No Quiet Beginning for Grimm

Posted March 15, 2011 at 6:31pm

Barely three months on the job, freshman Rep. Michael Grimm is making a name for himself.

The New York Republican this week took on conservative opponents of a second short-term continuing resolution to keep the government operating for an additional three weeks. Grimm blasted tea party activists and the “extreme wing of the Republican Party” for opposing the measure, which passed the House Tuesday. In a brief interview Tuesday, Grimm made no apologies.

“Almost across the board it was, ‘Thank you, I feel the same way,’” Grimm said. “There are some groups out there that are trying to paint a picture that we’re not what we said we were going to be because we voted for a [bill to cut] $100 billion and for some people that wasn’t enough. That to me was completely irrational.”

The House approved the three-week CR, 271-158, on Tuesday afternoon. It is the second short-term CR that the House has taken up in recent weeks as Members try to negotiate a long-term budget deal.

Grimm said he would not vote for a third short-term spending bill but wanted to give leaders a little more time to cut a deal to fund the government through Sept. 30. Grimm acknowledged that some of his constituents and conservative House colleagues weren’t happy with his criticism, believing the party should stand firm in making bigger federal spending cuts. Grimm shrugged off the criticism, saying, “I’m showing leadership here and I’m stepping up and making some bold statements, but that’s because of what I truly believe.”

One Republican consultant close to Grimm said he was not surprised by the New York Republican’s tough statement Monday: “This is a guy who felt the call to service a long time ago. He didn’t just join the movement.”

Several of the Republican defectors from Tuesday’s CR vote said they couldn’t have been swayed to support it.

“This is not the second CR. It is for freshmen, but [for everyone else] this is the sixth CR in this fiscal year,” freshman Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) said. “How many of us would have voted for the two-week [CR] knowing that in two weeks we’d be right back here? The answer is no.”

For some, Grimm’s support highlighted that the 87-Member freshman class is not of one mind. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) gave Grimm a shout-out during a radio interview in California, saying his New York colleague has “already [been] very ‘big show’ on the floor fighting for economic growth in order to spur job creation.”

Grimm’s posture is slightly different than that of the campaign trail, when he courted conservatives on Staten Island to oust Rep. Michael McMahon (D), who even local Republicans acknowledged was formidable. Leading up to the November elections, Grimm talked tough about making spending cuts and defending the Constitution. He won the 13th district 51 percent to 48 percent.

Democrats said that despite Grimm’s defense of the three-week CR, he is still a loyal ally of his Conference. One aide noted that during debate over the long-term CR last month — which called for
$61 billion in spending reductions — Grimm largely sat on the sidelines while his home-state colleague, Rep. Peter King (R), spoke out forcefully against the cuts to port and transit security.

“Everyone knows that the government needs to cut spending, but Rep. Michael Grimm and House Republicans voted to put New York families at risk by dangerously slashing funding for port security and transit security,” said Jesse Ferguson, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

King, however, said he has a partner in Grimm, who last month was the only other New York Republican to vote against a YouCut proposal to “retrieve” $178 million in funds paid to the United Nations.

“I consider him to be a very conservative guy, but he’s not going to march in lock step with anyone else — including me,” King said. 

Grimm is one of six Republican freshmen from New York. The former FBI agent and Marine occupies the Staten Island-based seat once held by former Rep. Vito Fossella, a Republican who frequently found himself balancing a conservative constituency with the broader interests of New York City.

While Grimm was touted as an attractive candidate because of his military background, even national Republican operatives weren’t sure he could win the seat. Now Grimm is one of 12 regional chairmen for the National Republican Congressional Committee and will spend the 2012 cycle helping other GOP candidates throughout the Northeast.

“I think Michael knows himself, knows his strike zone and is going to be a great leader for us,” NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) said. “He is a thoughtful guy who plays offense, and I play offense so I like that.”