Is Jeff Fortenberry A Moderate?

Representative Jeff Fortenberry has successfully marketed himself as a moderate since he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004.  For example, when I ran for Congress last year, I frequently heard from voters that Fortenberry wasn’t as extreme as the rest of the Nebraska Republican Congressional delegation.  

The Lincoln Journal Star has also echoed Fortenberry’s talking point that he is some kind of a thoughtful moderate.  In a 2013 Lincoln Journal Star opinion piece, the Lincoln paper’s editor alleged that  Fortenberry was a “compassionate conservative” and found his alleged independence from the more extreme elements of the GOP to be “inspiring.”

Fortenberry’s voting record in the House of Representatives clearly indicates that he is no moderate and that he usually votes with the most extreme members of the House.

A good example of Fortenberry’s philosophy can be found in his support of the 2011 default threat and his numerous votes for government shutdowns.  I’ve singled out this portion of his record because this is the Congressional GOP’s most reckless and destructive tactic.  Fortenberry and his fellow Republicans have taken the position that they will hurt the American people unless President Obama gives in to their demands to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Representative Fortenberry was a staunch backer of the phony debt ceiling crisis that was ginned up by his party bosses  and the Tea Party in 2011.  In a press release dated May 31, 2011, Fortenberry stated he would vote against refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless the Congress adopted what he called   “budgetary controls to get America’s fiscal house in order.” In other words, Fortenberry was prepared to crash the world economy unless the Democrats agreed to cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other middle class programs.

Fortenberry’s threat in and of itself did serious harm to the American people in 2011.  Due to the GOP’s irresponsibility, the economy went from creating 200,000 jobs per month to creating only 100,000 jobs per month.  The economy only began creating 200,000 jobs per month (or more) in 2013.  Moreover, consumer confidence in 2011 fell to depths not seen since the economic crisis of 2008-09.

The next time Fortenberry and the Congressional Republicans threatened to hurt the American economy was the government shutdown of 2013.  This shutdown – which cost the economy $24 billion and 120,000 jobs – is a perfect example of how Fortenberry pretends to be a thoughtful moderate while he votes with the Tea Party.

At a town hall meeting held during the run up to the government shutdown in August 2013, Fortenberry stated that he was opposed to a government shutdown.  The First District Congressman said that a shutdown  would lead to “very significant consequences for the country without accomplishing its goal. “

Mr. Fortenberry broke his word to his constituents and voted on September 20, 2013 to shutdown the government.  This shutdown was aimed at defunding the Affordable Care Act and taking away health insurance from millions of Americans.  Moreover, during this 16 day government shutdown, Fortenberry was never on the list of House Republicans who favored a clean continuing resolution and he never called for an up or down vote on this legislation that would have re-opened the government.

Once this deeply misguided government shutdown came to a conclusion, Fortenberry pretended that he had opposed it all along.  As a matter of fact, he issued a statement claiming after that he “did not favor shutting down the government.”  Subsequently, about a year later during the 2014 campaign, Fortenberry told the Omaha World Herald that: “The consequence of shutting down the government was not healthy.”  What that means is that Fortenberry was for the shutdown before he was against it!

Despite the harm inflicted by the 2013 government shutdown, Fortenberry has continued to support government shutdowns in the current session of Congress. On both January 14 and March 3, 2015, Fortenberry voted to shutdown the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over an unrelated immigration issue even though the U.S. was being threatened with terrorist attacks.

Fortenberry’s two votes to shutdown DHS over a partisan dispute with President Obama were especially reckless since a shutdown of that agency could slow down or weaken a U.S. response to a terrorist attack.  The second vote to shutdown DHS came at a time when the Mall of America in Minneapolis was threatened with an attack by a radical Islamist group.  Despite that threat to the Midwest, Fortenberry defended his votes by saying that: “The House of Representatives has done the right thing here. We’ve stood on principle.”

Fortenberry followed up his two dangerous votes to shutdown DHS with a vote on September 30, 2015 against a bill funding the government through December 11, 2015.  This time Fortenberry voted to shutdown the government over a dispute regarding federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

What we have here in Nebraska CD-01 is a representative who says one thing and does another.  When Mr. Fortenberry is in Nebraska, he generally positions himself to be some kind of a thoughtful moderate who is willing to buck the party line if necessary.  On the other hand, when Fortenberry is in Washington, he can be counted on by the radicals in the GOP to vote with them.

Fortenberry’s numerous votes for government shutdowns proves that he is one of the more extreme members of the GOP House caucus.  A thoughtful moderate wouldn’t vote to harm the people in his district with a government shutdown or vote to shutter DHS when the country is threatened with an attack.

What we need to do as Nebraska Democrats is submit letters to the editor that reveal Mr. Fortenberry’s true record.  We should also email reporters who cover Nebraska’s First District Representative and provide them with the evidence that Mr. Fortenberry is an extremist despite his soothing rhetoric.  It’s time that we let the people of Nebraska CD-01 know the truth about Representative Fortenberry.  He is no moderate!