Van Hollen on MSNBC: Boehner is Allowing a Very Small Faction to Hold the Entire House Hostage

Sep 18, 2013


Washington, DC – Today Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, appeared on MSNBC with Chris Jansing to discuss budget issues and the need to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Below is a transcript of his interview, and the video is available here.

CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC: I want to bring in Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Democrat from Maryland and Ranking Member on the Budget Committee. Congressman, always good to see you.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Good to be with you, Chris.

JANSING: You have these, really, two sets of criticisms of the President. One is that he has not been reaching out to Congress, and even some members of your party have criticized him for that. And you have Maureen Dowd writing in the New York Times today, “The man who connected so electrically and facilely in 2008, causing Americans to overlook his thin resume, cannot seem to connect anymore.”

When you look at what’s going on in Congress – and it’s easy not to like Congress, the American public will show you in polls that they don’t – is there a problem with the President’s leadership?

VAN HOLLEN:  No, I don’t think so at all, Chris. I mean, the President has tried to engage with Congress. He has engaged with the American people on all these issues that you’ve talked about that deal with domestic policy – whether it’s on gun safety legislation and universal background checks, whether it’s comprehensive immigration reform.

The President is on the side of the country. And you’ve got the House of Representatives, the tea party caucus, tying everything down. The immigration bill is a perfect example. It passed the United States Senate with a large bipartisan majority. We could actually pass it today, in the next 24 hours.

JANSING: Let me interrupt you there, Congressman, because he talked about immigration specifically with Jose Diaz Balart yesterday and I want to play that.


(VIDEO) PRESIDENT OBAMA: The only thing that’s holding it back right now is John Boehner calling it to the floor, because we’ve got a majority of Members of Congress, Democrats and some Republicans in the House of Representatives, who would vote for it right now if it hits. So this is really a question that should be directed to Mr. John Boehner. What’s stopping him from going ahead and calling that bill?

JANSING: Do you agree with that? Is it John Boehner? Does, indeed, the President have the votes?

VAN HOLLEN: Absolutely, he does. If the Speaker of the House brought up the comprehensive immigration bill that’s already passed the Senate, if he brought that up for a vote in the House today, it would pass. We could have it on the President’s desk by this afternoon.

So, it’s a perfect example of where you’ve got this determined, very extreme minority in the House blocking action and the Speaker deciding not to let the people’s House have a vote, but letting control of the House go into the hands of this small faction. Because if the people’s House, if this House had a vote today on comprehensive immigration reform, absolutely it would pass. It would be the law of the land within the next 48 hours.

JANSING: Republicans are also getting ready to take their 42nd vote in the House to defund Obamacare and I want to play what Mitch McConnell said yesterday.

(VIDEO) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, one thing all Republicans agree on is that we think Obamacare was the worst piece of legislation in the last 50 years. All of us who voted to defund it, delay it, pick it apart in one way or another – we know its wreaking havoc with the American economy. We have a record number of part time employees now as a result of Obamacare. Insurance premiums are spiking. I think it’s safe to say every Republican thinks it’s a huge mistake and would like to get rid of it.

JANSING: And as a result of that, Congressman, we know that the Republicans plan to tie a bill to keep the government running to defunding Obamacare. So if these are the Republicans’ terms, and McConnell said it pretty clearly right there, are we headed for a government shutdown?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, if they’re determined to take us in that direction, that’s what’s going to happen. As Mitch McConnell said, and as the House Republicans who just emerged from their caucus a little while ago here are saying –

JANSING: Can you and the President stop that from happening?

VAN HOLLEN: Excuse me?

JANSING: Can Democrats and the President stop that from happening, if you think that that’s a real possibility?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, as you know, Republicans are the majority in the House. So the way to stop that from happening is for the Speaker of the House to allow the entire House to work its will – and not hand the keys of control of the House over to what is even a small faction within the Republican Party.

He’s allowing that very small faction to hold the entire House, Republicans and Democrats, hostage. And they are now taking the position, as you said, that unless you turn health care back to the health insurance industry, they’re going to shut down the United States government. Or next, they are going to make sure we don’t pay our bills on time.

Those are all reckless things, and the Speaker has got to exert some leadership. He’s got to allow the full House to work its will. This is supposedly a democratic House, but he has imposed an artificial rule that says he won’t allow us to vote on anything in the House unless a majority of Republicans in the House support it. Not a majority of the full House, but just a majority of Republicans. And what that does, Chris, is it gives the most radical and extreme members of the tea party caucus a veto over any progress in this country. And that’s just wrong.

JANSING: Congressman Chris Van Hollen, it’s always good to see you. Thank you.

VAN HOLLEN: Good to be with you.