By Reid Pillifant
Only one Republican from New York or New Jersey defied the party leadership to vote against yesterday's bill to postpone the federal debt limit until May.
"My 'no' vote was different from all the other Republican 'no' votes," said Rep. Peter King, who until recently was considered a reliable ally of the House leadership.
King said part of his opposition was "philosophical, whether you think I'm capable of that or not," since the bill also mandated that Congress must pass a budget by April 15 or lawmakers will not receive their paychecks.
"I think it's wrong to connect federal salary with a vote," he said. "I think it violates the letter and spirit of the Constitution." (The Twenty Seventh Amendment states that changes in congressional pay shall not take effect until after a subsequent election has been held.)
"Even if you think a budget is bad, for your district, for the country, and you vote against, you're not going to get paid," King said, mentioning that some congressmen have pressing bills to pay. "That should not be the standard. The standard should be whether it's good for the country. If you're voting against it, and your kids won't be able to pay their tuition that month, that's undue pressure."
"We should say if you don't vote for disaster aid, you lose your salary," he added.
Which brought King to his next point: that he might not be able to support a House budget written by the current Budget Committee chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan, who voted against each of the relief bills to help states affected by Hurricane Sandy.
"You know, Paul Ryan and the people he's working closely with, they all voted not only against the Sandy relief, but against the flood insurance," King said, referring to the $9 billion in emergency aid that was urgently passed by the House to replenish the federal flood insurance program earlier this month.
That bill attracted more Republican support than the ensuing $51 billion in aid, but Ryan was one of 67 conservatives who voted against it.
"That's taking us for granted in New York," he said. "The vote on Sandy has had real impact on me. More than 80 percent of the Republicans voted against it, and that to me is an indication of where their thinking is."
He said the Sandy vote was also a "harbinger of what's to come in [Ryan's] budget as far as New York is concerned," and that his vote against yesterday's deal was a signal that his subsequent vote on a budget shouldn't be taken for granted.
I asked King what that meant for his future in the Republican Party, and he said he wasn't sure yet.
"I want to have a good personal relationship with John Boehner, I want him to be the speaker, and Eric [Cantor] did deliver," he said. "I just felt that you can only be a punching bag for so long."
"They have to realize there's more than just the South and the Southwest," he added. "I was the only guy from New York and New Jersey who voted no but I can tell you there are lots of others who were close to voting no."