GOP Freedom (Free Dumb) Caucus Congressmember Ralph Norman—The Biden-McCarthy Budget Deal Is “Insanity” June 4, 2023
Folks, what have I been repeatedly saying? Never “misunderestimate” President Biden. With a previously divided 50-50 Senate and a 5-member House Democratic majority, he was able to pass massive COVID relief and key economic and social legislation. And now, after weeks of negotiating with House GOP Speaker Bakersfield, CA’s Kevin McCarthy, Biden made a deal to keep the U.S. Government from defaulting on debt payments. Such a default would have thrown the U.S. and the world into economic catastrophe as early as June 5, 2023 (huffpost.com, Karanth, 5/29/23). And why were we at this brink of disaster? Because the GOP loves using guns. I just don’t mean barring gun control, a “Team Red” obsession. Republicans also love to play hostage takers by putting a gun to the U.S. economy and holding it hostage. They refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Biden and his Democrats made humungous cuts in federal spending. Such cuts would have hurt the poor and middle class and destroyed much of the key legislation Biden passed in 2021 and 2022 that helped put the U.S. back on its feet. To quote Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), “This Republican Party is addicted to chaos—the entire Trump presidency, Jan. 6, and now this attempt to crater the American economy. It’s just terrible for the country and for our reputation abroad, for our ability to draw investment (huffpost.com, Karanth, 5/29/23).”
Despite dealing with this Trumpist/DeSantis cult of “I’ll tear down the government unless I get my draconian cuts,” Biden and his Democrats worked out a compromise with GOPer McCarthy. This compromise saved Biden’s social legislation for millions of Americans and kept the country from default until 2025. In 2024, Biden will run for re-election along with many Senate and all House Democrats. The GOP demanded only a one-year debt extension. Biden got two years, a key demand of his. The GOP called for a 10-year time frame for spending cuts. They only received 2 years. Republicans wanted 22% in spending cuts for non-defense items. They received a spending freeze in 2024 and a 1% increase in 2025 (USA Today, Garrison, Cong. Richie Torres (D-NY) @Richie Torres). True, the GOP was able to cut IRS spending to go after tax cheats, but not as much as it wanted. The actual IRS cut/redirection totaled just $1.4 billion out of the $80 billion newly allotted to expand that agency’s enforcement. Biden’s key 2021-2022 legislative achievements, which the GOPers wanted to gut, remained untouched. What bothers many progressives, however, was the issue of SNAP or food stamp requirements. The SNAP program already had a work requirement for most people up to age 49 without dependents. This deal raised that age to 55 over the next couple of years before sunsetting in 2030. However, for the first time, the food stamp/SNAP benefits have been expanded to the homeless, veterans, and foster youth. Many of the SNAP recipients are homeless and veterans so they will be exempt from these requirements (See usatoday.com, Garrison, 5/28/23, kos,5/29/23, nytimes.com, Qiu, L., 5/29/23). Although some progressives complained about parts of this deal, most of them and many Democrats rightly understood that this bill was, as Biden noted, a compromise. You win some, you lose some. The GOP controls the House by 5 seats. Should Democrats take back the House in 2024 and Biden get re-elected, some of these provisions can be changed or repealed. The centrist New Democratic Coalition announced its support and that group will be key in getting this bill through the House. In the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has announced his support for the deal and most Democrats planned to support it (See Kos, 5/29/23, cnn.com).
The whole battle for passage of this deal to avoid default, therefore, rested in the GOP-run House. Of course, Dictator wannabe FL Gov. Ron DeSantis opposed this deal. He previously was a firebrand member of the House (See kos, 5/29/23). The group currently most ballistic about this deal were the House GOPers, especially members of the Freedom (aka Free Dumb) Caucus. The Free Dumb Caucus was founded in 1/2015. It is generally considered to be the most conservative and farthest-right bloc within the House GOP Conference. GOP extremist Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) was its first chair. One of this group’s founders and a member of its first board of directors was DeSantis. As of Jan., 2023, the Free Dumb Caucus had 46 members (wiki). One of the deals Speaker McCarthy made to win his gavel was to put a couple of Free Dumb Caucus members on the key House Rules Committee which had to first deal with this compromise. One of those Free Dumb Caucus members who sits on the Rules committee is South Carolina Congressmember Ralph Norman. He called the Biden-McCarthy deal “insanity (@Rep. Ral).” Norman stated the proposed deal “idiotic” and was furious that Biden wanted to move the deal “past the presidential election (huffpost.com, Delaney & Bobic, 5/25/23).” Norman stated that McCarthy talked a good deal about the national debt “being the greatest threat we have to America” but failed on this issue. In Norman’s words, “it’s time for us to say no” to the deal (huffpost.com, Delaney & Bobic, 5/30/23). Fortunately, despite Norman’s May 30/2023 “NAY” vote on the Rules Committee against this deal, this committee voted 7-6 to move the bill to the House floor (cbsnews.com, 5/31/23). When the bill reached the House floor and passed by a 314 to 117 vote on May 31, 2023, Norman again voted “NAY.” He was one of 71 “Team Red” votes against the final deal. The Democrats pushed this bill through, with 165 “YEA” votes to 149 GOP “YEA” votes (See nytimes.com, 5/31/23). Only 8 hard-right GOPers, which included members of Norman’s Free Dumb Caucus, voted “YEA,” as opposed to 34 who voted “NAY (nytimes.com, 5/31/23).” Now, let’s meet hard-liner Rep. Norman.
