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Republican Rep. Putnam Discusses Next House Legislative Session

January 4, 2007 at 6:25 PM EST
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MARGARET WARNER: And now to Republican Adam Putnam of Florida, who is beginning his fourth term in the House. He’s the new chairman of the House Republican Conference and joins us live from Capitol Hill.

And, Congressman Putnam, welcome. Thanks for being with us.

Let’s pick up where Charlie Rangel just left off and talk about Iraq. Is he right that Republicans are not necessarily going to be in lock-step with the president on whatever he proposes?

REP. ADAM PUTNAM (R), Florida: Well, he is right, and that’s not a new development. Republicans have never been 100 percent in lock-step. And we even today more fully realize that there’s an independent role for the legislative branch, an independent role for the executive branch.

The president is our commander-in-chief, and we look forward to his recommendations on the new way forward in Iraq. But we owe the American people adequate oversight, adequate investigation, but total support of the men and women in harm’s way.

And I would disagree a little bit with my friend, Charlie Rangel: We’re not embarrassed for our servicemen and women who are in harm’s way.

MARGARET WARNER: But you are saying that you think this very aggressive oversight, even investigations of the conduct of the war and the spending in the war that the Democrats are vowing to have, which Republicans did not have, you think is entirely appropriate?

REP. ADAM PUTNAM: If it is constructive, if it is open and fair, and it is a true search for answers to improve the way we are conducting this war, and the reasons why we are asking Americans to sacrifice for the greater good, then there is an appropriate place for it.

But threats to withhold funding to men and women in the field is not appropriate and is a non-starter, and that does not reflect an open approach to oversight.

Opportunities for cooperation

Rep. Adam Putnam
Chair, Republican Conference
This is the dawn of a new Congress, and all of us, on both sides of the aisle, are ready to get back to work for the American people.

MARGARET WARNER: Looking more broadly at the term ahead, how hopeful, how optimistic are you of the possibility of real cooperation between your party and the Democrats?

REP. ADAM PUTNAM: Hope springs eternal.

MARGARET WARNER: I shouldn't have used that word.

REP. ADAM PUTNAM: And that this is the dawn of a new Congress, and all of us, on both sides of the aisle, are ready to get back to work for the American people.

There are two items on the agenda that I think offer great opportunity for bipartisanship. The president put a marker out yesterday in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on a balanced budget that he will be submitting to Capitol Hill. That is a major step forward.

It is something that Democratic Chairman Spratt and Speaker Pelosi have indicated are a top priority. It certainly is a top priority for the Republicans in the Congress, and it offers us a way to move forward.

Energy independence is another issue on the agenda where we share a common ground in reducing our dependence on nations that are unstable or perhaps openly hostile to our country for fossil fuels, and expanding into renewables, expanding into alternatives, and perhaps using our foreign policy later this summer to do just that.

Discussing Democrats' rules

Rep. Adam Putnam
Chair, Republican Conference
There was no "Contract for America." They talked about a culture of corruption and a need to bring in a new approach to governing, a new process for Washington, and what they've rolled out is, in fact, a step backwards from where we are.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, are you as upset, concerned -- disappointed was the word you all used yesterday when you had a press conference -- about the fact that this first 100-hour agenda is going to be put through without a lot of committee work, certainly, or Republican amendments?

Or are you reassured, now that the new rules have actually come out, that, in fact, Speaker Pelosi means it when she says you all are going to have greater minority rights than you afforded the Democrats?

REP. ADAM PUTNAM: Well, the rules package offers us the same rights that we offered them for the last 12 years.

I am profoundly disappointed that we will launch this Six for '06 agenda -- and I applaud Chairman Rangel's call for more hearings, but they've rolled out an ambitious schedule for just next week alone to deal with minimum wage, student loans, prescription drugs, their whole agenda, with no committee hearings, no opportunities for half of the Congress to prepare amendments and offer their version.

And my take on the election last November was that, as much as anything, the American people were saying, "You guys need to get your act together and clean up the House, get rid of this bumper-crop of scandals. We want to know that every member of Congress has an equal say and equal opportunity to impact legislation."

And not only are they depriving Republicans of the opportunity to be heard, but they're depriving talented chairmen like Mr. Rangel of the opportunity to refine these packages. Their agenda is not like the expiration date on a gallon of milk.

There's no magic to 100 hours. And abandoning minority rights just to hit some arbitrary timetable of 100 hours is setting aside what this institution is all about, in terms of including all sides, all areas of the country, all viewpoints, in making the best possible policy for this nation.

MARGARET WARNER: And you don't think there's a bit of a double-standard here in you all complaining about that now?

REP. ADAM PUTNAM: Well, you know, obviously people at home are saying, "Oh, you guys are just complaining about the same stuff the Democrats used to complain about." But they made their whole fall campaign about cleaning up this institution.

There was no "Contract for America." They talked about a culture of corruption and a need to bring in a new approach to governing, a new process for Washington, and what they've rolled out is, in fact, a step backwards from where we are.

I'll tell you something else: I served on the Rules Committee. And in the Rules Committee, you take a lot of tough votes. One of the major steps backwards in the rules package that they have just adopted would allow the Rules Committee to have none of their committee votes recorded.

They're not available for the public; there's no accountability in that. And that is a giant leap backwards from their rhetoric and from past practice.

MARGARET WARNER: Congressman Adam Putnam, the new chairman of the House Republican Congress, thank you.

REP. ADAM PUTNAM: Thank you.