There’s a funny anecdote in former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s new book, “Stress Test,” in which he offers an example of why dealing with Congress “did not feel like a careful, deliberative journey in search of the best public policy.”
Geithner sat down with then-Sen. Scott Brown, shortly after the Massachusetts Republican won his 2010 special election, to chat about the pending Wall Street reform effort. “When the conversation finally turned to substance,” Geithner wrote, “[Brown] said he liked the idea of financial reform and expected to be with us. But without any irony or self-consciousness, he said he needed to protect two financial institutions in Massachusetts from the Volcker Rule’s restrictions. Then he furrowed his brow and turned to his aide. ‘Which ones are they, again?’ he asked.”
Brown’s memory apparently continues to be a problem. Late last week, the Republican, now trying to run for the Senate in a different, criticized Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) for having voted for “every debt-ceiling increase.”
[T]here was something he left out of his remarks to the Republicans: He also voted for raising the debt limit every time it came up. To be sure, Brown spoke out a lot about the need to cut spending and deficits during his three years in the Senate. But in 2011, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was trying to cut a deal to raise the limit, unlike other Republicans, Brown was the only one to cross the aisle and support Reid. He also slammed the greater intransigence of Republicans in the House, calling it “kind of pathetic.”
It’s been a couple of months since Brown told a reporter about his campaign, “Do I have the best credentials? Probably not. ‘Cause, you know, whatever.” But there’s a reason the comment lingers as significant.
In this case, it’s troubling that the former senator is criticizing a rival for casting the exact same votes he cast, just as it’s troubling that Brown doesn’t seem to recall his own record.
But there’s also the added significance of the Massachusetts/New Hampshire Republican thinking there’s something wrong with voting to extend the nation’s borrowing authority – at least when a Democrat does it.
Brown may not remember his own votes, but he should at least try to recall the substantive policy question: failing to raise the debt limit leads to default and an easily avoided economic calamity.
The obvious question for Brown is why he’s criticizing Shaheen for voting on this the same way he did, but I’d also love to know why Brown thinks voting to extend the debt ceiling is itself worthy of criticism.