For a man who has never been elected to an office before, he seems to understand what being a US Senator actually entails: Whether or not you agree with his appointment, his work thus far, or any of his political views, George LeMieux has been remarkably active since arriving in Washington in September, and has now made a suggestion that is many magnitudes more productive than those of many of his Senate colleagues. In order to achieve a $133 billion surplus by 2014, LeMieux contends, Congress much return to the level of spending that was approved in 2008: “Could we live with what we did in 2007?” LeMieux asks—the “we” a collective reference to Congress, the federal government, and the country. He thinks so. Because of the recession, “most Americans are living with less than they had in 2007.”
LeMieux’s plan has merit, and can be praised for many reasons: With wars in Iraq and Afghanistan being scaled down to withdrawal within the 2014 timeframe and, one can assume, a decreasing budget for those forces, the budget can certainly be reappropriated for economic recovery programs, and the like. Though its passage seems dubious at this point, with that sort of surplus (a conservative estimate), the current rounds of Health Care legislation could easily be funded. The point, regardless of issue, is that the budget can be easily be re-appropriated to reflect a much better constructed budget.
The Weekly Standard, however, reports that LeMieux is not receiving much attention in his alacrity: “LeMieux’s ideas on curbing spending haven’t gotten much attention. That’s because of who he is, a 40-year-old appointed rather than elected senator filling out the final 16 months of the term of Mel Martinez, who resigned. He’s not running for election this November. In fact, he’s never been elected to any office.”
LeMieux, however, is not letting that stop him, and reasons, if the Florida Legislature can learn to curb spending, why can’t the Federal Government?:
“It stands in sharp contrast to what the real world is like,” he says. For the state government in Florida, “the biggest thing in town” is the quarterly report of how much revenue has been collected. “We could only spend what was coming in.”
Not so in Washington. “No one asks what we’re taking in,” LeMieux says. “And no one gauges” how much to spend based on that amount. “After a while you get used to it,” he says. At least he assumes that’s what occurs. LeMieux hopes that doesn’t happen to him. “I haven’t bought in,” he says. He won’t be in Washington long enough to become inured to the spending binge.
Though Floridians aren’t bound to accept LeMieux’s position immediately, he’s vowed to support, as he says, “anything” to bend the spending curve: He’s vowed to secure no earmarks for Florida in any appropriations bill in an effort to “disarm” himself in this debate.
Clearly, the shortfall in appropriations for Florida is only the short term loss, but the bigger picture is a balanced budget amendment: “A balanced budget amendment, a constitutional amendment giving the president line item veto authority, legislation to kill duplicative federal programs—the senator is for all of these. He thinks agency heads should submit annual budgets with a 5 percent cut across the board as “a healthy exercise in efficiency.” “I’ll bet you could cut 20 percent out of the budgets of agencies” without any loss in efficiency.”
If Washington is unable to curb spending and debt, and somehow create a balanced budget, LeMieux fears something much worse than a recession for America’s future: ““One of my greatest concerns is that one day one of my children will come to me when they are grown and say that they are moving to another country, perhaps to Ireland or Chile, because they believe the opportunities are greater than the promise and the opportunities of America,” he said in his first floor speech at the US Senate.
His appointment by Florida Governor Charlie Crist implied that George LeMieux would legislate the way Crist would as a Senator, given that Crist is running for the seat LeMieux was appointed to fill. Despite Crist’s sinking poll numbers against former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, does such proactive leadership from an appointee show that, if he were to run for his own Senate seat, George LeMieux might have a future in Federal Government beyond his remaining time in office?