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House Budget Committee member Ken Calvert Explains Why Only $32 Billion In Cuts So Far

Wednesday, February 9, 2011
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HH: I am joined now by Congressman Ken Calvert of California’s 44th Congressional district. He is a member of the House Budget Committee. He’s a friend, and Congressman Calvert, I’ve got to tell you, when we booked you this morning, I didn’t know that the story would come out that the Republican budget would propose only $32 billion dollars in cuts. And the anger in the audience, on the emails, on the Tweets, on the phone calls, is immense. So I just wanted to warn you that wow, people are mad about this. I think it’s worse than the immigration bill. What’s the defense going to be for basically less than a 1% cut in the budget?

KC: Well, Hugh, you’re right. It’s not enough, but we’re working in the right direction. This is a great debate to have, that we’re talking about cutting, cutting and cutting. $32 billion dollars, by the way, is the net difference between the continuing resolution and the 2010 levels. It’s a $74 billion cut from the President’s 2011 request. But what we’re looking at, I know, is straight numbers. What you’ve got to remember is we’re going to go to the floor next week for the first time since, I think, in the history of Congress, with an open rule on a continuing resolution. You’ve been around this business a long time. Have you ever seen an open rule on a continuing resolution? That means any member of Congress can bring up a cutting resolution on the floor next week to cut that CR even more than what we’re presently doing. So this is the first step. This is the first step. And remember, we haven’t even gotten into the 2012 appropriation bills. The Democrats passed a continuing resolution through to March 4th. That’s a Democrat continuing resolution. From March 4th forward is our continuing resolution. And if that number, the number that we’re at right now on the 3-0, what we call the 302-A allocation we have, and the 302-B allocations we made in the subcommittees, we’re bringing that back to the 2008 levels for the balance of the year.

HH: Congressman, the Pledge To America said $100 billion dollar cuts in the first year.

KC: Well…

HH: And what I’m hearing from people is they consider this a default and a surrender, and an absolute double-cross. I know it’s not your…

KC: But we’re not through this process yet, either. We’ve got next week. We haven’t even passed the bill yet.

HH: But it’s the Budget Committee, selected by the Republican leadership to set the tone for the caucus. And if you guys are the budget cutters, you’re supposed to be the fiscal discipline guys as opposed to the appropriators. And you know the whole world up there. If you guys can only come up with $32 billion to guide the caucus, it’s, really, I expect a ‘peace is at hand, get a black umbrella, and give it to the Leader and the Speaker, and have them declare peace in our time with the Democrats.’

KC: Well, you know, we’re discussing the discretionary non-defense, non-security part of the budget, which is about a little less than 20% of federal outlays. And we’re going to cut more than that $32 billion dollar number you’re talking about, and more than the $74 billion dollars that came off the President’s request. Remember, the Pledge was to cut $100 billion based off the President’s 2011 request. And we’re cutting the budget right now based on that request by $74 billion dollars. But that’s based upon what’s left in the fiscal year.

HH: Have you begun to hear, though…

KC: We can’t unspend money that’s already been spent in January, February and until March 4th, or actually since October, actually.

HH: One of the great comments I already received, one of the comments I already received, I posted it over at Hughhewitt.com, I want to read it to you, Congressman. $32 billion is only 0.9% of a $3.5 trillion dollar budget. It’s only 0.8% of $3.7 trillion dollar budget. So this is the leadership’s way of stating that 99.2% of the federal budget is untouchable, because that sure is the message that both the Dems and the Tea Parties will be taking away…

KC: Well, as you know, Hugh, we have to come to an agreement on the 70% of the budget which is non-discretionary money or which you know is the biggest part of the federal budget. That means that’s the interest on the national debt, mandatory spending, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and the rest of it. That makes up 70% of the federal budget along with defense spending.

HH: But what I’m hearing from people is they know that, they know that the budget deficit is made up of a lot of difficult issues, but they don’t consider it off limits. They want to know why you guys aren’t grabbing a hold of Social Security, doing things like raising the retirement age, if only by six months, saying no COLA next year or the year thereafter.

KC: Well, what we’re going right now is discretionary spending, which…and it doesn’t mean that we’re not going to look at Social Security and Medicaid and Medicare, and all of these other programs. We’ve just been in Congress for a few weeks. We can’t, we’re not going to attack these problems overnight. We’ve got to work with a lot of people to bring down these incredibly expensive programs.

HH: But are you hearing…you know, Congressman, I hear you, I understand the complexity. But it’s not good enough to this audience and to the Tea Party, and to the other people who are saying wait a minute, $100 billion in cuts, we would have given you that. That’s not much. That’s not much. It’s a little bit from discretionary spending. I don’t care where you get it from. But there’s no plan, either. No one’s put any…

KC: Well, this is the beginning, Hugh, this is the beginning of a process. I think people, you know, it’s a great debate to have, because people are going to be engaged. They’re going to be watching this debate next week. And when we have an open rule for the first time in six years on an appropriations bill, and the very first time, I think, in the history of Congress on a C.R., where we’re going to be cutting significant amounts of money from the federal budget. And we’re going to have cutting amendments on the floor that members are going to participate in on both sides. This may go on for a long time.

HH: Congressman, I can guarantee you. You and I know what an open rule, and how significant that is. But 95% of the people listening couldn’t give a nickel whether the rule is open or closed. They just want to see $100 billion bucks cut from the continuing resolution in seven months.

KC: And so do I. And you know as well as I do we have to get, it’s not, we’re not the only team that comes to this agreement. We’ve got to bring the Senate and the President to this $100 billion dollar number, and I think we will.

HH: But Congressman, I just had a caller anticipating that, saying well if that were the case, why bother passing a repeal of Obamacare if you’re worried about what the Senate or President will do. At least pass a $100 billion dollars worth of cuts, and the Republican Study Committee came up with $250 billion dollars worth of cuts.

KC: Well, we are moving in that direction, and we’re certainly going to look for the support in our caucus, and certainly any votes we can get from the other side, which I think will probably be zero, to move toward as many cuts as possible. But this is the beginning of the process.

HH: Is there any urgency…

KC: And let me tell you, Paul Ryan has worked his heart out, and he is determined to turn this Titanic around and get us on a proper spending path. And the Budget Committee is committed with him to do exactly that.

HH: Well I appreciate your coming on and doing that, because you know, we cannot find members. We can’t find the Leader, we can’t find the Speaker. What’s with that? Why aren’t they out arguing and defending this?

KC: Well, you know, this is, you know, I’m the first to admit. I’m the new guy on the Budget Committee. But this…it is a complicated process. And we’re working our way through this. The Democrats did a good job of screwing up this country the last number of years, and it’s not going to be overnight that we can fix this. But we’re going to do the best we can to get this spending cut, and get this country back on track, and get growth back in the economy.

HH: Congressman, we’ve got about a minute. Are you hearing from people what I’ve just been saying, that the $32 billion, anything less than $100 billion is unacceptable? Are you…

KC: We’re hearing, yeah, they want the spending cut, and I’m sure we’re going to be hearing a lot more of that next week. And we’re going to do everything we can to move this country in the right direction.

HH: Congressman Ken Calvert, I’m glad you’re on the Budget Committee, good luck with the axe. Tell them to go back and sharpen it.

KC: All right.

HH: I’ll talk with you soon.

End of interview.

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