Harry Reid’s floor speech about the importance of the Cowboy Poetry Festival highlights how unserious many in Washington are about the challenges facing our nation.
In providing information about who was willing to go above and beyond the cuts in H.R. 1, we could have noted that this report was meant in the context of our belief, stated elsewhere, that H.R. 1 was an important first step towards controlling spending and the House should be – and is – applauded for passing it. If we had it to do over again, we would have put the scores of those members of Congress who voted for H.R. 1 in green and those who voted against it in red. (This approach would have unfairly impacted a few members of Congress who voted against H.R. 1 for the principled reason that it could have and should have gone further, which demonstrates how any decision made has advantages and disadvantages).
To be clear, a member of Congress who voted for H.R. 1 and voted for 100% of the spending amendments we examined, showed a rock solid willingness to cut spending.
A member of Congress who voted for H.R. 1 and voted against decreasing grants to Amtrak, striking funds provided to the National Labor Relations Board, or defunding the Legal Services Corporation showed a willingness to cut spending, but was more reluctant than the member I described above.
Finally, any member of Congress who thinks we can keep spending at the levels we are currently spending is fundamentally out-of-touch with reality. H.R. 1 was a good first step towards getting our country back on track.
In short, a member of Congress who voted for H.R. 1 and only 38% of the spending amendments was painted in the same way as a member who voted against H.R. 1 and only 38% of the spending amendments. Both need to demonstrate a stronger willingness to cut spending if we are to tackle the challenges facing our nation, but the former at least showed a willingness.