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House Budget Committee vice chair, Scott Garrett, on the current and future budget, and the urgency to fix the deficit trajectory

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

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HH: Joined now by United States Congressman Scott Garrett. He represents northern New Jersey’s 5th Congressional district, has for about eight years. He is a member of the Financial Services Committee. In fact, he’s chairman of the subcommittee on Capital Markets and Governmental Sponsored Enterprises. That’s Fannie and Freddie. And he’s also the vice chairman of the House Budget Committee. Congressman Garrett, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

SG: Hey, thank you so much. Good to be with you.

HH: Well, you have to serve with my buddy Campbell on both of those committees, so I feel bad for you.

SG: Yeah, well, it’s an experience.

HH: Don’t those ties like distract you and blind you?

SG: Now I’ve grown used to it after eight years.

HH: Okay, I’ve been talking to him longer than that. And I’m now partially blind in one eye. Scott Garrett, when is the FY ’12 budget going to be unveiled by the Republicans on the Budget Committee?

SG: Okay, so that’s still the proverbial work in progress. As you know, we’re still knee deep in the fight of trying to deal with the budget, or the spending, if you will, for this year with the C.R. So we’ll be looking several weeks down the road before we’ll see the 2012.

HH: Now how is it being developed? I spent an hour with Chairman Ryan in the first week of the year, and he was hoping for an April unveiling.

SG: Right.

HH: Is that still holding?

SG: Yeah. Oh, sure. I think that’s on, still the game plan. And we’ll, it’s as I say, still a work in progress, and that’ll keep us right on line of where we have to be, and keep us right on line on where the normal course of procedure is on the budget.

HH: Will it be as bold as Scott Walker’s effort to balance the budget in Wisconsin has been?

SG: There you go. Let me put it this way. I will do everything in my power to make it as bold as possible, to try to bring the budget into balance. That hasn’t been done for a long time. I’ve worked on the RSC budgets over the years, to say that we should try to always present a budget that balances, and budget within the balanced window. And I think that’s something that the Republicans should be right behind.

HH: As your colleagues look at Wisconsin, and at the speech, I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to hear it yet, that Governor Walker gave today, a tremendous speech…

SG: Yeah.

HH: Are they taking sort of courage and resolve out of how he is winning this debate with the public?

SG: I think we should be. I mean, I think we take courage and strength from what happened in November, and with the freshmen class. I see them as coming to our rescue, and the cavalry coming in, and adding strength and backbone to this Republican conference. And now, what’s happening out in Wisconsin just adds to it. It shows you where the American public is on these issues, and that’s where Congress should be.

HH: But now when the first C.R. was unveiled, it was only $30 plus billion. The freshmen brought back $60 billion in cuts. They forced it there.

SG: Right.

HH: Do we have to go through that same dance with the actual FY ’12 budget? Or is it going to be hard-nosed from the start?

SG: Yeah, well, I was one that was with the RSC, the Republican Study Committee, that was taking part, leading that fight with the freshmen as well to push that number that started out at $58 billion dollars, that was the number that, as you know, the process, Paul Ryan as the Budget chair, is able to produce that number. He gets it to leadership, and that’s where they started. And as you know, we said no. Look, we have made a pledge, the Pledge With America. We said $100 billion dollars. And fortunately, the leadership listened to us and said okay, we can do it, and they went back, and 24 hours later, on that last day, I guess you could say, came up with the additional spending cuts that we needed to get us to where we are now.

HH: Now Congressman Garrett, in terms of how much we could actually close the deficit this year, it’s $1.6 trillion this year.

SG: Right.

HH: Can you produce a budget that’s even remotely close to balanced out of the House committee?

SG: Well, okay, so the budget that we will produce for 2012 will, in my hope, is to balance within what we call the budget window. And as you know, we budget on a ten year budget window. That’s how far out we look, that’s what we have been doing with the RSC, Republican Study Committee, budgets in the past years. And we hope to, at least on that perspective where I come from, that’s where we should be trying to aim for, and at the very least, if not better than that.

HH: Does that mean, what kind of magnitude of cut has to happen, then, between ’11 spending under your version of the C.R. and ’12 spending?

SG: Oh, well, first of all, the C.R. only takes a look at the spending with regard to the appropriated dollars. It doesn’t take, it doesn’t look at, it doesn’t take a look at the mandatory spending. And as you know, as much as we want to try to balance the budget on the backs of the appropriations, that’s not going to do it, because appropriations only make up a slice of the pie, and even there, you’re talking about other than defense or homeland security, although we did cut $16 billion dollars there. The real rub that you have to get to, the real problem you have to get to is mandatory spending – Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlements. So that’s where you have to make the largest cuts.

HH: Now Politico reported this morning, Congressman Garrett…

SG: Yeah.

HH: …that Social Security was off the table. Is that true?

SG: I don’t know that anything has been said by our leaders, although maybe I missed the press release, so to speak, that things are off the table. The last statement I heard that our leadership was talking about is that we’re going to be looking at entitlements. And that’s what we need to look at. But realistically, when you get into the weeds on this stuff, in order to get balance, you have to deal with the entitlements, primarily, as opposed to just discretionary, okay? And in the entitlement area, you really have to, the bigger nut to crack is not so much Social Security as Medicare and Medicaid. Those are the numbers that are the big numbers that are out there, okay? And those are the numbers you have to come up with significant savings in.

HH: And is there a majority on the House Budget Committee to really take out the knives and cut not just Medicare Medicaid, but also go after Social Security reform?

SG: I sure hope so. And that’s…I’ve been on the committee for eight years, and have, both in the majority and minority, and have been frustrated at each level, I guess, although I will say this, give credit where credit is due, that when we were in the majority and when we were producing Republican budgets, we were at least, as the saying goes, moving the ball down the field. We were at least seeing that the deficits, spending is high, too high in my book, but at least we were moving the ball down the direction where the deficits were decreasing, so that the end of the Bush administration, you were looking at, what, was it like $427, $437 budget deficit of that year. Still too high, but at least it was going down. Now, of course, under Obama, it’s going to go up significantly. So we have to get it going back on the right trajectory. And if we can do it within the budget window, fantastic.

HH: 30 seconds, Scott Garrett, is there urgency? Can it be spend up? Because people are standing around, waiting for this budget, and April seems like a long time away.

SG: Well, there is urgency only because if we don’t do this right now, we may not get a second chance later on as the economy continues to falter, and the uncertainty that comes out of Washington, the economy is looking, and the country is looking to Washington to take some leadership. We’re not getting it from the White House, so we have to get it from the Republican Congress.

HH: Scott Garrett from New Jersey, thank you, Congressman. Look forward to talking to you again.

End of interview.

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