Budget Deal: The Republican View
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JIM LEHRER: Now, the view from the Republican leadership of Congress and to Congressman John Kasich of Ohio, Chairman of the House Budget Committee. Mr. Kasich, welcome. Congressman, let’s start where I left off here with Leon Panetta and back up. What is your attitude, the leadership’s attitude, toward negotiating with the President for a seven-year balanced budget now? You heard what I just–how I paraphrased the attitude that I heard in the news conference a while ago. Was that correct, that you all were not interested in talking now?
REP. JOHN KASICH, Chairman, Budget Committee: Well, look, Jim, we first of all are putting our budget together. We’ve already seen the President’s budget. It’s all back-loaded. It puts all the heavy lifting on the next generation. It has a tax increase in the last year.
Look, it’s a typical American diet budget. This is the President’s proposal. He says that, you know, we’re going to lose 50 pounds this year. In the first fifty-one weeks, we’re going to lose one pound and in the last week we’re going to lose forty-nine. You know, all the heavy lifting is put off until the very end. Let me just give you an example. Over the first three years of the President’s budget that he just submitted, in the first three years, they have a net savings in the Washington spending category of $8 billion. Yet, in the seventh year, in the year 2002, they’re anticipating an $84 billion savings.
Now, Jim, that’s absurd, plus raising taxes. I mean, this is not realistic, and while the CBO scores it in balance, the spirit of this is clearly not in balance, it will not save the future, it keeps all the power and the money and the influence and the programs being run in Washington by Washington bureaucrats. So I mean, look, what we have to get from the President is an indication that he is, first of all, interested in trusting people across the country, that people in their neighborhoods can design a welfare system that shows real compassion and gets results, that people can design programs for the disabled, and the poor, and that the President has confidence that people in Westerville, Ohio, for example, can, can solve local problems with local solutions, that the President believes we ought to give tax relief to Americans. He said that he wanted to–that he raised taxes too much in ’93, but he doesn’t have real tax relief in his proposal like we have. In other words, Jim, this is about the, the way we’re going to solve the problems of the next generation, their future, and the problem of stagnant wages and insecurity about jobs is basically to shift these programs out of Washington, have local solutions to local problems at less cost, and there’s no indication he wants to do that.
JIM LEHRER: What about Mr. Panetta’s point that he made several times just a few moments ago, that you all can’t do this alone, that’s been proven over the first year, that you need the President, you need the Democrats, or you’re not going to get anything done?
REP. KASICH: Well, look, let me just suggest something to you. The President in this appropriations bill wanted to spend $7 billion more than what was spent in 1995, and we said no way. And we offered a program that would reduce Washington spending by $23 billion. That’s what we voted on today. It is the most significant reduction in Washington spending since World War II. Had the President had his way, we would have spent not only–we would have not only not achieved the $23 billion in savings, but we would have spent $7 billion more.
Look, I have been in Congress, Jim–this is my 14th year–for the first 12 years all we did was spend more and borrow more and give more money to bureaucrats by us hanging tough and saying that we have a principle that we want to take power and money and influence out of this city. We were able to achieve–
JIM LEHRER: We–
REP. KASICH: –the most significant accomplishment a Congress has had, and so I don’t–I mean, with Leon, the reason they went along with this is because they didn’t want to be accused of being big spenders, and we’re glad he caved.
JIM LEHRER: Well, Congressman, as you just heard, Mr. Panetta just gave an entirely different view of this, of what he–what he said happened, that you all backed off, that it was never a matter of money; it was a matter of priorities, and that you all are the ones that have backed off, because you black–tried to blackmail him and it didn’t work and you had to back off.
REP. KASICH: These guys are so good at spin they could convince Greg Norman he won the Masters. The simple fact of the matter is look at the facts. They gave us a budget that increased spending, Washington spending, by $7 billion over what we spent last year. You know what we achieved today? Twenty-three billion dollars–
JIM LEHRER: All right.
REP. KASICH: –in less spending, and they say the money didn’t matter. That’s all that mattered here.
