HH: Joined now by Congressman Tom Price, who is chairman of the Republican Study Committee. Congressman, I know you heard Steve King talking to me, and it sounds to me like there’s a great division within the Republican conference, and that a lot of the conservatives, both there and across the country, are worried that the Republicans are going to fold up here.
TP: Well, I didn’t hear all of what he said. I caught the last bit of his interview. But I think there is, there certainly is a concern that we’re, that we stick to principle, that we stick to the pledges that we have made, understanding that the budget that’s just been introduced this week is a huge accomplishment by putting, if enacted, when we pass it, would put in place all sorts of wonderful, wonderful revisions and reforms to the system of government, and change fundamentally the way that we do business here.
HH: Oh, I think that the Ryan plan is a great one. And it’s sort of like a party platform that everyone can cheer for. But the rubber’s meeting the road right now, Congressman. Do you think the Speaker is going to bring back any of the riders like the Obamacare rules, the EPA rules, defunding of Planned Parenthood, defunding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting?
TP: Yeah, I think we’ve got two plays. One is on the continuing resolution, and the other is on the debt ceiling, because both of those have to become law. And so what he’s doing in terms of his negotiation, I think is likely, and I don’t know this, but likely splitting up the ones that he, we will fight for on the C.R., and the other on the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is one that where you can probably get more than you can on a C.R. because of the magnitude of the underlying bill itself.
HH: Now I’m very worried, though, about the reports about this caucus meeting the other night. It sounded like a loyalty test sort of thing.
TP: Well, the one that was announced with the defense spending? Is that what you’re referring to?
HH: No, when the Republicans got together in caucus the other night, and people stood up and said the Speaker’s the quarterback, he’s called the play, we’ve got to get behind it, rah, rah.
TP: Yeah, but that’s the kind of, I mean, this is a team sport here in Washington when it ultimately comes down to shirts and skins when the bill goes out. And you see whether or not the team is able to stick together. And the goal of the conference is to get as many people pushing to move things as far to the conservative side as possible. And then once you’re able to get it as far as you can, then each individual member has to make a decision as to whether or not that’s far enough for them.
HH: You know, Congressman, the trouble with that analogy is, though, it treats voters and activists like fans as opposed to owners. And I’m afraid…
TP: Not at all.
HH: …that that is what is taking, that they really don’t care about what’s being said out here. You do. I know, I’ve talked to you about this.
TP: Yes. Not at all.
HH: But I don’t think there’s…
TP: And let me tell you why, because you can’t rely on any votes on the other side. And so what we’ve got to do is, within our own conference, is push as hard as we can to get things in the direction of conservative governing philosophy, and then as I say, every individual member then has to make a decision as to whether or not that’s a move in the right direction that’s worthy of their vote or not. And that’s just, that’s the way that a legislative body works. It was the same at the state level. It’s the same at every single legislative body. It’s a little worse here in Washington, because you can’t count on any help from the other side.
HH: I get that, but it does seem like we started out negotiating against ourselves with that $30 billion dollar budget C.R. that came out, and then it got upped…
HH: And then we negotiated it backwards.
TP: No, you’re right.
HH: And it just seems like it’s been a disaster from day one in that you know, come time to fight for Paul Ryan’s plan, there aren’t going to be any people in the stands.
TP: Well, I sure hope not, because if you look at the budget which is really the big deal, there are dozen stipulations and program changes in there that each one of us would be fighting as hard as we could for, and rejoice ecstatically if any one of them had been adopted in the past – Medicare reform, Medicaid bloc granting, across the board tax reductions, decreased corporate tax rates to a level that’s competitive with the world, spending cap, increase in job creation. I mean, on and on and on. So it’s good, good stuff.
HH: Oh, Congressman, absolutely. And I extolled it all day yesterday, and will continue to do so, and hope that Saxby Chambliss, your colleague, walks away from the Senate negotiations, because Kent Conrad said the Ryan plan’s dead on arrival. Well, then we ought to throw in. But here’s my problem.
HH: You’re a medical doctor.
HH: If I walk in and I’ve got some kind of malignant cancer, and you tell me I’ve got a great plan, and I’m going to try and get it adopted by the hospital staff in six months, and I can’t guarantee I’m going to get it adopted by the hospital plan, but we love this plan and we’re going to treat you for the cancer in six months, as opposed to right now and doing it. So if the Republicans really believe that we’re on the precipice of a fiscal crisis, won’t they go down fighting right now? Won’t they fight for all of these riders, for all of these things as though it mattered that much?
TP: Yeah, absolutely. There’s a group of us that would indeed do that. And the question is whether or not that group is large enough to move the entire conference. And that’s a question that I don’t know yet. I mean, these things here, as you well know, when push comes to shove and you bump up against the crisis, that’s when the final decisions are made. And I wish I could tell you that I thought we were going to be at $61 billion dollars with all of the riders, but I don’t think that’s going to be the case. I hope we’re at $61 billion dollars with riders that, any that are left on the table, are included in the debt ceiling debate as we move forward in the next number of weeks.
HH: Okay, let me, one more try at this.
HH: Do you think we’ll get anything?
TP: Oh yeah.
HH: Now you know, now $40 billion isn’t anything. I mean, any of the riders?
HH: Because if he comes back and says we got $40 billion or $38 billion and no riders, that’s a massive loss. That’s a disaster.
TP: I don’t think that could pass.
TP: No, I think we will have some of the riders. Absolutely. And I don’t know which ones are being moved in the negotiations right now. But no, I think we’ll have riders. I don’t think you could pass $40 billion dollars and no riders.
HH: And of course, there are riders, and there are riders. The big four – Obamacare regs, EPA regs, Planned Parenthood, and Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Is that generally agreed those are the big four?
TP: I think that’s fair. I think that’s fair. And if I had to guess on this, we’d see Planned Parenthood and NPR.
HH: Amen. That’s a win.
HH: Now last question, we’ve got about a minute, Doc. Saxby Chambliss has been treating with Kent Conrad and this gang of six. What’s your advice to him now that Kent Conrad came out and said the Ryan plan is silly, we’re not doing that?
TP: Well, I’d give him the same advice that I’d give to any member of the Senate who wants to responsibly represent their constituents and defend liberty and freedom, and save this country, and that is the Republican budget is the path to prosperity, truly, and they need to get on board and support it just as diligently as they can.
HH: Oh, that is music to our ears. Thank you, Congressman. We’ll check back with you next week.
TP: Take care, Hugh.
HH: Congressman Tom Price.
End of interview.