Congressman Greg Walden, chair of GOP transition team, on what the next Congress will look like
HH: Speaker-elect Boehner has designated Congressman Greg Walden of Oregon’s 2nd district as the head of the Republican transition team. He joins me now. Congressman, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show, it’s great to have you on.
GW: Hugh, it’s good to be back on with you. Thank you.
HH: Tell us what your job is. What’s the transition team supposed to do?
GW: You know, Hugh, thank you, it’s a good question. And what we are charged with is reviewing all of the rules of how our Republican conference operates, and how the U.S. House of Representatives operates, to implement the things we said we would do in the Pledge To America, and moving forward to open up this institution back so the American people can be part of the legislative process, to make sure there’s time to read the bills, all those things that Americans spoke pretty clearly about in the reforms they wanted. So we’re looking at the entire operations of the House, and then making sure that the new members who are coming to town can get properly educated about what’s here now, and how they can help change it. We want their energy. I was asked the other day are you going to be training the new incoming members. And I said actually, they’re going to be training us, I think. And so it’s a good thing.
HH: Great attitude on that. Now I saw earlier today our friend and your colleague, David Dreier, wants to put the cameras into the Rules Committee. That’s very good news.
GW: Yeah. I put out a statement commending him for that. You know, I think he’s the one when he was chairman began the process to make sure that Americans could watch lawmaking in the Rules Committee. And the Democrats then never installed the cameras. Everything else is there. It’s just, they just need the cameras and turn them on. It is time to get some sunlight into this institution and restore it as a real live legislative body. And I’ll tell you what, Hugh, I think you would find rank and file members from both parties that are equally fed up with how this place has been run for, I don’t know, six, eight, ten years. Both parties have…it’s just sort of an evolution that’s gone bad. And I think what you’re going to see is the reverse of that now. We’re going to do good things to open this up so that we can put those who want to reduce the growth of government in a better position than those in a system that’s favored auto-pilot spending. We’re going to open up the process so that people can see the laws as they’re being considered written, and be able to comment on them. We’re going to do the things we said we would do, that American people have said you better do it.
HH: Now Greg Walden, Congressman, I want to ask you about especially Obamacare. I was on with Megyn Kelly earlier today.
GW: Oh, sure.
HH: …and urging that every new governor appoint a new secretary of the department of stopping Obamacare. And I would like to know, do you think that the Republicans will move quickly to at least get to the Senate a repeal measure? Maybe it will have things like opening up the interstate market, maybe it will have preexisting condition exlusions…
HH: You know, the kind of stuff everyone agrees on.
HH: But will we get something to the Senate quickly?
GW: I would anticipate that. That’ll be a decision made, you know, once we actually have the levers of power. Remember, we don’t take office, this is the new Congress, until the first part of January. And so we’re actually going to be listening and working as a conference together to say what are our priorities. Obviously, we made a commitment to put up for a vote a repeal and replace measure. And that will be done. We also know that the number one commitment that we made with Americans is everything we do needs to be looked at through the prism of does this increase the Americans’ economy, and help get people back to work, and what can we do to reduce wasteful spending. So I think you’re going to see almost every week some measure come to the floor to cut spending. We can’t keep borrowing like this, Hugh. We can’t keep running up these deficits like they’ve been doing. I mean, this Congress that we’re still in didn’t even pass a budget, hasn’t passed any of the appropriation bills, that racked up well over a trillion in debt. It’s going to be a long time getting out of this, but we’re going to put our full muscle into it.
HH: Now today, sources near to the President and the White House floated the idea of a new bracket, you know, given up to a million dollars the Bush tax cuts, our decoupling that from a permanent extension for the middle class. And I hope you guys reject that. I hope you guys say no, the economy needs the rates we’re at. But how quickly can the conference get to that conversation about how to negotiate or preferably not negotiate with the White House?
