ABC News has tracked Tea Party Rep. Bobby Schilling from the 2010 Congressional campaign, when he was a pizza shop owner, through his victory over an incumbent Democrat and into Congress with the Republican wave that took back the majority in the House of Representatives.
Tea Party freshmen, like Schilling, who helped Republicans take back Congress in 2010 are facing the first real political decision of their careers on Capitol Hill tonight. Their conundrum: vote for a bill sponsored by House Speaker John Boehner that would cut spending and set up a Congressional committee to examine institutional reform, or instead send a message that the U.S. is better off defaulting on its debts.
The sting of political compromise will strike both parties in the debt ceiling debate. Democrats are likely to have to vote in favor of steep spending cuts in order to pass a debt ceiling increase. Republicans will have to forego changes to the sweeping changes they promised.
When ABC News’ Jonathan Karl spoke with Schilling and other new Republican freshmen back in April, Schilling was adamant that any increase in the debt ceiling would have to come paired with institutional change in the U.S. government.
“So, what are you gonna do on the debt ceiling?,” Karl asked back then.
“That’s a tough one for me, because I mean– you know, here we are, again, we’re maxing out the credit card. And for me, I mean, if– there has to be– and I– I’ve got to see what they’re offering on the other end of that, whether I’m gonna be a yes vote or not. Because if it’s just raise the debt– again, I’m not gonna be there for– for that, you know? And that’s not what we were sent here for. And you hear all this– you know– henny penny, the sky is falling.”
“So, I mean, you– you could see yourself voting no? E– even though it means that we ultimately don’t pay back our debts?” Karl asked later.
“If they don’t put something forward that’s gonna keep us from ever having to raise the debt ceiling again, yes, I would be a no.”
But now Schiling finds himself about to vote for a proposal from Boehner that wouldn’t itself mandate real institutional reform without another lengthy debate in Congress. It would promise a vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment, but the amendment is unlikely to pass the Senate. Boehner’s plan would also cut spending by about $1 trillion over ten years. But it would not reform entitlements like Medicare and Social Security that will contribute to future deficit spending. And it won’t touch the tax code.
ABC News spoke again Schilling today, when he told us he would vote in favor of the Boehner plan.
“This is the first time in the history of the u.s. that we have actually increased the debt ceiling and then done the cuts at the same time. It is a dollar for dollar cut, it makes sense, it is not a perfect plan for what some of us wanted but what it does is it changes things around to where it gets us back on the right path. It doesn't get President Obama past the next election is what he's looking for, there's some accountability there, it doesn't give him that open checkbook so I think it's a pretty good way to go. It has to be increased to keep our system from defaulting,” he said.
His vote, he said, has required some explaining back home at his pizzeria in Illinois.
“Once I get done explaining to the folks, they are like you know what Bobby you're right at least we're changing things. Think about this for a minute: had the Freshman not come to Washington DC this time around, the President would be getting an open checkbook with 2.4 trillion dollars, continuing to burden our kids and our grandkids with all of this debt. We've changed things to where we're actually doing some cuts with it.
ABC News’ Gregory Simmons contributed to this report.