Democrats Will Fight to Create Jobs and Decrease the Deficit

Jan 5, 2011 Issues:

Today on MSNBC’s Jansing and Co., Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Ranking Member on the House Budget Committee, made clear that House Democrats are ready to work with Republicans when they can find common ground to reduce the deficit and debt, but will also stand firm and fight when House Republicans backtrack on their pledge to cut the deficit in order to pursue tax breaks for special interests. Full text of the interview is below, and you can watch the video here:

JANSING: So what do you do as a Democrat now in the minority?

VAN HOLLEN: Well it’s a whole new day. And in the minority what we hope to do is number one, where we can find common ground with Republicans to move the country forward on jobs, we will do it. But where they’re set on doing things like repealing health care, which does not create a single job, and which, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, will actually increase the deficit over a period of time, we’re going to fight them. I think the American people are just now learning about many of the patient protections that they have as part of the health care reform bill. People can keep their kids on their insurance policies until the age of 26. You can’t throw your kid off because of preexisting conditions. These are important protections, and what the Republicans are saying is just well get rid of them.

JANSING: So is your key role now to make these arguments? I guess, I’m wondering how much you think, realistically, you can get done legislatively. Is it really all about the Democrats in the Senate? Is it for you about, and I’m saying you in the Democratic minority, just to spend the next two years setting up for 2012?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, no. I hope we can find some common ground. For example, I’m looking forward to serving as the Ranking Member, the senior Democrat, on the Budget Committee along with the Chairman of the Committee, Paul Ryan. There may be areas that we can find common ground on the budget. We’re all focused on trying to reduce the deficit and the debt. We may have somewhat different approaches to doing that, but where we can we will.

JANSING: Let me tell you, he spoke this morning. They made a big show in their Pledge with America promising to cut $100 billion in spending and now they are scaling that back by half. So Paul Ryan was asked about that this morning. Let me play for you what he said.

RYAN: No, we’re not reneging on it. First of all a 5 percent cut in our budgets we don’t think is a drop, we think it is an important first step. But the problem with the $100 billion point was we said we were going to bring spending down to 2008 levels. We are half way through the fiscal year right now. So the problem is half the spending cats are already out of the bag. And that is why that number has become compromised.

JANSING: Is he right or are they reneging?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, what they are recognizing is the hard reality. That it is one thing to state, in sort of abstract terms, that you’re going to slash the budget. It’s another thing all together when you recognize the real world impact. So what they are doing is finding out that if you really want to start cutting across the board and slashing education, it means you’re going to be kicking a lot of kids off of early education programs. You’re going to be denying people their Pell Grants to go to college. So these things have real world impacts. They are clearly having to adjust some of their pledges to reflect the reality.

JANSING: But do you think, and look I’ve looked at the exit polls as you have, let’s say you know for example on health care and people are split on it, but then when you start asking people do they want to take insurance away from particular groups, then they don’t want to do it. When you look at the budget cuts, you know, people want the deficit to come down, but when you start talking about Social Security or Medicaid they start backing off. How are the tough choices going to get made then?

VAN HOLLEN: Well everyone is going to have to give a little as part of a give-and-take process.

JANSING: Where do you think you’re willing to give?

VAN HOLLEN: I think on the Democratic side we are willing to make the hard decisions on both the spending side and on the revenue side.

JANSING: Some specifics though?

VAN HOLLEN: Let’s just talk about the budget proposals they are going to be making. We’ll have to look at the specific impact when they go through the appropriations process. At the Budget Committee level what we do is set the targets. For example, Paul Ryan has talked about a provision that would allow for expedited rescissions – complicated term, what it means is that it sets up a process for helping reduce unnecessary spending. And so that may be an area where we can find common ground depending on the structure. A lot of devil in the details.

JANSING: So some of these structural changes they are talking about you think might be good?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, some of them. Let me quickly add that later today in the Rules Committee, they’re going to makes some changes that actually will open the door to increasing the deficit and increasing the debt. And the reason is they are pursuing tax breaks for special interests above their deficit reduction objective. And that’s a policy choice they’re going to have to make. But it’s pretty clear in these rules, which say very categorically that we’re not going to recognize the budget deficit impact of tax cuts – say for hedge fund managers or somebody else – that they are allowing that priority – to allow continued tax breaks – to trump the idea that we are going to reduce the deficit and debt. And that’s going to be spelled out in their rules package. We’re going to have a big debate about it. And the American people should decide whether they really think it’s fiscally responsible to say we are going to ignore the deficits when they’re created by tax breaks.

JANSING: Well you guys are hitting the ground running, there’s no doubt about that.