GW: Oh, I’m not going to speak for the conference, but I think I could say pretty clearly my read of it is there’s, our commitment is to extend all of the tax cuts the way it is today. And you know, Hugh, as you may remember, I’m a small, was a small business owner in the radio business owner in the radio business.
HH: Yup, a broadcast guy.
GW: Yeah, exactly, and you know, the one thing as I go around and talk to small business people, they need certainty. They don’t have any of it. Let’s give them certainty by extending, and the worst thing you could do is raise rates on anybody during this recession. And let’s just keep the tax code where it is for a couple of years at a minimum, and get this thing back on track. Let’s give that certainty there. Let’s go after these job killing regulations that are coming out of President Obama’s agencies. We need to do the oversight on these agencies. I mean, there’s just an enormous workload that needs to be done to put the taxpayer back in charge, not the government, to downsize government, not grow it, increase the private sector job output. And there’s a lot of work to be done.
HH: Now the transition committee is not the steering committee. That’s won’t be seated for a while.
GW: That’s correct.
HH: But when that steering committee sits, what’s your understanding, Congressman Walden, about the role of seniority, because I know a lot of conservatives are not happy with the idea that seniority automatically trumps everything else.
GW: And it doesn’t. It hasn’t, and it doesn’t. I can give you examples over the last few years where members who were junior actually became chairs, because here’s what we do. And let me back up just a bit, because I don’t want to get ahead of myself. The steering committee has not been selected yet.
GW: The conference will elect the members to the steering committee, okay? So Republicans will decide who’s making that decision on who gets on what committee, and who’s going to chair them. And so each of these people who want to be chair of a committee actually have to come before the steering committee with a presentation and a plan of how they would operate the committee, what they stand for, what they will fight for, and how they will deliver, how they’ll do the oversight, how they’ll keep focus on our Pledge To America, and the priorities for our nation, the principles we stand for, and America’s founding values. They’re just going to have to do that. And then the steering committee will decide. So nobody’s got a lock on anything right now.
HH: Now you’ve got more than, how many new members, you’re going to have 80 new members?
GW: Yeah, that’s what, Hugh, it’s a good point. We all talk about how we got a net increase of 60 plus members. But really, there are at least 80 freshmen. I haven’t had time to look today to see if any other races have solidified. There are ten or twelve still pending out there this morning.
HH: That’s extraordinary. How do you they even figure out how to express themselves, because they represent a different moment in American history that’s very real.
GW: Yes, sir.
HH: How do they do that?
GW: Well, two things. One, remember, everybody that’s being elected that was elected in November stood in the same environment. So all of us have stood up with our voters, said here’s what I stand for, and they either accepted or rejected us. And so we’re all in that boat. So how do they participate? We have a very open process, a very open communication process in our conference. They will have every opportunity, and I assure you, they will speak out. Second, in the transition team that I’m leading, the GOP transition team, we will have several members out of this incoming freshman class on that committee.
GW: They will have, and I’ve already talked to them. And the third thing I would say, Hugh, is remember a lot of us were out there helping them get elected. We’ve gotten to know these people. We have stood shoulder to shoulder with them, we have campaigned with them, we have raised money for them. And you know, that’s the Speaker of the House, well, our future Speaker of the House, John Boehner. I don’t know how many events he did, but it’s well over 150.
GW: And Eric Cantor, and Kevin McCarthy, and Pete Sessions at the NRCC and myself. You know, we’ve been at this a while. We helped recruit them. We helped recruit them. These are our people, because they share our values, and we share theirs. And so I think you’re going to see a really positive energy flow here into Washington that’s going to clean out this place, and fix it, and get it back to where the American people can have confidence and participate in the legislation. You can watch in on TV or radio, listen to it on radio. You know, it’ll be back to the way it should be, like our founding fathers always thought it would be.
HH: Greg Walden, Congressman extraordinaire, thanks. We look forward to checking in with you often in the weeks and months ahead.
End of interview.