A Tea Party Representative In The Budget Battle
SCOTT SIMON, host:
Going to get a view now from two Congressmen, one Republican, one Democrat. We start with freshmen representative, Bill Huizenga, a Republican from Michigan. He was elected with support from the Tea Party. We checked in with the Congressman a couple of times since he took office in January.
Congressman Huizenga joins us from his office. Thanks for being with us, sir. And how do you feel about last night's deal?
Representative BILL HUIZENGA (Republican, Michigan): Well, hey, I have been there. I was a legislator in Michigan and at the leadership table, and these things are never easy when you're going through and trying to get to something that everybody can agree on.
My frustration is I think this is six months too late. We have to change these old Washington ways and embrace a new Washington. So, you know, the bottom line is we're spending far too much than what we're taking in. We must control our spending.
And in - this vote is going to be a difficult one, and quite honestly, Scott, I'm not sure where I'm going to be at, at the final passage.
SIMON: So you're -it's - you haven't decided to vote for it yet?
Representative HUIZENGA: Well, what we did last night is we did a short-term continuing resolution that is going to organize or allow the appropriators and everybody to organize what was outlined as a bill. So there was no final bill.
Last night's vote was just to continue government funding for five days, allow the - allow, as I said, the appropriators and leadership, and everybody that needs to put together the larger bill to do so. I made a promise, and the House of Representatives made a promise that one, we as congressmen would take 72 hours, or have available to us, 72 hours to review any legislation.
But two, the American people would also have that same amount of time to be able to review these things. So this buys us that time for people to take a good hard look at it. I was very clear with leadership last night that I was voting yes on continuing that, but I was not making a commitment for the final agreement that was made.
SIMON: Let me cut me ahead a bit, Congressman. Secretary Geithner - Treasury secretary - says the U.S. is going to hit its limit on borrowing on May 16. Will you vote for against raising the debt ceiling?
Representative HUIZENGA: We're going to have to look again at what that whole package is, because what I need to make sure, and I serve on the financial services committee, and I've been having those conversations both nationally and with people that have dealt with international, financial programs.
We've got to make sure that we are ultimately significantly changing the trajectory of spending here in - excuse me - in Washington.
Representative HUIZENGA: And I'm not sure what we're doing, you know. We had outpatient surgery last night. What we need is a heart transplant, and we have got to get more serious about this.
SIMON: Congressman, after this first budget fight how do you feel about compromise and conciliation? Any differently?
Representative HUIZENGA: Well, there's always that in life. You know, I started out coming out of college, I had my realtor's license and I did real estate full time for a number of years. I've negotiated, you know. I understand what that means and then again in Michigan legislature when I chaired the commerce committee and did a number of those things. You know, you don't always get the things that you feel you need to get, but again, my question is as I'm going into this, is this a significant enough statement? And I'm afraid, Scott, that a lot of American people don't believe that it is. They believe that this is sort of the old Washington. We wanted 60, you wanted zero. We ended at 30, so everybody should be happy. You know...
SIMON: Well, I think the Democrats feel - they point out that they didn't think you just split the pie in half. They feel that they came more than halfway on cuts.
Representative HUIZENGA: There's a lot of us that believe that starting at 60 was maybe not an aggressive enough start. And that, as we're going into this, and you've heard a number of people say that it's starting to become trite, but, you know, we're talking billions here. We have to start talking trillions. And I think that is something that we have to face. I mean, we have to have a fact-based conversation as a nation here about what our goals and priorities are for the future.
SIMON: Congressman Bill Huizenga of Michigan.
We turn now to Democratic congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. He's the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. He joins us from his office in Washington, D.C.
Congressman, thanks very much for being with us.
Representative CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (Democrat, Maryland): And it's good to be with you.
SIMON: And Congressman Huizenga says that he agreed to the five-day deal to work things out, to work out a deal last night, but not certain he's going to vote for the budget as it's laid out. What do you think of this deal?
Representative VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think all of us need an opportunity now to look at the details. This was a deal struck between the president of the United States with the Speaker of the House, and of course, the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. I think they did a good job at coming together to avert a government shutdown, but I think all of us need an opportunity now to look at the fine print.
SIMON: Uh-huh. Where are you going to be looking in that fine print? What are your major concerns?
Representative VAN HOLLEN: Well, there're two issues here. One, of course, is the overall level of cuts. That's obvious. That's $38 billion. A lot of us have concerns about the impact that kind of cut can have on the very fragile recovery. And there have been a number of estimates as to what impact that would have on jobs and job loss. Obviously, we know that. That's that number. But then you got to dig inside it and see exactly what cuts we're talking about, what impact it will have on different programs.
I mean there were cuts in the original bill to research at MIH. There were deep cuts to education. So we need to take a look under the hood and figure out exactly what they did. This was all done behind closed doors and now it's an opportunity for the rest of us to dig in.
SIMON: That's interesting because Congressman Huizenga also said to folks in his district in Michigan, some of this might appear like traditional Washington deal-making; which is kind of what you say when you talk about it's behind closed doors. How...
Representative VAN HOLLEN: This was something that had to be put together I think primarily because it was very sensitive within Mr. Huizenga's caucus. And you had the Speaker of the House had to sort of engage in shuttle diplomacy between the president and the majority leader and his own Republican caucus because in many ways the Speaker wasn't empowered to cut a deal. We know this went see-sawing back and forth many times. There was a big hang up for a long time over the so-called riders, including the effort to impose a social agenda to eliminate funding for women's health centers, like Planned Parenthood, who deliver health care services, cancer screening and other important services to women.
So, what we saw last night was just round one. Of course, we got to get through round one next week still, but we're already starting round two.
SIMON: This week, Mr. Van Hollen, you said the Republican party had essentially been hijacked by people in the Tea Party wing. Is there a future for compromise with folks you've identified that way?
Representative VAN HOLLEN: Well, let's see what happens in a couple days. Let's see what happens the next round of the budget, where they're demanding incredibly deep cuts to education. They're talking about slashing Medicaid for seniors in nursing homes, and doing it all at the same time they're going to be providing big tax breaks to the very wealthiest among us, including new tax breaks for millionaires. So, I think it's a wait and see what the next step is.
SIMON: Democratic congressman Chris Van Holland of Maryland. Thanks so much for being with us.
Representative VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.
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