‘HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS’
Quirky Reindeer Farmer Keeps Government Open for Christmas
Meet the outgoing Michigan Republican congressman who switched his vote and kept the government funded Thursday.
“I saved Christmas!” said Rep. Kerry Bentivolio.
It was just minutes after a procedural vote on the “cromnibus”, the comprehensive budget bill to keep the government from shutting down, which passed by one vote once Bentivolio switched his vote at the very last minute and supported the legislation. The Michigan Republican and reindeer farmer told The Daily Beast that he showed up in the chamber early and voted no because he didn’t support the bill. He then just sat back and stayed in the cloakroom where he soon became the most popular Republican on Capitol Hill as colleagues urged him to switch sides.
Eventually, Bentivolio decided he wasn’t going to let “Nancy Pelosi win” and decided to support the bill, which was unanimously opposed by every Democrat who cast a vote. “I am a team player,” Bentivolio said.
However, the first-term Michigan Republican, who lost his bid for re-election last month, still doubted that he would support the bill on final passage because it didn’t defund President Obama’s executive order on immigration. Bentivolio maintained that he was a steadfast opponent of “amnesty” and was skeptical that enough Republicans would support the cromnibus on final passage later today.
Now he was taking his time to read through the “2700 page” bill and see what changes could be made to win his support. He made clear that he was happy with “90 percent of it” but that he could never support “amnesty.”
Democrats had united in opposition to the bill because of language there that would defang Dodd-Frank, the landmark financial reform bill passed in 2009 in the aftermath of the financial crisis. This provision was a key stumbling block in a party where economic progressives like Senator Elizabeth Warren are playing an increasingly significant role.
As Democrat Elijah Cummings told reporters, “I can tell you that I think you’re getting more and more people in the party and in the country waking up to the very concerns that people like Elizabeth Warren have been talking about for a long time.” Cummings thought that “at some point there’s got to be a pushback on this and if we don’t push back on this, heaven knows what the Republicans will push down our throats.”
But Bentivolio had given Speaker John Boehner another chance to pass the cromnibus and get Congress out of Washington before the holidays. (As Democrat Steve Cohen joked to The Daily Beast, Bentivolio, a former Santa Claus impersonator, should have changed his vote to the tune of “Here Comes Santa Claus.”) But there’s still plenty of uncertainty on Capitol Hill about whether the cromnibus will pass after the nail-biting vote early Thursday afternoon, and it’s still possible Speaker Boehner could end up with coal in his stockings after all of this drama.
In the meantime, just as the bill passed its first hurdle, snow flakes started to fall down on the Capitol.