John Mica has gone full teabagger (and 5 other things we learned from last night’s debt ceiling vote)
The government is open. The debt ceiling has been raised. And while we’ll have to endure three months of deficit scolds and super-committees and chained CPI, at least for the moment we can step back from the precipice and take a deep breath.
There. Doesn’t that feel better?
The votes last night to fund the government until January and raise the debt until (technically) February, but probably sometime later in spring—81-18 in the Senate, 285-144 in the House, with all nay votes coming from Republicans—put an end to this embarrassing spectacle of ideological petulance. But they also shed light on some things to watch—both nationally and closer to home—as the 2014 elections take shape.
Below are six quick takeaways from the shutdown and its aftermath:
- JOHN MICA HAS GONE FULL TEABAGGER: Mica, now in his 20th year representing Volusia County in Congress, was one of 144 House Republicans, 10 from Florida, to effectively vote to default on the nation’s debt and keep the government closed. Mica’s always been a conservative hardliner—he once likened welfare recipients to alligators, adding that “unnatural feeding and artificial care create dependency.” But the congressman, who made millions in the 1980s by winning a low-risk, high-reward government lottery that granted him access to publicly owned radio frequencies—a program one federal official called “one of the biggest welfare programs in the United States”—is less known as a conservative stalwart than for his undying support of public transportation. Over the years he’s funneled millions and millions of dollars into local infrastructure projects, and he never hesitated to brag about it. But then last year he drew a primary challenger, Sandy Adams, who attacked him with the backing of folks like Allen West and Sarah Palin. And so you might think Mica’s vote last night—joining Tea Party-types Ted Yoho and Steve Southerland—tells us he’s looking over his right shoulder more than his left. But here’s the thing: He beat Adams, a quality candidate with grassroots support, by more than 20 points; it’s unlikely Mica’s scared of a primary. So maybe he’s a true believer. Which would be scary for the rest of us.
- DAN WEBSTER IS SCARED OF VAL DEMINGS (OR SOMEONE LIKE HER): Dan Webster, meanwhile, was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool. The longest-serving legislator in Florida history, Webster is best known both as a fiscal conservative and an unabashed champion of the religious right. And yet Webster, who represents parts of metro Orlando, was one of just six Florida Republicans to vote for the deal. Not coincidentally, Webster, like the other five GOP ayes, faced no serious primary competition in 2012; of all Florida Republicans, he also had the closest general election, winning by 3.6 percentage points. Val Demings, the former Orlando police chief who narrowly lost to him last year, has made no announcements about her future plans, although she is said to be considering either a rematch with Webster or a run for Orange County mayor.
[Next page: The Orlando Sentinel fails recent history.]