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Rudy Takala's Columns

John Kline’s Eight Worst Votes on the Budget

Though he campaigns as a budget hawk at home, Rep. John Kline (R-MN) often votes differently while he is away in Washington. Here's a look back at some of the most memorable occasions that he has voted to increase spending and lift the debt ceiling over the years.

Kline voted for the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 before he voted against it. When it was passed in 2011, the BCA increased the debt ceiling by $400 billion while giving President Obama the option of increasing it, on his own, by an additional $2 trillion. It also enacted a decrease in the growth of spending (which was known as the sequester) going forward. At the time, Republicans like Kline promised that the decrease would be permanent. In December 2013, Kline went back on that promise, voting for the Ryan-Murray budget to reinstate the previous rate of growth. The legislation reversing the change had the additional effect of reducing the pensions received by military retirees by one percent each year until they reached the age of 62.
 
Retired Lieutenant Colonel and former Congressman Allen West  wrote  that veterans had been “betrayed by the United States Congress, the Senate and the president,” calling the cuts “disrespectful” and “disingenuous.”
 
Though Kline was willing to cut from veterans’ pensions, he is not willing to cut from any areas of the Department of Defense (DoD) budget that would upset military contractors or lobbyists. House Amendment 1431, introduced in 2012, would have cut $1.07 billion from the DoD’s $580 billion budget,  but did not touch military pay or benefits. Kline voted against it. Considering DoD spending accounts for over 40 percent of federal discretionary spending, it is not going to be possible to balance the federal budget without a willingness to cut from that area.
 
Kline spends a lot of time complaining about ObamaCare but ultimately voted to keep it alive. Kline refused to sign three different letters authored by Republicans in Congress between 2012 and 2013 that called for an end to ObamaCare. When it was  time to vote  on H.R. 2775 in October 2013, Kline joined 186 Democrats in voting to support ObamaCare over the objections of 144 Republicans.
 
Kline voted to give General Electric $450 million under the pretense of getting an additional engine for F-35 fighter jets. The problem was that the DoD  already had an  engine, built by Pratt & Whitney, and did not need another one. Then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates even said that the GE engine wouldn’t be as good: “We think the current engine that GE is offering probably does not meet the performance standards that are required… we feel strongly that there is not a need for the second engine." House Amendment 16, introduced in 2011, would have cut spending for the second engine. The only reason to vote against it was to keep GE lobbyists happy. Kline did not disappoint them.
 
Kline voted to give tax dollars away to bankers--even foreign ones. He voted for H.R. 3997 and H.R. 1424, the  Emergency Economic Stabilization Act  of 2008, otherwise known as TARP or the Wall Street bailout.  The legislation gave $700 billion in tax dollars to failed bankers who gave out reckless loans. He also voted for H.R. 2346 in 2009, which gave $100 billion to the foreign International Monetary Fund (IMF).
 
Kline believes that what the federal government spent in 2008 was not enough. In 2011, the Republican Study Committee introduced House Amendment 111, which would have reduced discretionary spending back to 2008 levels. That would have amounted to $18.6 billion in cuts beginning in 2011. Kline joined 189 Democrats  in voting against  147 Republicans to kill the amendment.
 
Kline voted to preserve the Office of Fossil Energy. As it turns out, even some California Republicans are more conservative than Kline. House Amendment 1185, introduced by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) in 2012, would have cut $500 million from the agency in 2013. It would have allowed research and development into green energy to return to the private sector instead of subsidizing a government agency to compete with private researchers. Kline  voted with  126 Democrats against 102 Republicans to kill the amendment.
 
Kline  voted against  eight spending cuts in 2012 alone and in favor of at least five increases in the debt ceiling since 2002. Other spending cuts that Kline opposed included a 2 percent reduction in the budget of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); a 12.2 percent reduction in a Commerce, Justice & Science Appropriations Bill; a $15 million reduction in a program to restore salmon in the Pacific; and more. Since assuming office in 2003, Kline has voted to  increase  the national debt from $6.7 trillion to more than $17 trillion today.

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