House Leaders on Budget
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JIM LEHRER: Congressman Delay, first, what is your understanding of where negotiations stand tonight?
REP. TOM DELAY, Majority Whip: (Capitol Hill) Well, John Kasich, our chairman of the Budget Committee, and Pete Domenici, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, have been talking to Leon Panetta all day long and trying to set up a meeting with the President and the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader of the Senate hopefully tomorrow, starting somewhere around 8 or 8:30 in the morning.
JIM LEHRER: And it looks good for that meeting?
REP. DELAY: Well, it looks good, but we’ve been meeting with the White House for over 31 days, and it doesn’t seem like they want a balanced budget. They still refuse after 31 days to lay a seven-year balanced budget that uses honest numbers out on the table, so hopefully, they will tomorrow and we can get down to it. We can sell this in two or three days.
JIM LEHRER: Congressman Richardson, anything you, first of all, want to add to where they stand tonight, is there going to be a meeting in the morning at the White House?
REP. BILL RICHARDSON, (D) New Mexico: (Capitol Hill) Well, there will be a meeting, Jim, but we’re negotiating with several Republican parties here, and the problem is that the Republicans insist on shutting down the government when, in effect, we could all act like adults and negotiate this seven-year balanced budget plan. We are for a seven-year balanced budget plan. It’s a question of priorities on Medicare, Medicaid, education funding, tax fairness. But what is occurring here is we’re getting Sen. Dole saying he wants a temporary bill to fund the government which if we don’t do 3.3 million veterans are not going to get their checks on time, 9 million children–we just met with a bunch of governors who said that 30 states will not be able to provide some of their benefits and some of their assistance to kids. These kids have no defense. Two million Americans have not been able to go to national parks. Two hundred and sixty thousand federal workers are not working. Why don’t we negotiate the balanced budget deal between now and the end of the year, but why do we have to keep the government hostage? And the problem is Tom Delay, a very able Whip, and Speaker Gingrich, can’t control their extremist troops. They have 73 House freshmen that at all costs want to shut down the government. And Sen. Dole is ready to negotiate with us, so we don’t know who we’re negotiating with, and this is why you have a needless crisis. We need–
JIM LEHRER: Is that–
REP. RICHARDSON: We need to start acting like adults and get this issue settled.
JIM LEHRER: Congressman Delay, is that why we have this needless crisis?
REP. DELAY: Not at all. Why we have this needless crisis is the liberals that control the House or that lead the Democrats in the House and the Senate, not my good friend Bill Richardson. He’s been voting for a balanced budget since ’68; Democrats in the House have voted for a balanced budget. The problem here is that we have been jerked around for 31 days, 31 days. On November 20th, the President of the United States signed a law that said he would offer or negotiate from a seven-year balanced budget using honest numbers. He has yet to do it. And the liberal leadership of the House and the Senate both have publicly said they want to take this to the election in November, including Mr. McCurry, who is the President’s press secretary, has said that they want to take this to November. They do not want a balanced budget. We want a balanced budget right now.
JIM LEHRER: Excuse me. Congressman Richardson, excuse me a moment. Let’s go to the point, Congressman Delay, that Congressman Richardson just made about the temporary funding to reopen the government. Did he state the Republican position correctly, that you all will not agree to that unless there is a budget deal for seven years, in other words, that you will not agree to a temporary resolution to reopen the government while the negotiations on the seven- year proceeding, is that correct?
REP. DELAY: Jim, the last time we agreed to open up the government, the President signed the law that called for a seven-year balanced budget using honest numbers, and, and we went to the negotiating table and the President didn’t want to. It’s very hard to negotiate with someone that you can’t trust. That’s our problem. We’re not reacting to radicals in the House. Our leadership is united. And understand that if the President is really serious about balancing the budget, he will get in the room with Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole, and they can work this out in just a couple of days. In fact, Bill and I can work it out right now. There are 68 Democrats in the House. We could work on it right now, do a deal, get 209 votes and override the President, Bill.
REP. RICHARDSON: The fact is, Jim, Tom blames the Democrats in the House. Republicans control the Congress, the House, and the Senate with sizeable majorities. They are setting the pace for shutting the government down.
REP. DELAY: No, we’re not.
REP. RICHARDSON: President Clinton has been honest. He’s been forward. He has said, Tom, you’re right, I will agree to a seven-year balanced budget plan with CBO numbers, which was one of your conditions, but let’s argue over the merits of Medicare and Medicaid, let’s protect those programs, education, tax fairness, what your guys–and I think you and I can work something out, but it’s your 73 ideological freshmen that are saying, we want dramatic cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.
REP. DELAY: Bill, there are no bogeymen in this.
REP. RICHARDSON: We have $250 billion in tax breaks for the wealthy, for people that don’t need it. How can you balance the budget–
JIM LEHRER: Let me ask–
REP. RICHARDSON: –with $250 billion in tax breaks? You can’t do it.
JIM LEHRER: Let me ask Congressman Delay a question.
REP. RICHARDSON: We’ve got to compromise.
JIM LEHRER: Let me ask Congressman Delay a question.
REP. DELAY: Are we in the–are we filibustering, or what, Bill?
JIM LEHRER: Let me ask you a question, Congressman Delay.
REP. DELAY: Yes.
JIM LEHRER: The President said yesterday the same thing that Congressman Richardson said and other Democrats have said it too, that what the real issue here is that Speaker Gingrich and possibly others in the leadership of the House really would like to go ahead and do a temporary resolution.
REP. DELAY: Not at all, absolutely not.
