The Tide - notes in the ebb and flow of news

With a deal to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for spending limits poised to come up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives tomorrow, President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy are facing rebellions from the flanks of their political parties.

But don’t expect Coastal Georgia’s congressman, Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter, to join the brewing far-right revolt against the deal. In January, when McCarthy struggled through 15 rounds of voting before winning election as speaker, Carter stuck with him.

Still, Carter’s route to a likely “yea” vote for the Biden-McCarthy plan illustrates how the five-term congressman from Pooler navigates thorny political controversies.

On social media and in media interview after media interview, Carter repeatedly described as “reasonable” the House bill that served as the basis for McCarthy’s negotiations with the White House. For instance, he tweeted May 5:

“The debate right now is not about whether to raise the debt ceiling. The debate is whether to do so responsibly [italics his], which shouldn’t even be a question. That’s why @HouseGOP passed a bill to pay our debts while protecting taxpayer dollars and growing the economy.

Under the tweet appears the graphic: “A Responsible Debt Ceiling Increase: LIMIT Washington Spending, SAVE Taxpayers Money, GROW the Economy.”

It’s difficult for most voters to disagree with limiting federal spending, saving taxpayers money, and growing economy.

But nowhere does Carter mention that the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023 withdraws money that President Biden won to bolster the Internal Revenue Service and its efforts to collect taxes from tax cheats who earn more than $400,000.

Nor does he mention how the plan scuttles Biden’s student-loan forgiveness program, adds new work requirements for programs like Medicaid and repeals clean-energy initiatives.

Offering few, potentially political troublesome, specifics on policy is nothing new for Carter.

During his reelection campaign last year, Carter touted the GOP’s “Commitment to America,” a thinly veiled knock-off of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” circa 1994 (“build an economy that’s strong, a nation that’s safe, a future that’s built on freedom, and a government that’s accountable”).

Of course, like the goals of the Limit, Save, and Grow Act, these are rostrums that few voters, including Democrats, reject. The key question was how Carter proposed to achieve those laudable goals. He seldom spelled it out. It wasn’t until after he was safely reelected that he did so.

Carter’s heavy reliance on talking points provided by GOP and conservative organizations in Washington, at the expense of actually setting forth detailed policy prescriptions that voters can assess, can sometimes go awry.

In a letter to the editor of the Savannah Morning News last weekreprinted in the congressman’s weekly newsletter on Sunday — Carter accused Biden of falsely claiming that the debt ceiling bill passed by the House of Representatives in late April would cut veterans benefits.  

As proof that the White House was misleading at best and lied at worst, Carter cited a Washington Post fact-check. Indeed, the fact-check says the figures on veterans benefits used by Biden and administration officials “give an illusion of accuracy to made-up math.” 

But Carter gave only a partial accounting of the fact check, as its title showed: “White House touts illusory ‘VA cuts’ as GOP ducks budget specifics.” The story points out for Republicans, the math isn’t good under the House budget plan, which Carter voted for.

“Department of Homeland Security spending would barely increase from Biden’s proposal, while State Department funding would plunge 53 percent, Department of Housing and Urban Development would plummet 48 percent, the Education Department would fall 39 percent, and the Department of Health and Human Services would drop 37 percent. Imagine the field day the White House could have if Republicans cast votes with these kinds of numbers.”

The fact-check concludes:

“Neither side covers itself with glory here. The White House acts as if the numbers it conjured up are real, when in fact veterans’ benefits are unlikely to be cut, especially at such magnitudes.

“Yet for all their complaints about the White House spin, Republicans have not confronted the consequences of the brutal Hunger Games scenario they have arranged for government programs that do not include the military or veterans.”

The Tide brings news and observations from The Current’s staff.

Craig Nelson is a former international correspondent for The Associated Press, the Sydney (Australia) Morning-Herald, Cox Newspapers and The Wall Street Journal. He also served as foreign editor for The...