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Why some House Democrats and Republicans are saying no to the Senate budget deal

A major Senate deal to fund the government for two years and avert a government shutdown has an uncertain future in the House. John Yang talks with Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., and Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., about their concerns, including the lack of protections for undocumented youth known as “Dreamers,” as well as the way the bill would add to the federal deficit.

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  • John Yang:

    We return now to the Senate budget deal and look at its uncertain future in the House.

    We get two views.

    First, I spoke a short time ago to California Democrat Pete Aguilar. He's a member of the Congressional Hispanic caucus, and says the deal is incomplete.

  • Rep. Pete Aguilar:

    You know, we haven't seen the complete deal of what the Senate agreed to, but we have heard a lot of wide reports, obviously, that they're going to change the C.R. that was sent their way, and add the budget caps deal.

    You know, we just think it's incomplete. We think that there needs to be a DACA fix included in this, or at least the concrete commitment by the speaker that this will be addressed.

    Mitch McConnell made that commitment to Senate Republicans and Democrats, and we want a similar commitment that we will address this DACA issue. We have a bill, a bipartisan, bicameral bill now, that will put this behind us, and that's what we'd like to see addressed.

  • John Yang:

    How specific of a promise do you need from the speaker to get to yes? Do you need a promise that a specific bill will come to the floor, that a process will be in place in terms of the rule and what will be considered, what amendments will be considered?

  • Rep. Pete Aguilar:

    All we want is a fair process. If it is a fair process that is open for debate and open for discussion, you know, what we think? We actually think that put all these immigration bills on the House floor, and let us debate these, and let us talk to the American people about what's at stake.

    And we're confident that a good, strong, bipartisan bill will result, something similar to what Representative Will Hurd and I have put together. So, put the Goodlatte bill on. Put a conservative bill on the floor. Put our bill on the floor. Put them all on the floor and let's vote on them and show the American people that we can solve this issue.

  • John Yang:

    Do you think the — I know you're active in the Hispanic Caucus. Do you think the caucus is going to take an official position on this, on this bill?

  • Rep. Pete Aguilar:

    I do. I do. On the bill or on what the Senate sends?

  • John Yang:

    On what's coming over from the Senate?

  • Rep. Pete Aguilar:

    Sure. I think that they are.

    I think that the Hispanic Caucus is going to join a growing chorus in the Democratic caucus that will oppose what the Senate is sending our way, until we have a solution to DACA or a commitment from the speaker to put this on the floor.

  • John Yang:

    Now, I know your district in the Inland Empire east of Los Angeles, you have got hard-hit in the real estate crisis. There are a lot of things in this bill that would help your district, the community health, childhood health insurance program.

    Is putting those — saying no to those things you think worth the fight that you're — you want to have here?

  • Rep. Pete Aguilar:

    Well, we have made a commitment to these dreamers. We have got to address this issue.

    There's a lot in this bill — as I mentioned, there's a lot in this bill and in the budget caps agreement that is good, that is good for our communities. But at the end of the day, it's still incomplete. We need a process that will address DACA and move past this.

    But, look, the Republicans control the House and the Senate. It's their responsibility to govern and to put a bill that will pass both houses, if they want to pass a C.R., which, by the way, is only a patchwork that the military leaders and our defense leaders don't want.

    They want a real solution. This isn't that. So, in the meantime, let's continue to have this discussion. Let's continue to focus on DACA. While there are many good things in this bill, it is still incomplete.

  • John Yang:

    You're on the House Appropriations Committee.

    This deal that's coming over from the Senate takes off the spending caps both for defense and domestic spending for two years. Isn't that something that would help things on the Appropriations Committee?

  • Rep. Pete Aguilar:

    Well, it would offer certainty for the Appropriations Committee. That's absolutely true.

    What we don't have are all the categories of spending and what that deal looks like implementing these budget caps. So there's still quite a bit that we don't know about this deal. And while it offers a two-year certainty window, there's still a lot that we don't know and a lot that concerns us.

    And that's why I think it's an incomplete deal, because it doesn't address DACA and it doesn't address all of the priorities that we have indicated are important.

  • John Yang:

    And you're willing to go to a government shutdown, if it comes to it?

  • Rep. Pete Aguilar:

    I don't want a government shutdown. I either want the caps removed from this or I want a commitment from the speaker that he will address this issue.

    Nobody wants a government shutdown. Nobody is rooting for that. All we want is for this DACA issue to be addressed, which is what the president has promised the American people. But keep in mind, last year, the president said, what this country needs is a good shutdown. Earlier this week, just yesterday, he said, maybe we will have a shutdown.

    So, I think the only one rooting for a shutdown is President Trump.

  • John Yang:

    Representative Pete Aguilar of California, thanks so much for joining us.

  • Rep. Pete Aguilar:

    Thank you.

  • John Yang:

    For a different perspective, let's turn now to Republican Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama. He is a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus.

    Mr. Brooks, thanks for joining us.

    I know, earlier in the day,you said you were not just a no on this deal from the Senate. You were a hell no. What are your objections? What don't you like about this?

  • Rep. Mo Brooks:

    Well, what I don't like is that this legislation eventually will cause the United States of America, one of the greatest nations the world has ever known, to go into insolvency and bankruptcy.

