Newsmaker Interview with Rep. John Kasich
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JIM LEHRER: Let’s just go through the deal. The question about seven years from–what is your understanding of what that commitment by the President means to seven years?
REP. KASICH: Well, there isn’t any understanding on my part, Jim. It’s very clear we’re going to balance the budget in seven years, and we’re going to let the Congressional Budget Office do the arithmetic to make sure that all the numbers add up, and that’s the–that’s it. That’s cut and dried, and if there is but a scintilla of movement on the part of anybody away from seven years, I’m personally out of here and so will the rest of the Republican Conference. That was the deal. It’s straight and clear. Now within the box, within the box of the seven years, we can fight and argue and debate about our priorities but it’s seven years, it’s CBO-scored, and it is flat out written out there and I think it’s a wonderful day for our country. That’s why I’ve been so excited. We no longer have balancing the budget as a goal or a dream. It is going to be a reality.
JIM LEHRER: Well, now I’m going to paraphrase what Laura Tyson said here, so bear with me a moment. She said, yes. In fact, those were her final words, that it is historic because the President and the Congress have committed to a balanced budget, but what she also said was remember that the President’s priorities are in there as well and that the agreement says if those priorities can be met in balancing the budget in seven years, fine; if not, then it may take a little longer. That was her interpretation. That’s what Panetta said as well.
REP. KASICH: No. I think that Leon will not say that again. I think he will agree it’s a seven-year deal, and if the President and we can’t reach an agreement in terms of creating priorities within the seven-year box, and I mean, that’s the way legislation either passes or fails, but if we can’t reach agreement within the seven-year box, we’re not going to go to seven years in one second. We’ve got an agreement now on seven years and with CBO doing the scoring, and I just heard the great Mark Shields say there’s no way the White House can slip off of seven years, and he’s exactly right, because I think Shields, being a very fair referee, would blow the whistle, and I think there would be incredible howls from across the country that this is a law, the President signed it, the language is clear, and you know, there’s a point at which the spin meisters have to take a back seat and let’s get on with our work.
JIM LEHRER: Well, speaking with getting on with the work, another thing Ms. Tyson said, you said, CBO figures, she said that there will be input, all kinds of figures to try to arrive at some assumptions that you all, in other words, the Republicans and the President can agree on as far as figuring out what it’ll take to balance the budget in seven years, no?
REP. KASICH: Jim, that’s not–what we have said is that anybody that has an economic argument, they can take it to the court, called the Congressional Budget Office, the non-partisan operation that the President’s Budget Director, Alice Rivlin, used to head. This is an operation that’s very frustrating to both parties because they’re just like a referee in a football game. They’ve got the change. They’re ten yards, and you can’t make the change less than ten yards. But what we’re willing to do is we’re willing to let the Congressional Budget Office listen to all these people and what they think about the economy. But at the end of the day, the Congressional Budget Office will be the ones that will come up with the bottom line numbers. They cannot be bullied; they cannot be beaten up, and their integrity will not be questioned. You got to have–the President said in ’93 we should operate from the same set of books and the same set of numbers. Look, frankly, Jim, this is behind us and Laura Tyson, I don’t know where she’s coming from on this, but the President has agreed to seven years when he signs this deal. Leon Panetta will say seven years, and if they don’t, Jim, then we’re out of here, and that’s not simply–simply not going to happen. It isn’t conceivable to me that the President will sign this and then, and then walk away from it.
JIM LEHRER: Well, let’s talk about what you all agreed to with the President, in other words, and Ms. Tyson went through that again as well, and so did Mike McCurry today and so did Leon Panetta, that you all agreed to, to protect Medicare, Medicaid, the environment, et cetera. Now what is–how do you read that commitment the other way–from you to them?
REP. KASICH: Jim, this basically got down to, to language, expressing all of our priorities within the framework of seven years. And as you know, we have said that everything is on the table in these negotiations, as long as the negotiations occur within the parameters of the seven years, which we have agreement for doing. And frankly, in this bill, this balanced budget proposal we’ll all be talking about, none of the programs are going to have spending going down. All of the spending is going up. I mean, there’s not that much difference. There would be if we were cutting spending, and they were increasing spending. That’s not the deal. We’re slowing the growth in spending, and what we’re going to ask the President to do is to say if you want, if you want spending to grow faster than what we want, how are you going to pay for it, and what are your priorities? I mean, and that’s really the bottom line, and it will be from the point of asking him how much more do you want to spend and where do you want to get it from that’s going to be the centerpiece of these negotiations.
