WASHINGTON — Although he called his vote for a compromise on the federal debt ceiling and to end the partial government shutdown "very bittersweet," U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis insisted Thursday that House Republicans did not come away from the vote empty-handed.
Davis was one of 87 Republicans voting for the agreement that ended a 16-day shutdown; 144 of his GOP colleagues opposed it.
The freshman congressman from Taylorville said in a conference call with area reporters that a provision requiring "income verification" for people applying for federal subsidies for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act was "a huge win" that could save billions of dollars.
And ending the shutdown "and forcing the president and also the Senate Democrats to begin discussing how we can begin to address our financial problems and the out-of-control spending in Washington, I think it's a victory."
It wasn't, he admitted, the victory he wanted. He said he would have preferred an agreement that would delay a medical device tax used in part to fund Obamacare and would have eliminated the employer contribution for health care for all members of Congress and their staffs.
"We got the closest thing to an agreement we could get," Davis said.
He said he was optimistic that a 29-member House-Senate conference committee could "craft a good, bipartisan solution to address America's fiscal future."
"I actually am optimistic because we actually are going to have people like Paul Ryan sit down and work in a bipartisan way to sit down and craft up a plan of action, and that's what we haven't see in Washington in the last few years. All we have seen are deadlines and coming to the brink of disaster and countdown clocks," Davis said.
But he indicated he would not vote for another debt ceiling extension that did not include spending reforms.
"If they come back without some significant reforms and without some significant ideas to reduce our deficits and live within Washington's means and actually begin to put a down payments on the national debt, I can't be sure I'll vote again this way," he said.
Asked if that meant he would support another government shutdown, Davis said, "We're going to have to see what happens over the next month and a half. I'm not one to sit and offer how I'm gong to vote or how I'm not gong to vote until I actually see a piece of legislation and put it into the perspective of that time and where we are. I can't guarantee that I'm going to vote for any piece of legislation a month and a half from now because I haven't seen it. That's what I'm saying."
Davis continued to call Obamacare "a train wreck" and "a disaster," and said that now that the government shutdown is off the front pages, "you'll see more attention to its problems."
Davis' primary election opponent, Urbana attorney Erika Harold, avoided criticizing the congressman but said the deal approved by Congress "illustrates the dysfunction in Washington that so frustrates the American people and understandably erodes their trust in the political establishment."
She said that "(n)either the substance of the deal that was struck nor the process that led to the deal constitutes a victory for the American people."
Meanwhile, the Democrats seeking Davis' 13th Congressional District seat hammered him.
"This is no time for Rodney Davis to be congratulating himself," said Ann Callis, a former Madison County judge. "Let's be clear, we never should have gotten to the point when thousands of Illinois families were hurt due to furloughs, veterans benefits were at risk, and the good faith and credit of the American government was in doubt."
She said Davis' vote to defund Obamacare led to the government shutdown and "cost taxpayers billions of dollars and will have lasting effects on economic growth, job creation and interest rates."
George Gollin of Champaign, a physics professor at the University of Illinois, said, "It's good news for the country that the Republicans have ended the hijacking. But it cost our economy billions, so I call on Rep. Davis to pledge to us all that he will not support the same action again in the future."
And David Green, a social policy analyst at the University of Illinois, criticized Davis, Callis and Obama's health care program
"Rodney Davis and his fellow Republicans have engaged in a very dangerous and reactionary political strategy. Ann Callis, however, still supports the false notion that we have a debt crisis, when in fact interest payments on the debt are at a historic low as percentage of GDP. Neither of them understands that we have a health care-driven budget and economic crisis due to paying twice as much per person as other developed nations, or more than $1 trillion too much," he said. "This will continue with the ACA and will eventually wreak even more havoc on the economy if not challenged."