    That will have a cascading effect that will cost American lives, as they lose health care, as they lose access to public housing, as they lose access to food supplements that are provided by the federal government. It would be a catastrophic effect on America as we know it.

    And, quite frankly, it would destroy the America that it took our ancestors centuries of sacrifice to build. That's the reason to be against this bill is that, yes, it spends a whole lot of money. But you know what? It doesn't pay for it. What it does is, it borrows it.

    And that means it's putting the burden our kids and grandkids, except that our financial circumstances are so dire, we're no longer talking about our kids and grandkids having to struggle with this debt. It's people who are living today that are going to have to suffer that burden. And we simply can't do that to our country.

  • John Yang:

    Earlier today, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Mac Thornberry, said, "If you vote no, you're voting against the military."

    You have got a lot of military workers at the Redstone Arsenal in your district in Huntsville. Do you think that explanation is going to be — is going to satisfy them?

  • Rep. Mo Brooks:

    Absolutely not.

    If we go into an insolvency and bankruptcy, what gets paid first under the United States constitution? Debt service. What is second under statutory law? All of these entitlement programs. National defense is pretty close to the bottom.

    So, if we go into an insolvency and bankruptcy, you're looking at a situation in which national defense could be zeroed out. That would have a devastating effect on the national security of the United States of America, and it would also cost over 30,000 people in my district jobs immediately.

    So, long term — and that's what I'm focused on is long term — this bill is devastating to the national defense, and I'm not going to stand for it.

  • John Yang:

    You say you're looking at the long term, but in the — is the short-term threat to a government shutdown for the government contractors, for NASA at Huntsville in your district, is that worth it?

  • Rep. Mo Brooks:

    Well, we don't need to shut down the government. All we need to do is pass whatever legislation is necessary to properly fund national defense and every other aspect of the federal government.

    And we on the House side, we have done that on numerous occasions, and we did it all back in September or earlier. The problem is, Chuck Schumer and the Democrats in the Senate, they want us to be in this continual continuing resolution situation.

    They want to us continually be risking a government shutdown. And I wish that they would decide that it's more important to fund national security than it is to put us in this kind of quandary on a regular basis with continuing resolutions.

    Now, to be fair, it's Mitch McConnell and the Republicans who have insisted on a 60-vote rule, rather than a mere majority, that has empowered the Democrats in the United States Senate to be such troublemakers when it comes to avoiding these government shutdown risks on a regular basis.

  • John Yang:

    I want to be clear on what you want here.

    Now, is it — are you objecting to removing the caps, the spending caps that the Senate is talking about? Or do you just want that offset, that additional spending offset?

  • Rep. Mo Brooks:

    I want us to be financially responsible, where we do not increase the risk of America going through a debilitating insolvency and bankruptcy.

    Just by way of example — and I'm going to share some data with you — you remember we had four consecutive years of trillion-dollar deficits. That resulted in large part in Republicans capturing the House. And we worked hard to reduce that annual deficit down to $438 billion three years ago.

    Two years ago, it went in the wrong direction, up to $585 billion. Last year, it went in the wrong direction, $666 billion. With this bill, we're going to push the deficit through the trillion-dollar mark. That's going to adversely affect credit markets. That's going to drive up interest rates. In turn, that's going to suppress the stock market.

    And I think you saw a little bit of that today, as news started getting out as to how financially irresponsible this legislation is and how much more money the federal government is going to have to borrow. And you look at all the cascading effects of this legislation, and nobody who has any financial sense at all could possibly be for it.

    We have already got the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office, the comptroller general of the United States a year ago warning us that our current financial path, as a country, is unsustainable, which in accounting language is really, really bad, meaning we're heading towards an insolvency and bankruptcy.

    And now you add to it a spending bill that increases our deficit by at least $200 billion, that collectively with everything else causes us this year to blow through the trillion-dollar mark, with every single year thereafter being in excess of $1 trillion of additional debt, and you can see that it's unsustainable, and that will collapse in time the government of the United States, when we no longer have the money to pay for the things that citizens are used to receiving.

  • John Yang:

    Do you think the Freedom Caucuses as a bloc is going to stand up against this?

  • Rep. Mo Brooks:

    Well, the Freedom Caucus, by and large, puts country first. This is a no-brainer.

    Quite frankly, the only folks who should be voting for this are the debt junkies, who love unsustainable spending bills. But if you're going to be financially responsible and you're going to put country first, as much as we love some of the spending aspects of it, we have to vote no in order to save the solvency of the United States of America.

    We pay these financial gurus to give us collective advice, and they're warning us. They're screaming at us. They're putting the warnings in writing. And to ignore it is financial folly.

    I suggest people look at what's going on in Venezuela, where the inflation rate last year was 800 percent, where 75 percent of their population over a recent 12-month period had an average weight loss of 19 pounds per person. That's 22 million to 23 million people who can't get enough calories to sustain their body weight.

    Do you really want America to go through that with an insolvency and bankruptcy of a central government? Research Venezuela. You will see how bad it is. Look at Greece, a country that's been bailed out on three different occasions, and you will see how bad it is.

    Look at Puerto Rico, and you will see how bad it is. We cannot let America go there.

  • John Yang:

    Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, sir, thanks for joining us.

  • Rep. Mo Brooks:

    Thank you.

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