Maybe this is just wishful thinking, but I do not believe Kevin Yoder would have voted to send us over the “fiscal cliff” if he thought his vote really mattered to the outcome.
Put yourself in the shoes of our second-term congressman from the Third District.
Yoder’s biggest fear, from a political standpoint, is that he could garner opposition from the far right in the next Republican primary election, by those who already are suspicious that Yoder is more moderate than he lets on. He also has the skinny-dip fiasco to overcome.
Had he voted “yes” on the fiscal cliff compromise, that threat could have been realized. He might have been attacked from the right as kowtowing to a president who refused to cut expenses and who triumphed over Republicans in initiating income tax increases.
In the U.S. Senate, where the fiscal cliff bill passed 89-8, both Republican senators from Kansas, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, voted for the bill. But neither has to worry about opposition. Roberts, a staunch conservative, would likely easily beat any opposition in his 2014 re-election bid. Moran does not come up for re-election until 2016 and he, too, has a sterling conservative record and a safe seat.
But here is Yoder, who I believe would not have sent the nation over the cliff, if push came to shove. He already had refused to sign the no-tax increase pledge of Grover Norquist, so he could have voted yes without violating his pledge.
Let’s look at the political reality on the ground.
When the Democratic whip counted noses in the House, he must have known that only 16 Democrats would vote against the bill, out of 188. The final vote was 172-16 among Democrats.
To get to the needed 217 magic number for passage, therefore, only 45 Republican votes were needed.
The Republican whip counted noses and found there were 85 Republicans willing to vote yes, along with Speaker of the House John Boehner.
That put the bill safely in the “yes” column with 40 extra votes to spare. It passed with 257 yes votes.
So, going along with Boehner were his loyalists, retiring representatives, moderates from safe seats, and some die-hard believers in the cause of the bill.
Kevin Yoder knew — and undoubtedly was told — his vote was not needed for passage.
So, what would any reasonably intelligent, astute politician in a somewhat vulnerable seat do in such a circumstance?
Why, he would vote no.
And then he could send out the word to his constituents, which he did immediately after his vote, that he could not support a bill that did not cut spending and which did not address the nation’s deficit crisis.
So, for those who claim Yoder is just another “tea-partier,” because he voted seemingly to send us over the cliff, I would say to them: If you believe that, you do not know much about politics and voting records.
It remains to be seen whether Kevin Yoder will become more independent. That depends on how secure he feels he is in his seat.
After this next election, should he not draw primary opposition and beats his Democratic opponent — if there is one — handily, Yoder will be in a “safe” seat.
When his vote really counts, we should hold his feet to the fire and not to allow him to vote with the extremists.
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