JIM LEHRER: They’re not being driven by the–
REP. DELAY: Absolutely not, my goodness. We have, we have worked very hard to get to this point. We worked very hard to take the majority last year. We have worked very hard all year long to keep our promises to the American people, and we’re trying to do that. We’re trying to balance the budget now, not play games to the next election. We think this is a crisis of a generation, and this is the only chance we can balance the budget to save the future of our children.
JIM LEHRER: Congressman Richardson, then where did this get started, that the leadership, the Republican leadership of the House was bowing to the pressure of 73 freshmen, they didn’t believe it themselves?
REP. RICHARDSON: Well, it was very clear. The President had a meeting with the Speaker and Sen. Dole Tuesday night. They agreed on a seven-year balanced budget plan. We would negotiate until the end of December, then all of a sudden, the Speaker went to his caucus and there was a rebellion.
REP. DELAY: Not true.
REP. RICHARDSON: The Speaker cannot deliver his troops.
REP. DELAY: That’s just not true.
REP. RICHARDSON: Sen. Dole is saying today that he is ready for a temporary opening of the government, and your guys, Tom, are saying, that what’s going on–
REP. DELAY: I’m glad you know what’s not the case.
REP. RICHARDSON: –in our caucus–
JIM LEHRER: Congressman Delay.
REP. RICHARDSON: So we don’t know who to negotiate with.
REP. DELAY: Bill, Bill, I’m so glad you know, but this is what–the kind of misleading information that has come out of the Democrats and the White House all year long. Newt Gingrich came back, and we met with the leadership, and the leadership said that we cannot trust this administration, that they’ve been jerking us around for 31 days.
REP. RICHARDSON: I haven’t heard Sen. Dole say that, Tom.
REP. DELAY: Now, wait a minute.
REP. RICHARDSON: He hasn’t said that.
REP. DELAY: That is–and we met with the leadership, and Newt says, okay, let’s take it to our caucus. We went to a conference, and our conference almost unanimously passed a resolution saying there would not be a continuing resolution until this President agreed to a balanced budget.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Let me ask you both now how you feel, Congressman Delay. Are you the least bit concerned that the government is not operating now? Is that a big issue to you?
REP. DELAY: Yes. I’m very concerned. I’m very concerned that the President vetoed three appropriations bills this week. We sent him three appropriations bills that would put 620,000 workers to work and be paid, and the President chose to shut down those agencies by vetoing the bills. And the President still won’t negotiate even on those bills. You know, the President has been like a Christmas shopper. He’s been absolutely not thinking about balancing the budget all year long and then here he comes at the end when he can make political hay and not–never– and this President, remember, during his election promised a five-year balanced budget. He has a hard time keeping his promises. And how can you trust someone after what has been happening to us over the last month and then say, okay, then we’ll send you a temporary spending bill, and you can jerk us around for another two weeks?
JIM LEHRER: Congressman Richardson, Congressman Delay has used the term that the President has jerked the Republicans around and can’t be trusted, the President can’t be trusted. How do you respond to that?
REP. RICHARDSON: Well, that’s not the case. In March, the President sent a plan to reduce the deficit that contained $130 billion in Medicare cuts.
REP. DELAY: Didn’t balance, didn’t balance.
REP. RICHARDSON: The President of the United States has been a moderate in this debate. He has been responsible. Now, here’s the issue. Why can’t we negotiate these differences that Tom and I and Democrats and Republicans have separate from closing down the government? Why do we have to keep 3.3 million veterans on–
JIM LEHRER: Let’s ask Congressman Delay that.
REP. RICHARDSON: Well, 9 million kids!
REP. DELAY: Jim, all this fear–
REP. RICHARDSON: Why do we have to shut the government down?
REP. DELAY: All this fear mongering is absolutely outrageous! We are not putting kids out on the street or starving kids. The veterans are going to get their benefits. We talked to the governors too today. They were in our offices. They are continuing to send the welfare payments. They’re continuing to send their worker compensation payments. They know that they’ll get their money back later on.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Okay.
REP. DELAY: So all this fear mongering is not very constructive.
JIM LEHRER: Clearly, I don’t think we’re going to resolve it here right between the two of you. But let me ask you first, to you, Congressman, what is going to happen? I mean, is this going to go on through Christmas, or is there–do you smell something working now, or is this more of the same?
REP. DELAY: I think the President is going to finally realize that the American people want a balanced budget right now. And I think he’s got to shirk off his liberals in the Congress. Either that, or we’re unmasking him for the liberal that he is. The problem is–
JIM LEHRER: So–
REP. DELAY: –is he’s got to come to the table and negotiate with people–
JIM LEHRER: Right.
REP. DELAY: –like Bill Richardson here and the–
JIM LEHRER: Do you think there’s going to be a deal in the next few days, Congressman?
REP. DELAY: I hope so.
JIM LEHRER: Congressman Richardson.
REP. RICHARDSON: I think we have to start behaving like adults. I’m hopeful. But let’s keep this vitriol and the issue of shutting the government down as leverage. We are looking foolish internationally. Both sides are losing. We don’t have to do that. Let’s negotiate seriously on some very divisive policy issues. We’re ready to go with seven years balanced budget–
REP. DELAY: We did that. Bill, we did that.
REP. RICHARDSON: –but the differences are on Medicare and Medicaid. Let’s negotiate it. But why do we have to hold the government and a lot of innocent people hostage, Tom?
REP. DELAY: Because the last time–Bill, the last time the government shut down and we reopened it, we thought the President was serious about negotiation–
JIM LEHRER: All right. We’re going to go.
REP. RICHARDSON: He is serious, Tom.
JIM LEHRER: You all keep talking. We’re going to go. Thank you all very much.