Idaho’s Rep. Raul Labrador may be a conservative, but don’t call him a tea partier.
“I don’t consider myself a Tea Party freshman,” Labrador told today’s City Club audience at Boise's Grove Hotel.
But moderator Dr. Jim Weatherby challenged the congressman, "Weren’t you quoted as saying you were a ‘tea partier before there was a Tea Party’?"
“All I was trying to say is I was a fiscal conservative before the movement started," said Labrador.
His “cool before it was cool” stance fit right in with his anti-anti-establishment talking points: taking the typical Tea Party angle and tossing in a progressive twist.
For example, in a letter to President Barack Obama, Labrador said he outlined three areas he felt the Republicans could work together with the chief executive: regulatory reform, spending cuts and tax-code reform. Labrador even claimed he culled the issues from listening to Obama’s message. Yet today he distributed a handout titled “Tidal Wave of Debt,” with graphs reminiscent of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s famed YouTube budget breakdown. Fiscally minded, the handouts were black and white.
“We have the highest corporate income tax in the industrialized world. The result in conception is that if somebody has enough money to hire lawyers they can avoid paying taxes. It is fundamentally unfair that huge companies like GE are making huge profits, and effectively paying no taxes.”
While Labrador's tax reform argument claimed current rates are too aggressive, he said he was also worried about corporations taking advantage of tax breaks. Slipped in was the fact that the tax reforms would be revenue neutral. He also commented on defense spending, stating that no department should be "sacred or sacrosanct."
It was the same with his immigration talking points-not taking a hard line against illegals like Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. Rather, Labrador is introducing a bill that provides foreign students in the Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) program at U.S. universities a path to citizenship.
“I think that the Republican Party should be known as the party for legal immigration instead of the party against illegal immigration. We need a program like the empresario program from the 50s and 60s. It’s not a system of becoming a citizen, it’s a system of coming here to work. … We should make sure that it’s a system that people can rely on.”
Labrador said that if it were up to him, he would reduce all agency budgets by 3 percent to 5 percent and would remove all income-tax deductions except for charitable-donation and home-mortgage deductions. Labrador maintained that America—and Idaho—need to find ways to grow out of this current economic mess.
“No nation has ever cut its way to prosperity,” he added in summary to an audience question. “And we certainly can’t tax our way to prosperity either.”