The Latest Budget Deal
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REP. JOHN KASICH, Chairman, Budget Committee: Well, Jim, I’ll tell you that when you get down to trying to manage a team of 236 members, you’ve got to listen to everybody. I think J.D. Hayworth had it right in a sense. Some people want to do an end run. Some people want to pass. Some people want to run up the middle. And what we attempted to do is to keep our team together to meet the concerns that many factions in our party have and to be able, however, to not compromise our principles, keep the energy in our group, and try to move forward to balance the budget. And Jim, I’ll tell you, what we’re trying to do hasn’t been done for over a quarter of a century, which is to balance the budget. And there’s enormous pressure. Washington wants to protect its status quo. We’re fighting the lawyers and the lobbyists, the special interests, and it’s very tough, but I think we’ve emerged still very unified, maintaining our energy, not swallowing our principles, and being able to keep the pressure on to balance the budget.
JIM LEHRER: Congressman Sabo, how would you characterize what happened?
REP. MARTIN SABO, (D) Minnesota: Well, I’d characterize what’s been going on these last several days and weeks as foolishness. There’s no reason we couldn’t keep the government open. We should open all our agencies, have federal workers here serving the public, and that’s what we should do. And then the negotiations should get serious over how we balance the budget. There are many of us who agree that we should balance the budget, we should do it in a seven-year frame work, but we have major disagreements over how to do it, and those are tough, complicated issues, not easily resolved, and I think some of those budget negotiations that are going on now could have well started a couple of months ago. Unfortunately, they didn’t.
JIM LEHRER: Do you, Congressman Sabo, see this decision by the Republicans to do what they did today, or actually the decision was made tonight–they did it today in the House of Representatives–as a victory for the Democrats, a victory for the President?
REP. SABO: No, a partial victory for the public. Unfortunately, it’s a very limited opening of the government. It’s more a victory for federal workers. They’ll get back to work. They’ll be paid, but in many cases, the resources for them to do their jobs are not included with the continuing resolution that was passed.
JIM LEHRER: Congressman Kasich–
REP. SABO: That doesn’t make sense.
JIM LEHRER: What about that point, why would you all have government employees come back to work, Congressman Kasich, but not give them the money to do their jobs?
REP. KASICH: Well, Jim, that’s where the President kind of fits in. What we’re saying is we’re going to pay these workers, all the workers, through the 26th, and if the President will lay a budget on the table, which he promised to do about 50 days ago, then we will open up all of the government at least until the 26th. And, Jim, look, this is basically a hybrid. When you have 236 members, you need to keep the team together, and people start to feel passionately, and this was an effort to meet everybody’s concerns, forcing the President to lay a budget down, paying people who’ve been caught in the crossfire, keeping a short leash on the process, being able to define government in narrow terms, in terms of how we want to have less government, and all this is kind of overlaid with $30 million worth of advertising from Washington special interests, a pounding in some degree from the media, and this was a response to kind of keep it altogether. Now, if the President will come forward with a plan, which he promised to do fifty-sixty days ago, and get down to serious negotiations, we can open up the government at least till the 26th of January.
JIM LEHRER: Congressman Kasich–
REP. SABO: Let’s be clear on what the President promised, and that was that a final product negotiated between the Congress and the President would be a seven-year balanced budget scored by CBO, and that did several other things in terms of protecting vital health programs, education, environment. But that agreement didn’t relate to what the President put on the table. You know, he made significant modifications to doing CBO scoring, where his estimates are significantly different. But if we want to condition his offer in negotiations, and he’s been negotiating very seriously, then the Republicans have to make modifications in their proposal. For instance, the seventh year, all of a sudden the capital gains tax cut surprisingly doesn’t cost any money. It costs $9 billion in 2001, zero in 2002, $10 billion 2003. Why? Because the full cut, cost of their tax cut, didn’t fit in in the seventh year balanced budget. You know, it’s–there are lots of things we can quarrel about, and where people have different opinions, different judgments on how things should be structured, but we should open the government, let the federal workers serve the public, and then go on with the serious negotiations to resolve the differences.
REP. KASICH: Jim, I can’t let that go with good friend Martin without explaining this to you. Martin voted for a budget that got to zero using real numbers. The President–and I’ve been sitting in these talks now for about 60 days and they have been essentially totally non-productive. The President has not laid a budget on the table, so if we’re going to have a negotiation and we’ve passed a plan to balance the budget, which has fought the Washington special interests, it makes only perfect sense for the President to lay his plan down if he doesn’t like ours, like the conservative Democrats have in their blue-dog plan, and then we get in-between the two of them and we negotiate.
JIM LEHRER: Sure.
REP. KASICH: The President has not given us a budget, and we have not negotiated in good faith so far. I mean, I haven’t seen it. I’ve been in the room for all but two meetings, and I’m just sorry, this cannot be resolved until the President commits to using real numbers, no gimmicks, no triggers, no smoke and mirrors, and meet the challenge of a balanced budget in seven years.
REP. SABO: Let’s get some definitions. I’m not sure what real numbers are when we talk seven years in the future. I have –
REP. KASICH: CBO numbers. That’s what you guys use.
REP. SABO: I agree we should use cautious numbers. It’s not a question of real or unreal numbers.
REP. KASICH: I thought you said you use CBO numbers.