Third-term Congressmember Ralph Norman (69) currently represents South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District (CD). The 5th consists of all or part of 11 counties mostly in Upstate and some in SC’s Midlands. Over half the population is located in Lancaster, York, Cherokee Counties, and in the Charlotte, N. Carolina exurbs. This area was part of the ancestral homeland of Democrat Andrew Jackson. The SC 5th was settled by Scots-Irish Protestant farmers. This region had a fighting spirit and Calvinist faith that today is heavily fundamentalist Protestant. This district retains a strong religious and pro-military stance. It was a poor area for years. However, the 5th has become less impoverished (Cohen & Cook 2022 Political Almanac). The low-paying textile industry was the dominant economic mainstay for years and laborers suffered from poor working conditions. However, manufacturing has boomed. From 2010-2019, the areas south of Charlotte in York and Lancaster Counties grew 24% and 28% respectively. The city of Rock Hill, located 30 miles from downtown Charlotte, became an attractive residence for workers and businesses. In Cherokee County, Gaffney is the heart of peach country and home of the famous Peachoid water tower seen in the TV series “House of Cards.” Politically, although this area started out as Jacksonian Democratic, like many southern areas, it has become strongly conservative Republican. Blacks constitute 27% of the 5th, but the African American population has not grown strongly. The most recent Cook PVI (Partisan Voting Index) gives the Palmetto 5th a bright “Red” R+12 score (cookpolitical.com, Cohen & Cook 2022). In presidential elections, “Team Red” has handily won the 5th from 2000-2020. In 2020, Donald received over 58% of the 5th’s vote to Biden’s 41.5% (Presidential Election Results, Cohen & Cook 2022).
Rock Hill, SC native Norman obtained his business degree from Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC. He joined his family’s real estate development company which initially built homes and subdivisions around Rock Hill, and expanded into commercial real estate in York and Lancaster Counties. In 2020, Norman was the 25th wealthiest member of Congress worth $20, 679, 156 (businessinsider.com, Hall & Wang, 12/14/21). In 2004, Norman won an open seat in the SC House. In 2017, Norman won a special election to succeed former GOP Rep. Mick Mulvaney who became Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget and later his acting chief-of-staff. Norman won his primary runoff election by just 221 votes and beat his Democratic opponent by 3-percentage points. In the 11/2018 general election when he ran for a full term, Norman defeated the same Democratic candidate he ran against in the 2017 special election by 15 points, 57%-42% (Cohen & Cook 2022). In 4/2018, Norman put his loaded gun on a table when talking to a gun control group, Moms Demand Action. He stated he had done this to show that guns aren’t dangerous in the right hands. Norman told the Charleston Post & Courier, “I’m not going to be a Gabby Giffords, (the former Democratic Congressmember shot in the head and nearly killed by a deranged assailant in 2011).” Norman added, “I don’t mind dying, but whoever shoots me better shoot well, or I’m shooting back (Cohen & Cook 2022).” The Moms gun control group stated that they felt “unsafe.” However, in strong pro-gun SC, those comments did not hurt Norman’s election chances. Norman has since been handily re-elected to Congress winning 60.1% of the vote in 2020 and 64% of the vote in 2022 (nytimes.com/us /elections/results-south-carolina, Early Guide, 118th Congress At Your Fingertips).
As he had promised, Rep. Norman joined the Free Dumb Caucus (Cohen & Cook 2022). From 2019-2020, he had a composite 81% conservative v. 19% liberal rating (Cohen & Cook 2022). In 2021, Norman was fined $500 for violating House rules by not wearing a face mask in the House chamber. He sued Speaker Pelosi over this incident. Norman tested positive for COVID-19 in 8/2021 (newsweek.com, Pedroja, 8/06/21). In 8/2022, Norman attacked Pres. Biden for forgiving up to $10,000 in student loan debt. Norman himself had $306,520 of loan debt that had been forgiven (latimes.com, hiltzik, 8/29/22). Another proud member of the G rand H ypocrite P arty. After Biden won in 2020, Norman, a Trump ally, called for investigation into election “fraud (wane.com, 12/04/20).” Norman joined 125 other House GOPers in filing an amicus brief before the Supreme Ct. contesting Biden’s 2020 win. The Supreme Ct. rightfully declined to hear the case. Norman voted against both impeachments of Trump (wiki). On 1/17/2021, Cong. Norman sent a message to Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows asking him to urge Trump to invoke martial law to prevent Biden’s inauguration. Norman misspelled martial law as “Marshall Law (independent.co., Woodward, 12/15/22).” Norman and 20 other GOPers voted against a resolution to give the Congressional Gold Medal to police officers who defended the Capitol on 1/06/21 (cnn.com, Grayer, et al 6/16/21). He and 13 other GOPers voted against legislation to establish Junteenth, as a federal holiday (cnn.com, Grayer et al, 6/16/21). In addition to sponsoring legislation to impeach Biden and VP Harris, Norman co-sponsored resolutions to impeach the Sec. of State and Sec. of Homeland Security (wiki).
The House’s 5/31/2023 bipartisan passage of the Biden-McCarthy compromise and the Senate’s 6/01/2023 bipartisan passage via a 63-36 vote (cnn.com, 6/01/23) constitute a clear defeat for the Free Dumb Caucus. President Biden signed this bill on June 3, 2023. Rep. Norman can, nevertheless, keep easily getting re-elected. As long as GOPer’s run the House, Norman’s Free Dumb Caucus, despite its debt ceiling defeat, will continue causing trouble. To make Norman and his gang irrelevant, Democrats must come out in droves to re-elect Biden in 2024, take back the House, and add to our Senate majority. We must not allow GOPers to hold our economy hostage every time the issue of the debt ceiling arises. Such action, Cong. Norman, constitutes true insanity.