Van Hollen on MSNBC: In a Government Shutdown, Everybody Loses, Most of All the Country and the American People

Sep 24, 2013


Washington, DC – Today Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, appeared on MSNBC Live with guest host Mara Schiavocampo to discuss the continuing resolution and health care. Below is a transcript of his interview, and the video is available here.

MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO, MSNBC: Joining me for more on this is Congressman Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland and Ranking Member of the Budget Committee. Thanks for being here, sir.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: It’s great to be with you, Mara.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Congressman, a final vote could happen on Sunday, giving Congress only two days to avoid a government shutdown. A new National Journal poll finds that 63 percent oppose shutting down the government to defund Obamacare, but there could be equal blame for President Obama and Republicans if the government does shut down. So does everyone lose if we don’t find a fix in this?

VAN HOLLEN: Oh, I think everybody loses, most of all the country and the American people. So, I’m hoping people will come together to work this out. In fact, that’s what we should be focused on, trying to work this out, rather than trying to figure out who gets the blame.

Right now in the Senate, you see Republican Senators who are turning on Senator Cruz. I mean, they have made statements saying, for example, that it’s the dumbest idea they have ever heard, that it’s “silly.” Senator McCain called it “irrational.” So Senator Cruz is rapidly losing support for his approach because it’s so extreme, because it says that he’s going to shut down the government if you don’t end the Affordable Care Act, which is already, today, providing millions of Americans with more protections.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: But to the end of trying to make things work, what, if anything, are you and your Democratic colleagues willing to compromise on?

VAN HOLLEN: Well we’ve made it clear that we want to work with the Speaker of the House to make sure that we keep the government open. And so the big question will be once the Senate strips out this provision that says they’re going to repeal Obamacare and sends that bill back to the House of Representatives, whether Speaker Boehner will allow a vote on that, or whether he will be pressured, once again, by his Tea Party extremists in the Republican caucus to add another Obamacare provision or another unrelated provision, rather than getting on with the business of making sure we keep the government open.

There is another very important debate here, over what the appropriate level of funding is. I believe that the sequester which is in place, which is a Washington-speak word for “job killer,” is having a very negative impact on essential investments. The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan agency, says it will cost us a million jobs, approximately, by this time next year. So we’re going to have to come together at some point to replace that sequester. But right now the question is whether the Speaker, when this bill comes back, will allow it to move forward or whether he’ll once again attach these unrelated provisions.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Now, President Obama kicks off a six-month rollout of Obamacare during a conversation with former President Clinton later today. When it comes to the communications battle here and selling this law to the public, do you think the White House has failed in that, in allowing critics to dominate the conversation?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, what we’ve seen from all the polling is that when people are asked about the individual provisions of the Affordable Care Act – whether it’s making sure kids don’t get kicked off of their insurance plan because of asthma or other pre-existing conditions, or the fact that seniors on Medicare don’t have to fall into the prescription drug doughnut hole, people support it a lot.

What you’ve seen is a massive, a massive misinformation campaign, a campaign of distortion and scare-mongering. And I think what will happen is, as the other part of the law kicks in and people see that it will actually provide millions of Americans with more affordable care, that all that scare-mongering will be proven false. And, in fact, I think that’s what the opponents are most nervous about, that all their negative claims will be proven false and that people will see that these exchanges provide more affordable care, in addition to the parts that are already, today, providing help to millions of Americans.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: All right, Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen. Thanks so much for your time this morning.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.