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House Appropriations Committee member Kevin Yoder’s budget priorities

Sunday, March 27, 2011

HH: Pleased to welcome Congressman Kevin Yoder of the great state of Kansas. Congressman Yoder, welcome, it’s great to have you on the program.

KY: Hugh, thanks for having me on your show, sir.

HH: Well, I’ve got to start by saying it says here you went to the University of Kansas, so you don’t know much about basketball, and you’re already afraid of Ohio State putting the big hurt on, right?

KY: We’ve got a big game here in about 45 minutes, so our show will have to end before then. We’ve got to get in front of the TV and watch the Jayhawks beat Richmond this evening.

HH: If you can’t beat Richmond…

KY: I know….

HH: You probably came on early so you wouldn’t have to endure that if you can’t. But I’m just saying the Buckeyes are ahead of you, so it’s going to be bad. Kevin Yoder, you’re a freshman in the Congress, and you ended up on Appropriations. How did that happen?

KY: Well, I spent the last several years in the Kansas House, last two years of which I was the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. And we dealt there with the very same things we’re dealing with in Washington. We just had a few less zeroes at the end of the numbers. Overspending, bloated bureaucracy, years of neglect from legislators who were comforted by growing revenues that grew faster and brought revenue in faster than we could spend it. And we got to a point where when the revenue fell off, we hit a crisis. And so I led the charge in the legislature, one of the legislators who led the charge to cut spending, and balance the budget without raising taxes. And that experience, I think, is desperately needed in Washington. A lot of the folks in both parties just have never voted for a budget in their lives that cuts spending. And I voted for a bunch of them, and wrote a bunch of them in the Kansas legislature. So I guess they thought that qualified me to join the team there.

HH: Well, my buddy John Campbell tells me that you are hell on wheels on spending, and we applaud that. My question is will you vote for any more short term extensions of the C.R?

KY: Well, I think we’ve just about pushed that as far as we can. The idea there was to give the Speaker a chance to try to negotiate, or try to put him in the position where he could put us on the highest ground possible. And I think the theory there is that we don’t just pick every fight. We pick the most strategic, intelligent fights. And we’re at the point now, though, where I think the public’s losing patience, they elected a new majority, and they want to see some results. And we did cut $10 billion dollars in five weeks, although in the realm of things, that is statistically insignificant in terms of its ability to reduce the national debt. It’s actually the biggest set of cuts in history, which as a freshman, to me, is staggering that that number is the biggest we’ve ever done.

HH: Now my friend, John Hinderaker at Powerline said, though, in comparison terms, that’s one-third of one French fry in a Big Mac meal when it comes to cutting the budget. He did all the caloric calculations. So here’s the question I asked Tom Graves last night, and I’ll ask you. If the budget comes back and it doesn’t defund Planned Parenthood, will you vote for it?

KY: If it is a C.R. until the end of the fiscal year?

HH: Yup.

KY: If it cuts spending, and puts us on a better pathway towards fiscal reality and protects the future for our children and grandchildren, then yes.

HH: How about if it comes back, it does cut some spending, $40-50 billion, but it doesn’t cut Corporation for Public Broadcasting? Would you vote for that, Congressman?

KY: Probably yes. I mean, there are a series of things here that I would like to see in a bill, but I also understand that if we’re going to cut spending, if we ask for 100%, and expect 100% of every policy need that we have, there is no way that any bill will ever pass, it just will not happen. No one on this call, no one in this country can argue that Harry Reid will accept every single one of our demands. So we’re going to have to be, I think, flexible on some of them. But we need to keep our core principles, and that is that we are going to cut spending. And I don’t think we can shut the government down over the Corporation of Public Broadcasting.

HH: Well, I disagree with that, but you know, that’s up to your constituents to deal with, because I don’t think we get any closer to real spending reform until we start to eliminate programs. But I could understand a different mix. And so what’s the mix of the must-haves in the opinion of Kevin Yoder?

KY: Well, I think it certainly has to cut a significant amount of money, at least consistent with our $2 billion a week, or our $60 billion dollar approach. I think it does need to eliminate programs, as you said. I don’t think that we can expect that we draft the entire list of programs that get eliminated. I’m willing to be flexible on those. I certainly have my wish list. We voted for that, for many of those. There were things that weren’t even in that bill that I would have liked to have seen in there. There is no end to the amount of things we could put in there. But I guess for me, it would have to be a bill that is serious and not a bill that essentially appears to do something while not actually doing it.

HH: Well, that’s what I’m afraid of, is that we’ll get an announcement of $50 billion cut compromise, but no rider prohibiting Obamacare regulations, no rider prohibiting EPA carbon regulations, no defunding of Planned Parenthood, no defunding of CPB, and the House Republicans will attempt to tell us that’s a victory, when in fact it’s a rout. Are you going to be candid…

KY: I think we need some of those. I think we need to have some of those. I don’t think we can say we need every single one of them, because we just won’t get every single one of them.

HH: Well, I agree with that, but you just heard, again, I don’t know what the final mix is, but do we have to win something more than token spending reductions, because you and I both know $60 billion dollars is token.

KY: Yeah, I do think there was an election last November that stood for the fact that the federal government needs to eliminate programs, needs to start over on the health care bill, needs to stop cap and trade, or allowing the EPA to change the Clean Air Act, to make it regulate cap and trade, all those sorts of things. We had an election over this. And the President in 2008 said elections have consequences. He was elected and he pushed his agenda without a regard for what the minority party at that time, the Republicans, want. And so I think since we’ve just had an election that was one of the biggest repudiations of a president in American history, that election ought to have a consequence in the Congress.

HH: How about within the Appropriations Committee culture? You and Graves and Jeff Flake are supposed to be changing that culture. Do you see that happening?

KY: A little bit. You know, certainly the people that are on the committee, there’s 50 members on the House Appropriations committee, there are four freshmen of the 50. Most of them have spent their entire time on Appropriations working towards spending and dividing up the results of money in government. And so now it’s having to move towards more of an oversight committee where we’re going to, we’re in a role in which we ask questions, we probe, we cut spending, we force agencies to tell us what they can live without. And if they won’t tell us, then we’ll pick. And that’s just never happened before, so it’s kind of an unknown as to how the rest of the members will react. But I do know Congressman Graves very well. He’s one of the great new members, and doing an excellent job. Jeff Flake has been at this for a long time, Congressman Flake from Arizona, pushing this same issue. And so several of my colleagues on there are very committed to this, and it’s a tight margin on that committee. I mean, three or four folks split and don’t go along with bills that are bloated, I don’t know if they’ll be able to push the agenda.

HH: Well, we’ll keep trying to provide as much support as we can to you. It’s great to make your acquaintance. I hope you don’t boycott us after the Buckeyes put the big hurt on the Jayhawks, if that’s what happens if you get past Richmond. Good luck tonight, Congressman Yoder.

End of interview.

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