JIM LEHRER: What about the tax cuts that are in the Republican bill? Aren’t they also going to be on the table?
REP. KASICH: Well, everything is on the table. I mean, I can’t say one day everything is on the table, then the next day I say, well, really, I was just kidding. I mean, everything is on the table. We will fight passionately for our tax cuts, capital gains cuts, because it’s about economic growth. If a business is going bankrupt, I mean, you just can’t cut overhead, you got to increase sales. And that’s part of the way we want to balance the budget, with economic growth. Family tax relief we think is important, but we’re going to debate this out, Jim, and it’s going to be a heck of a debate, but at least we’re in the ring. We know what the shape of this looks like, and at the end of the day, the news for the American people is we’re going to balance the budget and fix this economy.
JIM LEHRER: All right. I don’t want to appear to be trying to make trouble here.
REP. KASICH: Go ahead.
JIM LEHRER: No–but the President–in other words, what you’re saying is that you Republicans didn’t– you didn’t change your position at all, in other words, the President committed to seven years that you wanted him to, but you all didn’t change a thing? In other words, you have not committed to anything as far as for protecting Medicare, Medicaid, that was new?
REP. KASICH: No, no, no. What we agreed to do is to debate about what the priorities ought to be in this package. But we said from the bottom line there will be a seven-year balanced budget, and the arithmetic will be done by the organization that the President selected in 1993. What we did say is that there’ll be nothing off the table, everything will be negotiated, we’re interested in hearing what the President’s priorities are, but frankly, Jim, there’s got to be a bottom line, and that’s what I communicated along with Sen. Domenici to Leon Panetta. There is no moving from the integrity of seven years, and that’s where we are, and we’ll fight within that in terms of what our priorities are.
JIM LEHRER: Was it worth it, Congressman? I mean, was the shutdown and all of the abuse that you and your colleagues received, you and the Congress and the government of the United States received to get this deal?
REP. KASICH: You know, I praised John Lewis, who walked across a bridge and took a vicious beating in the name of civil rights. And if you asked John Lewis today was that beating worth taking, he would tell you, “I’d do it again,” and this was not just politics as usual. We were fighting over real principles and real integrity. And at the end of the day, the truthful American–one of the great stories of America is we fight over deeply-held principles, and at the end, we make a deal, and we advance the country. And frankly, we are advancing the country. And the reason I’m so happy is because, Jim, I absolutely believe that this is what’s going to lay down the beginning of the end of the fear that this country is going to slide into oblivion and jobs and homes and everything else that would be at risk. I think this is the first big step towards preventing the loss of jobs and giving the young people of this country a chance to fly and realize their dreams. This is a great, great, great day.
JIM LEHRER: But as a practical matter, it wouldn’t have happened if, if you all had not been able to shut down–in other words, was it the shutdown of government–I don’t mean you all–all right–
REP. KASICH: We would have been back to “read my lips,” another Washington gimmick, I mean, a pox on both Houses. We now have the integrity to do this, and had we not made the fight, had we not stood firm and said there are some fundamental principles we have to adhere to and then inside of that we’re going to be able to debate our priorities, but had we not stood firm, we wouldn’t be here now, because it’s been the history of Washington to just don’t worry about the next generation, don’t worry about paying the bills tomorrow, just get the job done and feel good, and it has to stop.
JIM LEHRER: What about those who have said, quite publicly, that the President also stood firm on what he believed or you all would have rolled over?
REP. KASICH: Jim, this is Thanksgiving, and I think I’ve made–the Thanksgiving period–I think I’ve made it clear, seven years scored by arithmetic done by the Congressional Budget Office, we’ll fight our priorities, and at the end of the day, we’ll end up with an agreement that’ll save the country. And I think that’s where we, as you say on that show, I think that’s kind of where we have to leave it.
JIM LEHRER: I agree with you, and I’m going to leave you alone. Okay. Thank you very much, Congressman. I’m glad you were able to make it. Now, we’re going to go back to Shields and Gigot and let them analyze–you can listen–and have them analyze what you just said.
REP. KASICH: Okay.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. Thank you.