Straight-Talking Bass at Politics & Eggs
A candid Congressman Charlie Bass offered somber straight talk to a bipartisan audience of 50 businesspeople at a New England Council Politics & Eggs breakfast in Bedford this morning.
Speaking without notes, Bass decried the political posturing in Washington that has prevented serious decision making, especially with respect to the budget. “We can’t seem to get anything done,” Bass said of Congress, counting himself among those unhappy with Washington gridlock.
Bass expressed support for both the Ryan budget and for the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan, both of which tackle entitlement reform and make hard political choices regarding Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Of Simpson-Bowles, Bass said, “It’s got everything a politician can hang himself with in this.”
He said he would support a budget plan that includes $3 of spending cuts for every $1 in “raised revenue,” a position for which he is under fire from everyone from the AFL-CIO to Americans for Tax Reform. The left has accused him of being against “everything from motherhood to apple pie,” but Bass effectively said he isn’t bothered by criticism from the left and right. Bass made it clear that while his vote for the Ryan budget should be viewed as a statement of principle about what he’d like to see, he – unlike many in Washington – is willing to compromise. “I’ll be challenged every day for the vote I took last week [for the Ryan budget] by liberals and conservatives,” Bass said with a shrug. “Most Americans want us to get to work.”
Bass occasionally framed the stalemate in terms that threaten the stability of our system of government. The expiration of Bush-era tax cuts which would amount to the largest tax hike in American history, sequestration, and the debt ceiling are issues of public importance “equal to anything in the nation’s history.” Failure to address long-term fiscal issues could result in more than just dissatisfaction and low approval ratings, but “political instability.”
Bass didn’t mention his own hotly contested re-election campaign specifically, but he made it clear in his remarks that he was not approaching election season tactically. Rather, he gave the impression of one who was going to do what he thinks needs to be done in Washington, and let the chips fall where they may – even if it means he might not return to Washington.
Bass’s formal remarks were brief, just eleven minutes, followed by 17 minutes of Q&A that ended when the audience ran out of questions. Asked about what will happen next after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on Obamacare, Bass said that if all or parts of the law are overturned, Congress will act to pass some of the more popular parts of the plan, citing the expansion of coverage to young adults and mandates covering pre-existing conditions. On transportation, Bass stated flatly that “no one is going to support raising the gas tax right now.” He expressed disappointment that the state Executive Council voted down money to fund rail studies, comparing the potential economic impact of rail to that of the expanded Manchester Airport.
Unprompted, Bass spoke a little about presidential politics. He said he decided to support Mitt Romney in part because Romney has a chance to become the first Republican since 1988 to carry his district in a presidential election. “As a Republican, it would be politically difficult for me if any of the others were to win [the nomination],” Bass said.
Fergus@ferguscullen.com, April 2, 2012