Budget priorities and nonstarters according to the GOP

How are Republicans responding to President Obama’s 2016 budget? Gwen Ifill gets reaction from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on issues like sequestration, the deficit, infrastructure spending and economic growth for the middle class.

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    For the Republican view from Capitol Hill, I'm joined now by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. He serves on the Senate Budget and Finance Committees, as well as the Joint Committee on Taxation.

    Welcome, Senator.

    The president said today that he welcomes GOP ideas, but that the numbers have to add up. What is your reaction to his budget?

    SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY, (R) Iowa: Well, first of all, I think you have to look at not only this budget, but past budgets that have been put before the Congress for a specific vote.

    And, in most instances, maybe every instance over the last five or six years, there hasn't been one Republican or one Democrat vote to approve of the president's budget. So I think you have to look at it that this budget put forth by the president isn't serious, but even if it were a serious budget, the president proposes and Congress disposes.

    There's obviously going to be some areas where the president and the Congress would agree, like, for instance, not having sequestration because of national defense because of — for national defense, because national defense is the number one responsibility of the federal government.

    So I think you're going to find more spending on defense. That area, we agree with the president of the United States. But in other areas of domestic spending, I think that you're going to find sequestration, if it isn't followed, it surely isn't going to be modified to the extent that the president wants to modify it.

    And I will stop with this, by saying you can't consider a budget, as the OMB director said, reducing spending by $1.8 trillion, when it actually increases the deficit from $18 billion to $26 billion over a period of these 10 years.

    That's an $8 trillion increase in the debt, and the president has already increased the national debt since he's been president by at least $6 trillion.


    Well, the director of Office of Management and Budget just said that he not only sees areas — broader areas of agreement that you seem to, but he believes that Republicans ought to be putting their priorities on the table.

    What would you say are the Republicans' — Republican priorities for spending, for taxes, for just priorities in general?


    Well, we would disagree with the president on taxes, because when you have a lot of people have left in the labor force and you're talking about helping the middle class, the way you're going to — the only way you're going to help the middle class is not by these envy politics and redistributing wealth.

    You're going to help the middle class by growth. And you don't get economic growth by increasing taxes, by taking capital out of the economy. You have got to put more capital into the economy. So we would disagree that you should have tax increases. We're going to agree with the president on national defense and probably disagree with the president on expenditures for domestic programs.

    And you have got to remember that he doesn't have any idea whatsoever what to do with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which is about 40 percent of all the expenditure right now.


    So, let me try to figure this out. Infrastructure proposals he's making are off the table, in your opinion, as well as spending for what he calls middle-class economics?


    First of all, on the infrastructure, no.

    By May, we have to pass an infrastructure bill. And it will be very high on the agenda of the Republican Congress. In regard to helping the middle class, yes, we're going to help the middle class by having economic growth. Our program is going to be one that gets economic growth among — above the six-year or seven-year average of 2.6 percent.

    We have to have economic growth of 3 percent if you're really going to really increase jobs and get more wealth into the middle class.


    And I have to — and I have to ask you, Senator, about the homeland security issue, in which those sequesters — those — I hate to use that term even — those across-the-board budget cuts, the president would like you to lift them when it comes to homeland security, not tied to immigration reform. What do you say about that? What is going to happen?


    Well, we're going to pass — we're going to attempt to pass in the United States Senate undoing the president's immigration reform because we feel he has acted unconstitutionally, that he doesn't have the power to do what he did for undocumented workers. Only Congress has that power.


    And so what does that mean about what's going to happen next with that vote?


    Well, I won't know until we find out if we can get a bill to the president. If we can't get a bill to the president, then we're going to go to plan B, and plan B hasn't been figured out yet because we're going to try to deliver to the American people what we promised to in the last election, that we were going to stop the president's unconstitutional actions on immigration.


    Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, thank you very much.


    Thank you.

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