MANATEE -- Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, was among 87 Republicans who joined 198 Democrats last week in voting "yes" on a bill to reopen the federal government and raise the debt ceiling, ending the unpopular standoff between political parties that had partially shut down the U.S. federal government.
To continue to shut down the U.S. government "didn't make sense to me," said Buchanan, of Longboat Key, whose district includes most of Manatee County and all of Sarasota County.
"My sense is, you've got to do what's the right thing, and I just felt from the beginning...one of the things I
just fundamentally believe: You've got to pay your bills," he said Monday during a meeting with the Bradenton Herald Editorial Board.
"The shutdown was obviously problematic, I didn't want to see the shutdown, I would have voted against the shutdown, obviously, but the thing that was, I think, a thousand times worse was the potential of the United States defaulting on our obligations, and we've never done that in the history of the country," he said.
Before the Oct. 16 vote in the House of Representatives, Buchanan said he didn't know how many of his fellow Republicans would join Democrats in order to end the political stalemate, which he termed the result of "mismanagement on both sides."
"But when I looked at all the facts, I thought it was the right thing for this congressional district, and in the bigger picture, in terms of our country," he added.
Asked what the reaction was from right-wing groups, Buchanan replied: "We're hearing a lot from everybody."
Buchanan said he was most concerned about the U.S. government spending more than it takes in each year. Such deficit spending cannot continue, he said.
With a breather to work on the budget, it might be possible to begin a bipartisan effort to deal with the deficit, which is fueled in part by popular entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, Buchanan said.
Buchanan said he represents 700,000 people in his district, and 200,000 are 65 and older -- almost 300,000 are 55 and over.
The average person pays $117,000 over a lifetime into the Medicare system, but receives $400,000 back in benefits, he said.
The Social Security system, he said, was created when people died younger, and was never intended to provide benefits 30 years beyond retirement, he said.
Asked how realistic such reforms might be in the extremely partisan atmosphere of Washington, D.C., Buchanan replied: "It is too political, but I want to be hopeful."
If the country adopted a balanced budget amendment requiring the government to spend only as much as it makes, it would ensure entitlement programs remain viable in the longterm, said Buchanan.
"It's something we've got to do. It clearly can get done," he said. "There's going to have to be some give and take. It can't be the way we've had."
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.