The first rule for these men and one woman to keep in mind is that moderation might seem the most dangerous path they can follow. Most of their constituents demand a government that is smaller, that spends less, that does less, that taxes less. At least in theory, government is always in need of shrinking.
With a Statehouse legacy of incompetence and ignorance and the shameful consequences of such foolishness ever before us, Alabama voters are justifiably skeptical of the lawmakers they send to Washington or Montgomery. Alabama’s congressional delegation is constantly under suspicion. The very people who put them in office are wary that these congressmen will misplace their “proud Alabama conservatism” once they land in Washington.
Thus, the biggest risk of getting voted out of office would come from their right, from a Republican primary challenger who says the incumbent has gone soft.
Given this, Alabama’s representatives in the House face a difficult burden. They surely know that Alabama takes more from the federal government than it contributes. By one estimate, the state collects $1.61 for every $1 it sends to D.C. A great deal of that bonus goes to the U.S. military posts in Alabama. The economies of cities like Huntsville and Anniston depend on that federal money.
Which brings us back to the maneuvering over the so-called fiscal cliff. Had the nation gone over said cliff, one consequence would have meant drastic reductions in defense spending. Translation: Alabama’s fragile economy would have suffered a devastating blow.
Alabama’s congressional delegation was in a pickle. Approve the fiscal cliff remedy with its tax increase for those earning more than $400,000 and invoke the wrath of conservative Alabamians who are opposed to all tax increases.
The alternative was to gum up the works and allow the nation to head off the fiscal cliff, and place the parts of Alabama heavily dependent on federal spending in peril.
What to do? The Republicans in Alabama’s delegation to the U.S. House choose a third route. They voted against the fiscal cliff remedy yet did not employ parliamentary tricks that more dedicated opponents might have tried. So the measure passed over their “objections.” Sometimes lawmakers can have their cake and eat it, too.