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Georgia Appropriations Committee member Tom Graves with clarity on spending cuts

Thursday, March 24, 2011
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HH: We’ve got an important conversation with one of the bright, young stars in the United States Congress. And Tom Graves joins us. He represents Georgia’s 9th Congressional district, which is northwest Georgia, up against Tennessee. And Congressman Graves, welcome, it’s great to have you on.

TG: Well, great to be with you. Greetings from the hills of North Georgia.

HH: Well, it’s good to have you. Congratulations on voting against the three week continuing resolution. Why did you do that, Congressman?

TG: Well you know, just as you know, I think American know there’s no, we can’t keep waiting and operating on two and three week increments at the federal government. We’ve got to make significant cuts, and they’ve got to happen as soon as possible. And we’ve seen how the Democrats operate in the past, and they love the continuing resolution concept, because it preserves their programs, it’s a stall tactic. And we just can’t do that anymore. America deserves better. In November, they sent a very strong message, and they said hey, guys, let’s get it done, and let’s get it done now. So I’m pleased to have voted against that. And I hope that brings it to a head here in the next couple of weeks when we face the end of this continuing resolution we’re under, that folks are going to get together and say let’s make those significant cuts, and let’s get on with it. We’ve got big issues to take care of.

HH: Now Congressman, there is a long story in the Washington Post this afternoon about the riders. And there are really five huge issues – the $60 billion total, the Obamacare regs, the EPA carbon regs, Planned Parenthood and Corporation for Public Broadcasting. And Senator Durbin says if they just drop all those, we can get to a deal. What do you think about that negotiating posture?

TG: (laughing) I think there are folks in the Senate that are willing to compromise and negotiate away America’s future. That’s what I think. I think right now, considering where we are, the fiscal mess we’re in, we’ve got to address the issues now. We need to eliminate all this unnecessary spending. You know, when we just think about years in the past, I mean, Washington hasn’t been forthright with the American people. They have overcommitted and overpromised and overspent. It’s time they looked the American people square in the eyes and say we’re going to get things back under control, because America deserves better.

HH: Congressman, will you vote for a final C.R. that doesn’t defund Planned Parenthood? In other words, I want to be clear, would you consider voting yes on something that does provide some amount of funding for Planned Parenthood as a compromise?

TG: I’m not in a compromising mood whatsoever. I believe the American people deserve a government that has cut every bit of spending that it can cut, and beginning right now. Again, this is just a small down payment on the amount of cuts that have to occur over the next several months. And we’ve got to get to that 2012 budget where the significant cuts will really begin to shape up.

HH: I agree with that. How about, though, Corporation for Public Broadcasting? Is your position if there’s money for Corporation for Public Broadcasting in the next C.R., I’m not voting for it?

TG: You know, I mean, I think that’s wasteful spending, quite frankly. And I want to see the most significant amount of cuts made. And we’ve already voted to defund the NPR multiple times, and I expect that we’ll continue doing that, and I hope that we do. I know folks are willing, you know, in the Senate to say hey, if you have this one item in there, we’re willing to shut down the government. I mean, that’s absurd. I mean, that’s not governing. I mean, that’s protecting the special programs. And you know what? The sacred cow season? It is wide open right now. We need to get rid of those sacred cows.

HH: Now I love hearing that, but you know, there were only 52 of you who voted against the C.R. Do you think your number is growing to insist upon very stringent cuts, and very serious reform of things like Obamacare regs and EPA regs?

TG: Oh, absolutely. That number has grown significantly since that last vote, and there are probably a lot of members who really wanted to vote no at that time, but were willing to give it one more shot. So I do think, though, that that was the last temporary C.R. that you’ll see members vote for, at least in the House of Representatives.

HH: Do you think the Republican leadership is as fixed and as firm in their purpose, because they keep saying, they keep saying we’re not going to shut down the government under any circumstances. That’s what is sounds like, which is kind of giving away the negotiating store, isn’t it?