JIM LEHRER: But what the President had said and what Leon Panetta just, just repeated was what mattered to the President was AmeriCorps, environmental, education things, the 1,000 cops and all of that, those were not in your all’s budget, they are now in this one because you put ‘em back in because you had to, is that correct?
REP. KASICH: Jim, let me just suggest first, first of all, we have eliminated 200 programs which the administration never recommended eliminating, programs like literally spending millions of dollars to kill ticks in Puerto Rico, which this administration and the Democratic Congress have kept going, you know, because it’s somebody else’s money. They got programs, millions of dollars for children to collect rain. They’ve got offices to promote visiting America in Paris and up in Canada. I mean, these programs have gone on and on and on. We’ve eliminated 200 programs. Now, did we get everything we wanted? No, but I will tell you this–they fought to preserve Goals 2000. That’s based on the premise–
JIM LEHRER: That’s an education program, right?
REP. KASICH: That’s an education program, and we cut it. But let me tell you what that program was based on. It’s based on the notion that mothers and fathers across this country can’t decide whether their kids are getting a good education unless they ask a Washington bureaucrat. We didn’t win all the fights, but we have a historic level of savings far different from what the administration proposed, so I mean, the hang-up was the money. Now that we won the money, they say it’s the riders.
We won a big chunk of the riders as well, but it’s not about Republicans winning. It is about us having the commitment to change this city and to take people’s power and money and influence out of this city and put it in their hands, and when the President wants to do that on entitlements, I’ll be the first one at the door to sit down and work it out.
JIM LEHRER: What about Mr. Panetta’s basic point that you all just made a mistake of strategy, you thought you could get the President, you could get your way by forcing the shutdowns, et cetera? You heard what he said. Was he right about that?
REP. KASICH: Well, Jim, we’ve been in power for 17 months, and we have done something today that hasn’t been accomplished since World War II. I think we’re doing pretty well. We passed a line item veto through here, something the people have wanted. We’re going to pass a health care reform package that does not socialize medicine and gives security to American families that they’re not going to lose their health insurance; they’re going to be able to change jobs. Look, the bottom line is, is that because we’ve stuck to our principles, we’ve been able to achieve, we’ve been able to make history today.
JIM LEHRER: So why is it that both of you are saying opposite things about the same result? In other words, you’re saying that you all prevailed, and Mr. Panetta and the President are saying they all prevailed. Who all prevailed?
REP. KASICH: Well, Jim, if they asked for seven, $7 billion more in spending and we ended up with $23 billion in cuts, you tell me. How, how can you, in fact, argue that they won?
JIM LEHRER: I didn’t argue.
REP. KASICH: The American people won because what the American people are saying is Washington wastes money, it’s filled with abuse; it’s filled with red tape; it’s filled with duplication, and bureaucrats just don’t get it.
JIM LEHRER: Well–
REP. KASICH: And we stuck to our principles, and they gave us what we wanted. Do you know, Jim, that when I came on your show 15 months ago and laid our budget out, did you know that what we passed today is consistent with our budget, with the budget that the American people support, not with the President’s budget? So I mean, you know, I think it’s a wonderful thing, what we achieved here today.
JIM LEHRER: Why is it necessary, Congressman, for there to be a winner and a loser in this?
REP. KASICH: There is only a necessity for us to have change and to have a commitment to save money and transfer power, money, and influence out of the city so that basically three things can occur: One, the greatest American legacy that our children will have more opportunity than we have needs to be preserved; two, if we can have a program and we have to do that because we’re bankrupting the country, two, if we can provide incentives for investment and savings, we can begin–
JIM LEHRER: All right.
REP. KASICH: –to solve the problems of stagnant wages; and thirdly, Jim, we–the American people have to win. And, remember, it’s the Washington establishment, the people here who want the same old deal, the same old spending, the same old march towards bankruptcy preserved, and this is not a Republican deal.
JIM LEHRER: And they lost today, those people lost today?
REP. KASICH: They lost today.
JIM LEHRER: All right.
REP. KASICH: They lost today, because we’ve done something–
JIM LEHRER: All right.
REP. KASICH: –that hasn’t been done since World War II.
JIM LEHRER: I hear you. Congressman, thank you very much.
REP. KASICH: Thank you.