GOP Congressmember Tim Burchett— He Dances to a Hardcore “Tennessee Financial Waltz” April 30, 2023
Bakersfield California, GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy wins his “victories” the hard way. After a very lackluster 11/2022 midterm showing for “Team Red,” it took McCarthy fifteen, that’s right, 15 ballots to win the Speaker’s gavel. This was the first time a House Speaker has not been elected on the first ballot since 1923. This election for Speaker was also the longest multi-ballot election since 1859, just before Lincoln’s election and the outbreak of the Civil War (See wiki). On April 26, 2023, McCarthy continued this pattern of barely eking out “victories.” Losing 4 House GOP votes in a chamber which has just a 5-member Republican majority, McCarthy’s GOP passed, by a cliff-hanging 217-215 vote and with no Democratic support, a bill to raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion into 2024 to pay debts this country already owes (nbcnews.com, Kapur, 4/27/23, latimes.com, 4/27/23, AP Mascaro & Freking, 4/27/23). Although many media outlets are praising McCarthy’s “success” with this debt ceiling “victory,” they are missing the point. In the Democratic-controlled Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called this GOP debt ceiling bill “the Default on America Act” and labelled it DOA, Dead on Arrival, in the upper congressional chamber (Kapur, nbcnews.com). President Biden has already stated he will veto this hostage-taking debt ceiling bill. As the GOP has repeatedly done in our polarized era, it, once again, refuses to pass a clean debt ceiling bill. “Team Red” is trying to get congressional Democrats and President Biden to pass this bill only if they make draconian financial cuts. The whole GOP plan that McCarthy is pushing would shut down the government and falsely try to blame the Democrats for this disaster. Get it? The party that brags about being the most “fiscally responsible” is holding our nation’s and the world’s economy hostage to disastrous financial default if it doesn’t get its absurd financial demands enacted. Just what is the GOP asking for? In this hostage-taking debt ceiling bill, it is radically rolling back federal spending. It is eliminating unspent COVID-19 funds and imposing stricter work requirements for recipients of food stamps and other government aid. This hostage-taking bill halts Biden’s plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt. This draconian legislation will additionally end many of the renewable energy tax breaks that Biden signed into law last year. This awful legislation would tack on a sweeping Republican bill to boost oil, gas, and coal production (latimes.com, 4/27/23, AP Mascaro & Freking, 4/27/23). Still, four extremist GOPers didn’t vote for this ultra- horrible bill because, according to them, it did not go far enough to cut spending. One of those four “Team Red” naysayers was Republican Congressmember Tim Burchett who stated that he was still “too upset” with the nation’s debt (latimes.com, Mascaro et al). Who is this Rep. Burchett?
Second-term Congressmember Tim Burchett (58) currently represents Tennessee’s 2nd Congressional District (CD). The present TN 2nd is located in the eastern part of the Volunteer State. It borders KY and VA to the north and North Carolina to the south. Knoxville, its largest city, was TN’s first state capital. During the Civil War, Knoxville was pro-Union, Republican, and against Confederate secession, although TN voted to join the Confederacy. Knoxville has remained pro-Republican ever since (Cohen & Cook 2022 Political Almanac). In the 1860’s, the party of Lincoln was on the progressive “Save the Union” side. It stood for aiding colleges and universities, and helping farmers get land. Now, voting for the GOP means standing with reactionary Trump and Florida’s extremist Gov. Ron DeSantis. In the 1930’s, residents of the Knoxville area were strong FDR supporters because his New Deal brought electricity to them via the then bold and controversial Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Now, the TVA is taken for granted here and is criticized for having billions of dollars in debt. Knoxville has suffered from heavy ozone pollution and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) imposed growth limits to reduce pollution at the TVA’s coal-fired plants. Although the EPA has ruled that Knoxville has met its ozone standard, in 2016, the American Lung Association gave Knoxville an “F” for air quality. In 2019, Knoxville had the lowest pollution level in 20 years. However, Knoxville still ranked 25th worst of the nation’s 201 metro areas (Cohen & Cook 2022). In addition to Knoxville, the TN 2nd includes Knox County as well as all of six mountainous counties to the north and south. More than 60% of the TN 2nd’s residents live in Knox County.
Politically, this area remains heavily GOP. The TN 2nd has not elected a Democratic Congressmember since the early 1850’s. In the 2016 presidential election, Trump clobbered Hillary by 35 percentage points, 65%-30%. In 2020, Trump pulverized Biden here by 30 points, 64%-34% (Cohen & Cook 2022 Almanac).
A 1988 University of Tennessee graduate, Knoxville native Tim Burchett’s first job consisted of selling mulch. He later complained that government regulations had put him out of business. Burchett served four years in the TN State House and 12 years in the TN Senate before he won election in 2010 as mayor of Knox County, a separate post from the mayor of the city of Knoxville. During his eight years as county mayor, Burchett took credit for reducing taxes and lowering the county’s debt. He is one ideological GOPer. Burchett describes himself as a “limited libertarian” who believes that individuals should be responsible for their own actions. According to a 2017 interview with City View Magazine, Burchett stated, “I’ve never seen where government has come into a situation and made things better (Cohen & Cook 2022).” When Burchett was term-limited in 2018, he sought another office. When incumbent GOP Cong. Jimmy Duncan announced his retirement in 8/2017, Burchett decided to run for this open seat and won a six-person primary. In the 11/08 general election in this historically strong “Red” district, Burchett handily defeated his Democratic rival by 33 points, 66%-33%. Burchett was the most experienced GOP officeholder among the 2018 House GOP freshmen. Burchett cited his 24 years in state and local offices to support his positions for more efficient federal spending. His 2018 victory marked the first time since 1964 that the father and son GOP Duncan “dynastic” team did not represent this Knoxville-based district (Cohen & Cook 2022).
In the House, Cong. Burchett had an overall 32% liberal v. 68% conservative rating. He voted against a coronavirus response bill and opposed reasonable background checks on firearms. He additionally was against liberalizing marijuana rules (Cohen & Cook 2022). He was one of 126 Republican House members to file an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Ct. that contested Biden’s 2020 victory over Trump. The Supreme Ct. rightly denied a hearing in this “Texas v. Pennsylvania” case (Diaz, cnn.com, 12/10/20). When the Covenant School shooting occurred in Nashville, he told reporters, “It’s a horrible, horrible situation, and we’re not going to fix it. Criminals are going to be criminals…” He added that he sees no “real role” for Congress in reducing gun violence, other than to “mess things up (theguardian.com).” Cong. Burchett, I dare you to repeat this statement to the families of the dead and wounded in the recent San Jacinto County, TX AR-15 massacre (cnn.com, 4/29/23). Cong. Burchett has also taken a stand on UFOs. He stated that UFO technology is possibly “being reverse-engineered right now but we don’t understand how it functions.” Cong. Burchett claims that the U.S. “recovered a craft at some point, and possible beings (marc.com, 3/08/23).” Did Cong. Burchett work on TV’s the “X Files” or what? Cong. Burchett, with his strong GOP background, however, has handily been re-elected against his Democratic rivals, getting nearly 68% of the vote in his two subsequent contests (2020 & 2022 TN District General Elections).
Obviously, Cong. Burchett can do just about anything in the “royal Red” Knoxville GOP TN 2nd and keep getting re-elected. However, with the very small 5-seat margin the GOP has in the House, if Democrats come out in droves in 2024, they should be able to take back that chamber. Cong. Burchett would then become an irrelevant back-bencher.