Editor’s note: This post has been altered from its original version to correct an error.
To begin with, there is probably nobody who likes the “fiscal cliff” fix finally passed by Congress this week. Liberals don’t like that President Barack Obama abandoned his assertion that income taxes should rise for those making more than $250,000, and conservatives don’t like that there was little in the way of spending cuts.
So, it’s not like this was a perfect bill, and its not like pretty much everybody doesn’t have a complaint about it.
Alone in the Nevada congressional delegation, however, Rep. Mark Amodei, who represents the northern and rural parts of the state, voted no. And his reasons are complex as they are curious.
“For the people that I represent, for these folks in a district where Sharron Angle beat Harry Reid by 19,000 votes?” Amodei said to the Las Vegas Sun‘s Karoun Demirjian. “To go back to them and say ‘we have not taken this opportunity to do anything on spending or debt’ — that is just at odds with what I represented to people I would try to do.”
It must be an awful thing to be haunted by the ghost of Angle, to constantly cast votes on tax-and-spending measures wondering what Angle’s supporters might think, worried all the time that the GOP goblin will leap onto a future ballot in a primary challenge. The fact is, Angle is probably more interested in hawking her self-published book and blaming mythical voter fraud for her 2010 loss to Reid in the general election for U.S. Senate than she is in returning to the hard work of campaigning. But one never knows.
But the mystery deepens when Amodei reveals he was ready and willing to vote for the abortive “Plan B,” the idea advanced by House Speaker John Boehner that would have raised taxes on those earning $1 million or more, which also contained no provisions on spending or debt.
“If there was anything for me to latch onto, in terms of spending or debt, than I would have done that,” he explained to the Sun. “I mean, I was going to vote for Plan B!”
Here we see Amodei apparently looking for an excuse, an answer to those Angle zombie throngs who he fears will confront him at town halls in his district, demanding an explanation for his vote. Not even the support of fellow Republicans in the Nevada delegation, including U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, were enough to give him political cover.
“Dean [Heller] voted for it, I think [Rep.] Joe [Heck is] going to vote for it, and I’m OK with that,” Amodei said a few hours before the House vote. “But you know, their districts are urban. … I don’t think I can go home and look my folks in the eye on that bill.”
Actually, Heck represents several rural areas in far-flung Clark County. And Heller represents the entire state, including the exact same areas of Amodei’s district that so worry the northern congressman. Heller’s explanation for his vote on the bill is instructive here:
“Times are tough, especially for the Silver State, and ultimately the Senate did the right thing today by providing certainty for Nevada’s families and businesses. Today the Senate came to an agreement on a pro-growth solution that will allow Nevadans to keep more of the money they earned in their pockets. While I did not get everything that I wanted, this bipartisan compromise will allow businesses to start planning for the future and ensure that unemployment benefits are extended at a time when so many Nevadans are looking for employment,” said Senator Dean Heller.
Now that sounds like a perfectly reasonable answer to any constituent angry at the fiscal cliff bill: “But I voted for a measure that will allow you to keep more of the money you earned in your pocket, and you can’t get everything you want.”
The bottom line is this: It’s generally a good thing for elected representatives to keep their constituents views in mind when he or she casts votes in Washington. But it’s equally important to make sure you’re representing their true interests, as well. If Amodei legitimately thinks the fiscal cliff fix was a bad deal for rural Nevada, OK. But if he thinks that Angle supporters won’t like it and he’d rather mollify them than cast an unpopular vote, that’s not OK. And it might be useful for Amodei to remember that Angle lost. She lost the general election in 2010 to Reid. She lost the 2006 Congressional District 2 primary to Heller. In fact, she’s lost every general-election race she’s ever been in since leaving the confines of her tiny Assembly district.
Amodei, by contrast, won. And his district should have only one representative at a time, in this case the flesh-and-blood Amodei, not the ghost of Sharron Angle.