REP. SABO: And they’re cautious numbers. They’re all speculation about the future.
REP. KASICH: Well, they use no numbers.
REP. SABO: But the President does have proposals on the table. The President and congressional Democrats are willing to negotiate and negotiate differences from, you know, back, pre-holiday type–
JIM LEHRER: Okay. Let’s move–
REP. SABO: And it was my friends, Republicans, who said we won’t talk and won’t negotiate.
JIM LEHRER: Let’s try, let’s try to look ahead now. Congressman Kasich, assuming this goes on through the Senate tonight, and the President signs it, and there is this partial undoing of the partial shutdown, do you expect serious negotiations to now begin?
REP. KASICH: Jim, I’ve stopped predicting what the folks in the administration are going to do.
JIM LEHRER: Okay.
REP. KASICH: I just don’t know.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Then let me ask you this. How would you characterize the gaps between your position–in other words, the position of the congressional Republicans, the House Republicans, and the Democrats and the President?
REP. KASICH: Well, first of all, there are huge gaps between us and the President because he has no plan scored by the Congressional Budget Office, which is the determinant of real numbers. I have been spending an enormous amount of time talking to my Democrat friends in the House, and we have made progress. We’ve made progress in some areas that I think you’ll be hearing about soon. The gulf is no so much between us and Democrats on Capitol Hill who are for a budget but us and an administration that doesn’t want to lay one down. For the people watching, they are starting to believe that, you know, this is just bickering among, you know, politics and egos and everything else. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The reason why we haven’t been able to move to resolve these things is because we are essentially trying to take power, money, and influence out of this city and balance a budget, and we are taking on the status quo. The administration has balked at doing it, and that’s why it’s so difficult.
REP. SABO: John, that’s your interpretation. The reality is the difference–a very fundamental different view on where we head on major health programs, Medicaid, Medicare, not only dollars but how those programs were structured, very different perspective of what federal role is in ensuring that we have continued strength in our educational system, environmental protection in this country, of preserving a significant and appropriate federal role but reforming it, not abolishing it, all of those kinds of issues are involved in these discussions. They’re big; they’re major; they’re not easy to resolve. I would only suggest that we’re on–we’re on television right now. We have a dispute going on in Congress on telecommunications, dealing with one issue, how we deal with future regulation of the telecommunications industry. That has taken a long time to find agreement because the issues there are big. They are even bigger and more divisive as they relate to the budget crisis.
JIM LEHRER: Wait a minute, Congressman Kasich. Let me ask Congressman Sabo a question, and then I’ll come back to you. What is the likelihood, in your opinion, Congressman Sabo, that anything is going to be resolved by January 26th, and, in fact, are we going to go through this all over again, beginning on the 26th?
REP. SABO: I don’t know. That’s impossible to predict.
JIM LEHRER: Sure.
REP. SABO: I went through a fight like this in the state legislature 24 years ago with the Democratic governor and Republican legislature. It took us a long time. Finally, we resolved it. You may get lucky. It may break quickly and may take some time. I don’t know how to predict that. I think when we put artificial barriers up it hinders, rather than helps, the process.
JIM LEHRER: Congressman Kasich.
REP. SABO: We need serious negotiation and people of goodwill who are willing to make accommodations.
JIM LEHRER: Congressman Kasich, based on what you know, based on what you’ve heard in these rooms that you’ve been in all this time do you think that you can make a deal by January 26th?
REP. KASICH: Jim, I don’t know what the administration is going to do. What has separated us and prevented us from being able to have real negotiations is they won’t put a plan down. So what I’m engaged in right now is trying to develop a bipartisan budget that we can bring up on the House floor, and I’m going to tell you that the differences between our budget and the conservative Democrat budget in the House are significant, but I don’t think they’re huge gaps where we can’t bridge some differences. And I think at the end of the day, it’s going to be very possible for us to be able to come to the House floor with 30 or 40 or 50 Democrat votes and be able to have a more bipartisan budget, which might force the administration to do something then.
JIM LEHRER: Then Congressman Delay was not speaking for you when he said on the House today–we just ran the clip–that you House Republicans don’t have to consult with the Senate, you don’t have to consult with Democrats, you’re running things, yourselves?
REP. KASICH: No. Well, I mean, Tom is also involved in these negotiations, and once in a while when you get down there in the well, you say some things that are directed at one group of people. But I can tell you that I do not believe that this can finally be resolved without having significant bipartisan efforts. And in fact, Martin and I have agreed in a number of areas. We’re going to continue to disagree in some and agree on others, but I believe that over time, I think bipartisan efforts up here are going to drive the White House to be serious in their negotiations, and maybe we’ll be able to reach an agreement. I hope so for the country’s sake.
REP. SABO: I think bipartisan effort is required to pass a bill, but that requires significant give on the very ideological program that the Republican House leadership holds to. I think the reality is if you have a good compromise, it will probably have significant support and significant opposition in both caucuses.
JIM LEHRER: All right.
REP. SABO: And whether we can get to that position is an open question.
JIM LEHRER: Okay.
REP. SABO: I think the Republican leadership still wants to craft a plan that they solely produce the votes for. I don’t think that’s going to succeed, and it wouldn’t be good for the country.
JIM LEHRER: We have to leave it there, gentlemen. Thank you both very much.