La Hood gets candid with constituents about about debt ceiling vote

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Darin LaHood (R-16th) told members of the Eureka Rotary Club on Wednesday, May 31 that he was still undecided on
how he would vote on the impending U.S. debt ceiling deal. He ultimately voted against it. (Photo by Tim Alexander/for Chronicle Media)

During a May 30 luncheon at Eureka Christian Church, Illinois Congressman Darin LaHood (R-16th) told members of the Eureka Rotary Club that he was still undecided on how he would vote on the impending U.S. debt ceiling deal. After detailing all of the reasons he was apprehensive about certain aspects of the compromise, LaHood voted against raising the debt ceiling some 30 hours later on the House floor in Washington, D.C.

“We are $32 trillion in debt in this country right now,” said LaHood. “It’s like a credit card you’ve maxed-out 10 times; you’ve got to raise the limit or you’re going to crash. From my perspective, fundamentally, we can’t default on our debt. All of you would be affected by that, whether it’s your 401K, your retirement or your Social Security. We can’t let that happen.”

If the debt ceiling were to be raised, LaHood continued, it should be with the understanding that a companion bill would be passed that includes reduced fiscal-year spending. He promised to study the bill more thoroughly on the plane back to Washington that evening and again the following day before casting his vote.

“We’ve spent $7.5 trillion over the last five years because of COVID. That was all your money that was spent. When President Obama took over in 2008 we were about $8 trillion in debt, and today we are $32 trillion in debt. What I wanted to see in this compromise bill was more fiscal responsibility and getting our spending under control,” said LaHood. “I’m not sure we’ve done that in this bill because it is a compromise.”

CBS News reported that the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 came together within days of President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reaching an agreement. The measure sailed through the House by a vote of 314-117 on Wednesday, May 31 and cleared the Senate on Thursday by a vote of 63-36.

LaHood joined fellow Republican House members Mike Bost and Mary Miller in voting against the compromise. Also voting “nay” were Illinois Democratic House members Delia Ramirez, Janice Schakowsky and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

LaHood offered praise for a compromise within the bill that requires stricter work requirements for some people enrolled in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. He also was happy that the bill “claws back” some unspent federal money set aside for the pandemic. In closing the topic, LaHood correctly predicted that the Fiscal Responsibility Act would receive enough “yes” votes in the House to pass “irregardless of my vote.”

The Dunlap Republican spent a portion of his 15-minute address to update constituents on his work in Congress, especially regarding his committee assignments. As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, LaHood casts important votes over tax issues, trade issues and health-care issues. On the trade side, he’s especially committed to encouraging new markets for Illinois agriculture.

“About 40 percent of the corn and soybeans grown in my district go around the world, and a lot of those are put on barges on the Illinois River and floated down to the Gulf of Mexico. Creating more markets and customers for our farmers is very important,” he said.

In addition, for the past two years LaHood has served on the House Intelligence Committee, which holds sway over 17 intelligence agencies within the federal government. This, LaHood said, has given him insight into many of the threats our nation is currently under from the likes of Russia, Iran and North Korea along with terrorist groups both domestic and international.

LaHood also serves as a member of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, which was formed just this year. According to the Committee’s website, the group of 24 House members, of which 13 are Republicans and 11 are Democrats, is “committed to working on a bipartisan basis to build consensus on the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party and develop a plan of action to defend the American people, our economy, and our values.”

LaHood described the Committee as having two overall goals: to expose the nefarious nature of the CCP and determine how to win our nation’s strategic competition against China, financially. “I don’t say this next statement to scare you, but China has a plan to replace the United States and they are working at it every single day. The quicker we wake up to that realization the better off our country is going to be,” he said.

“They want to replace us economically, they want to replace us technologically and militarily, and they want to replace us diplomatically. We are seeing increasing signs of their boldness, including the intelligence balloons that flew over the U.S. several months ago, their provocations in the South China Sea and what they are doing in Taiwan right now. They support Putin and his war in Ukraine, which is very, very problematic in my point of view. It’s been frightening in many ways to see what China is up to.”

According to LaHood, decoupling from China financially by suspending business trade or via other measures would present a number of economic and diplomatic challenges for U.S. businesses, including Caterpillar, which has 29 manufacturing plants and four research and development sites in China. Locally Caterpillar employs around 12,000 workers in its central Illinois manufacturing plants and associated facilities.

“You don’t find a more American company than Caterpillar that is heavily invested with China and the CCP,” said LaHood, “so when we talk about decoupling or going into a Cold War are we willing to have Caterpillar stock go way down or, with our farmers, up to 30 percent of our soybeans are exports that go to China. If our farmers get cut off from that market, farmers are going to be hurting and we are going to feel that economic impact.

“Maybe that’s worth it when we take on the Chinese, but there are complications with going into a Cold War with China that we have to think about. That’s what we’re doing on this committee — trying to figure out how to counteract China and get ahead of them through policy solutions in a bipartisan way.”

In closing, LaHood noted that since Republicans gained control of the House in 2023 he has been committed to upholding the membership’s four overarching principles: working toward an economy that is strong, a nation that is safe, a future built on freedom and a government that is accountable.