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Congressman Steve Stivers on Defense Spending

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Congressman Steve Stivers from Ohio’s 15th Congressional District joined me today to begin a parade of Congressman all discussing the need to get defense spending back to a number that meets the needs of the national’s national security:




HH: I had to really debate about this next guest, because he’s a Bengals fan. Congressman Steve Stivers is Ohio’s 15th Congressional District. It’s a good district. It’s got Columbus in it, it’s got my nephew’s alma mater, Denison. He’s on Financial Services, where our pal, John Campbell, used to hang out. But the man is a Bengals fan, so it’s with a bit of leeriness I tell my 89.9 audience in Columbus and thereabouts welcome to Congressman Stivers. Good to have you on, Congressman.

SS: Hey, Hugh, thanks for having me, and I’m a long-suffering Bengals fan, because we can’t seem to make it past the first game of the playoffs.

HH: Well, we can’t get to the playoffs, so I can’t really argue about that, although we did sign Tramon Williams today. We stole him from the Packers, so we’re feeling good. Congressman, you are on Financial Services, and I’ve been talking, I’ll talk to Mike Kelly next hour, Tom Cotton. I’ve been on the phone today with some of your leadership off the record. This budget resolution has got Defense hawks like me crazy. What’s going on, on getting the Defense Department the money they need?

SS: Well, we’re working hard to try to make sure that we can get the Defense Department the money that it does need. And you know, I’ve been in the Army National Guard 28 years. I’m a colonel. I still serve. I just was on duty this weekend. And I know we’ve got to do what we can to fix the problems created by the sequester on the Defense Department. And so we’re working hard to try to get that done. I know there’s an idea to try to figure out what can we do with overseas contingency operations funds. So I’m looking forward to seeing where they end up on the compromise of trying to deal with the Defense part of spending, because we have to defend our country.

HH: Now I did not know you were a colonel. Thanks for your service. That adds a lot of weight and gravitas to what you’re going to say, because I try and bring on the guys who are serving both in the Reserves and active duty backgrounds like Cotton and Sullivan over in the Senate. And that matters a lot to me. So tell me, does the civilian side understand what’s happened in the last three years to DOD?

SS: I think anybody that is involved in our defense appropriations process, or the Armed Services Committee, whether they have served in uniform or not, understand what has been happening to our Defense capabilities. And we’ve got to make sure that we bolster the operations and maintenance counts. We’ve got to make sure that we can provide funding for the technology and technological advances we need to be the best army in the world. But I will tell you we’ve also got to figure out how to move toward a balanced budget. And so there are competing things here. And if we continue to mortgage our kids’ future, it also undermines the national defense of our country. So we can, we need to make sure we set realistic and thoughtful goals, and I know there are a lot of people comparing whether we will ultimately do to the President’s budget, I would just tell you the President’s budget last time got zero votes in the United States Senate, and not even the Democrats would vote for it. So I know he has temporarily, if you look at the President’s budget line that he’s proposed, he’s temporarily proposed an increase in Defense spending. He’s also proposed $1.2 trillion dollars in new taxes. He’s also proposed over the ten year window cutting Defense massively. So I’m not sure any of us want to get on the President’s spending line. But I do think that it’s really important that we find funding for our very important overseas operations as well as maintaining a strong defense.

HH: Now I think the problem a lot of people don’t get is it’s very hard for the Speaker. And he’s a Buckeye, and so I try and give him some slack every now and then, but people blast him. But this President doesn’t deal in good faith. It’s hard to go do a deal with him. But in, and one of the Senators I talked to today said look, I’ll do a COLA increase on everybody if we can just get some money for DOD, and so will I. I think we’ve gotten to that point where we’re actually falling below the critical line.

SS: Yeah.

HH: Do you think enough Republicans are there to make another run at negotiating with him, even though his track record is, I don’t want to use the word duplicitous, but it’s just so unreliable.

SS: Well, the first thing we have to do is figure out what we can throw out there that everybody understands Republicans are for, and it has to get 218 Republican votes. No Democrats are going to bail us out on this budget. So it has to be a realistic, yet strong budget for Defense. And I don’t think we necessarily need to negotiate with the President. We need to just pass an appropriations bill that funds Defense, and pass an overseas contingency operation bill that funds Defense, and then send those to the President’s desk. And I do not believe that he will veto them, nor do I believe that this can’t be a bipartisan issue. I think a lot of Democrats will sign on for a strong Defense, ultimately, not all the super liberal Democrats, but some of the Democrats that are from moderate states or, you know, Republican states.

HH: Yeah, just look north. Tim Ryan is a friend of mine. He’s from my hometown.

SS: Yeah.

HH: And Congressman Ryan’s no crazy guy when it comes to Defense. He’ll do a normal deal.

SS: He will.

HH: But is there anyone leading that effort? In other words, it’s March and we’re going to get a budget resolution, and we’re not going to get to a Defense appropriation. Is there a sense of urgency around there that the Republicans really have to step up and get organized?

SS: There is a real sense of urgency. We need to pass a budget resolution soon, and I also in addition to serving on the Financial Services and Rules Committee, am a senior deputy with and work with Steve Scalise, our whip. And his job is the job to pass, to get the bills passed by building a coalition. And sometimes, that includes outreach to Democrats, and I’m sure that Steve Scalise is already talking to and working with folks to try to make sure that we can pass a Defense appropriations bill that funds the Department of Defense at a reasonable level to protect our national interest.

HH: Yeah, I’m a little bit worried. I didn’t know that we had a Bengals fan as the senior deputy whip. This is…

SS: I know.

HH: Undermines…

SS: It’s tough. I was born in Cincinnati and raised in a little town called Ripley, Ohio, just east of Cincinnati and then moved to Columbus to go to Ohio State, and had the good sense to stay in beautiful Columbus. But I did bring my Bengals and Reds leanings with me.

HH: Have you gone over and told Greg Walden, yet, that Ohio State remains the first ever national champion? I just want you to wear that T-shirt every day that we are the first…

SS: So I work with Greg Walden a lot on the National Republican Congressional Committee, too, and he and I bet on the game, and I told him I’d send him White Castles if his team won. And he’s supposed to send me some Harry and David fruit or chocolates or something, and I’ve not seen them, yet. But I do remind him periodically that we won the game.

HH: The bad news, I’ve got to warn you about this, Ohio State’s in the same bracket with Harvard in the NCAA. And I think that probably is causing you to lose a little sleep, Congressman.

SS: You know, it’s something about that team from Arizona I’m a little more worried about.

HH: I’m warning you right now, it’s a sleeper. Congressman, great to talk to you, thank you for joining me, we’ll stay in touch, Congressman Steve Stivers from Ohio’s 15th. He is a great Buckeye, and he’s the deputy leadership to the whip. I didn’t know that. We’re going to follow up with that, we’re going to follow how that budget unfolds.

End of interview.


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