TG: Well, I think it shows who really wants to talk about that, and that’s the Democrats. And you know, the left wants to continue bringing that up. It’s really just a scare tactic so they can continue preserving some of their programs. But I’d say the leadership in the House has done a tremendous job of first of all, putting up the significant H.R. 1 that had just billions and billions and billions of dollars of cuts, letting the House work its will, passing it over to the Senate. The Senate, of course, sat on it, and didn’t really do anything whatsoever, offer any ideas as a result of it. So then the leadership said look, here’s another shot at it. Here’s some more cuts. We’re going to maintain that same cutting level on the two week increments. So I think leadership’s done all they can do. Where they’ll draw the line? I haven’t been a part of that conversation, but I can say that the conservatives in the House are going to hold a very strong line. We’re going to stand in the gap, because I mean, we’ve got to do it, and we’ve got to do it now. And just to give you the best illustration of that, I called into the show tonight, I stepped out of my son’s 11th birthday party. And you know, I think about him and my two daughters. Eight to ten years from now, if we haven’t addressed this right now, they’re going to be asking me, they’re going to say dad, what did you do on your watch? And when I look at them eight to ten years from now, I’m going to say you know what? We did everything we could do to prevent the mess that could have happened. So I mean, there are guys that are willing to stand in there. And to see this freshmen class operate is really encouraging and optimistic.

HH: Well, am I glad you’re on Appropriations, because the culture of that committee is not exactly go to the wall to get spending cuts done.

TG: (laughing) Yeah, this is, it’s a new day in the Appropriations committee. And of course, you know, I’m one of the new breed of appropriators. I’m a saver not a spender. There’s nothing I’m not willing to look at to see where can we be more efficient, more effective. Let’s get rid of duplicative programs, no earmarks, stop putting mandates on the states, and on businesses. I mean, that’s how appropriations, that’s the lens I’m looking through, and I’m even asking agencies when they come before our subcommittee to present us with options that cut 10, 20 and 25% from their budget, and how they can accomplish their core missions in doing so.

HH: Tom Graves, how did you end up on Appropriations?

TG: (laughing) That’s an interesting question. I mean, you know, it’s something I didn’t originally think I would pursue whatsoever, because again, I’m not one that wants to spend any money. And then seeing the culture of Washington, what had been happening and what needed to happen, you know, I was encouraged to give that a look, and to go in there and fight the fight. And so that’s…I think it’s just bringing a new perspective, allowing me to look at that, because coming from a balanced budget state like the state of Georgia, we’ve had revenue declines, I was in the general assembly, and we made the cuts. We didn’t raise revenue. We just kept cutting. And so I think that perspective was something that leadership wanted to have on there along with some of the other new members, and just new blood, and just a fresh way of looking at the process.

HH: Since you’ve been back in the district, I know that you get along very well with the Tea Party Patriots, www.teapartypatriots.org, and that you are a good conservative up and down the line. But once you’ve been back in the district, are the town halls you’ve been having, and the constituents you’ve been meeting, satisfied with the pace of change in D.C?

TG: You know, they certainly want to see more, just as I do. I mean, they’re satisfied with the role that we have played thus far, and we’re going to continue pushing as we have been. And I think that the Tea Party movement is just an incredible movement of accountability to all members, Republican or Democrat, and I think that pressure is so valuable right now, because it applies in a couple of different ways. One, it applies pressure from the accountability perspective, but also this important perspective, as one of the 54 that voted no on the three week continuing resolution, I mean, the constituents were behind me. They were supporting me in that. And that allows those who are willing to step out there and go against the norm to have the support they need to continue doing that.

HH: Congressman Tom Graves, great to make your acquaintance. I look forward to checking back with you early and often, and good luck in holding the line and getting your colleagues on the Appropriations committee to keep cutting, and to say no to Planned Parenthood, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, EPA and Obamacare regs. I hope you win the day.

TG: You got it. Well, thank you for having me, and I look forward to being back with you.

HH: Thank you, Congressman. Tom Graves, Georgia 9th Congressional district. That’s wonderful. That’s the most spot-on I’ve had from an appropriator in, well, Denny Rehberg is good. Montana’s Denny Rehberg voted against the continuing resolution. And that’s what we need. Can we clone him?

End of interview.

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