Van Hollen: Speaker Boehner Has Issued This Ultimatum Which is Going to Hurt the Economy
Washington, DC – Today Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, appeared on MSNBC’s Jansing & Co. to discuss Speaker Boehner’s threat to hold the debt ceiling hostage to spending cuts that will threaten our economic recovery. Video of the interview is available here and the transcript is below.
CHRIS JANSING, HOST: I want to bring in Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Democrat from Maryland and Ranking Member of the Budget Committee. It’s always good to see you, Congressman. Good morning.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Chris. Good morning. Good to be with you.
JANSING: You know this: John Boehner is threatening to block an increase in the federal debt ceiling by early next year unless there are significant cuts to federal spending. Let me get your reaction to that.
VAN HOLLEN: Well, this is very unfortunate. The President wanted the Congressional leadership down at the White House to talk about how we could boost the economy, increase job growth, and Speaker Boehner issued this ultimatum which is going to hurt the economy. It is absolutely reckless and irresponsible to threaten that the United States will not pay its bills. These are bills for debts already incurred. It would be like you and I saying we’re not going to make our mortgage payment or we’re not going to pay off our credit cards. If the United States of America threatens to default on its debt it will create huge uncertainties and be a big drag on the economy when we should be looking for ways to boost economic growth.
JANSING: Well I want to play a clip of what Congressman Steve Israel said last night about John Boehner when he was on Hardball.
REP. STEVE ISRAEL: Chris, I think the problem is that the inmates are running the asylum. John Boehner doesn’t have control of his caucus. You know what America needs? America needs a Republican party. You know this better than anybody, Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill, at the end of the day, could negotiate a compromise.
JANSING: Do you thing that’s right? Do you think Boehner is in kind of a tough spot? Is he dealing with tea party members who are making this a huge campaign issue?
VAN HOLLEN: There’s no doubt that the tea party tail is wagging the elephant here in the United States House of Representatives. That has been the case from day one, that’s what brought us to the edge of crisis last year when they made the same threats with respect to the debt ceiling. That’s why you get big bipartisan votes out of the Senate – Democrats, Republicans voting together on things like the Violence Against Women Act, the transportation bill – and yet when they come over to the House, the Republican tea party caucus does not want to take that bipartisan approach. We would have already passed both of those measures I just mentioned, the Violence Against Women Act, the transportation bill, had the House Republicans simply allowed an up or down vote on that. But they’re against compromise. It’s always their way 100 percent or no way, and that does not solve problems.
JANSING: But getting into this debt ceiling fight again, do you think that this is just part of their ideology – and we know how the tea party folks feel about the debt and they’ve been very clear from the beginning how they feel about the debt – or do you think that they are looking at the possible political consequences for the President? Look what happened the last time, Standard & Poor’s downgraded our bond rating, I mean, could that happen again? And the consequences in the stock market, and we’ve seen when the stock market goes down, often Barack Obama’s approval numbers go down.
VAN HOLLEN: Well, I certainly hope that they’re not using this to intentionally hurt the economy, but it is a self-inflicted wound on the economy. There’s no reason we have to put ourselves in this precarious position.
Look, there’s no disagreement about the need to reduce our long-term deficits, there’s agreement on that. The issue is how. And Democrats have said we should take the same balanced approach that bipartisan groups have recommended. We need to make some tough cuts, but we also need to get rid of a lot of the special interest tax breaks, especially for people making a million dollars a year. Republicans want to do it only by cutting, which means you end the Medicare guarantee, you cut very important investments to help opportunity and help the economy grow, whether it’s in education or infrastructure.
So, the problem with what John Boehner’s talking about, the Speaker is talking about, is that he’s talking down the economy, creating uncertainty. I would also point out, Chris, that the Republican budget in the House, the one that the Speaker supports, would require us to lift the debt ceiling by $5.2 trillion. So their own budget violates the very rule that the Speaker put forward. So this is – he’s playing politics, but the problem is it’s beyond just politics because it really does put the economy at risk.
JANSING: Congressman Chris Van Hollen, always good to have you on the program, Thank you.
VAN HOLLEN: Thank you, good to be with you.