After taking the last flight out of Washington, D.C., on Monday night, Rob Woodall’s first stop the next morning was in Forsyth County.
Woodall, the District 7 representative, visited the Rotary Club of Lanier Forsyth to explain why he voted to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
"It was really good that he caught, basically, a red-eye to come on back here and talk to the people he represents, so I think very highly of that," said Rotarian Brian Heimbigner.
"I’m among the group of Americans that are really upset with Congress and government in general … so it’s good to see somebody that realizes that temporarily we need to raise the debt ceiling so that we didn’t totally wreck our markets, our stock markets, and our rating worldwide, but that we also need to get spending under control."
Woodall, a Republican whose district includes some of south Forsyth, maintained Tuesday morning that there are two mind-sets on compromising in the current political climate.
The first option, he said, is to take a little to move forward and start "saddling up tomorrow to ride again for a little more."
The other is, "We don’t take anything at all and push the agenda harder, knowing we’re going to get nothing today, but perhaps somebody’s going to break tomorrow and we’re going to get something more.
"It’s an honest disagreement about what the best way is to move an agenda forward," Woodall said. "I’m in the camp that says I’m going to take what I can get, I’m going to bank it, and I’m going to come back tomorrow and fight again."
In the end, 269 U.S. representatives voted Monday night to approve raising the debt ceiling, currently at $14.3 trillion, by about $900 billion through 2012.
In a 74-26 vote, the Senate approved the bill Tuesday afternoon. Georgia’s senators split, with Johnny Isakson voting in favor and Saxby Chambliss against.
The Senate’s blessing guaranteed the president could sign the measure before the midnight deadline, at which point the U.S. government would have defaulted on its loans.
The agreement calls for as much as $2.4 trillion in savings over the next decade and the $900 billion increase is funded through spending cuts, not tax increases.
Woodall was one of just two legislators from Georgia to approve the measure.
District 9 U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, who represents the bulk of Forsyth County, voted against the measure, saying the debt ceiling agreement "fails to match the magnitude of the crisis. In fact, it doesn’t come close."
In a statement Graves said Washington "has pushed its recklessness to the limit and violated the trust of the American people for too long."
"The bill does seek out deeper spending cuts in the future, but if we’re to learn anything from history, that promise is bound to be broken," he said.
Woodall said he and Graves get along well and agree on most matters.
On the debt ceiling issue, however, the difference was Graves voted for what he wanted, and Woodall voted for what the party could get.
The issue goes deeper, said Woodall, noting the debt ceiling has been raised 98 times since the early 20th century.
"Anything that you have raised over 90 times isn’t really a limit at all," he said. "It’s just a conversation that is going on and there’s a crowd in Congress that would say we might as well abolish the debt ceiling because we don’t have a debt ceiling crisis, we have a debt crisis and the debt ceiling is just a measure of that."
Ethan Underwood, chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party, attended Tuesday’s Rotary meeting.
Despite its complexity, Underwood said Woodall did a great job of explaining the debt ceiling issue and his vote.
"I think it was a reasonable position to take," Underwood said.
"On one hand, you say why do you keep throwing money at the folks who are wasting it? On the other hand, you’re saying … [the GOP doesn’t] have the presidency and we don’t have the Senate, so you have to get the best deal that we can."
Woodall pointed out both liberals and conservatives are upset the compromise prevented either group from getting what it wanted.
"Absolutely, everybody’s angry on both ends of the spectrum," he said.
But he assured conservatives that while the $900 billion in spending cuts may seem small given the overwhelming national deficit, it’s about the same price as President Barack Obama’s health care plan.
"So if you think about what’s small and what’s big, understand that … we’re going to have erased, in one day over 10 years, the same price tag that was on the president’s health care bill over 10 years," he said.
"Who would have thought that we would have been having a fight with the White House about how much we are going to cut, as opposed to how much more we’re going to spend? That’s the American people that have changed it."
The debt ceiling agreement also established a special congressional committee to recommend long-term fiscal reforms. Woodall said he volunteered to be considered for the committee.
The bill also guarantees a vote on a balanced budget amendment in both the House and Senate.
Woodall said he and the party will work hard during the next three months to "change the mind of the U.S. Senate," on this, and several other debates facing Congress before 2012.
"This isn’t the end," he said. "This is just another step in a very long journey to 2012, when I believe we’re going to have the largest voter turnout in American history."