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House GOP Conference Chair, Jeb Hensarling, plainly laying the blame for this crisis where it belongs – with Barack Obama and the Democrats

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HH: Politico reporting at this hour that President Obama stormed out of a meeting at the White House today after GOP House leader, Eric Cantor, refused to budge on the taxes issue. Joining me now to talk about where the conference is, the House GOP Conference, is the chairman of the House GOP Conference, number four in the House leadership, Jeb Hensarling of Texas. Welcome back, Congressman, good to have you.

JH: Thanks, Hugh, thanks for inviting me.

HH: What’s the situation today?

JH: (laughing) Well, America would be better off when we get a new president. I can tell you that much. Here’s where we are. I talked to Eric Cantor 30 minutes ago, and the President just got agitated. Apparently he doesn’t understand where House Republicans are, and abruptly left the meeting. I mean, it’s incredible. I mean, we’re…one, we’re sitting here at the table trying to have an honest discussion with the president of the United States. But we all remember as House Republicans, Hugh, we voted against this man’s $1.1 trillion dollar stimulus plan that has done nothing but bring us unemployment and misery. We voted against his $1.4 trillion dollar government takeover of our health care system. We have voted against all of his spending orgy, and now that we have a debt crisis caused by his spending, he expects us to raise taxes to pay for everything we voted against. And then he’s the one who walks out of the meeting? It’s frankly a fairly surreal moment.

HH: Congressman, I recall that, I think it was Eric Cantor in a meeting not long after the election, and the President turned to him and said we won, you lost. Is the leader tempted to say back to the President, with regards to last November, Mr. President, I must remind you of your phrase, we won, you lost?

JK: (laughing) Well, I wasn’t in the meeting, Hugh, so I don’t know exactly what Leader Eric Cantor might have said to the President. But it is clear that again, we have, one, we have a debt crisis not because the debt ceiling is too low. It’s because the debt is too high, and it is spending driven. 100% of the problem is on the spending side. 100% of the solution has to be on the spending side. I mean, the last thing this economy needs, and this President is presiding over the worst economy since the Great Depression. The last thing we need are job killing tax hikes, exactly the thing that he’s proposing. I mean, let’s face it. If class warfare rhetoric, tax increases and borrowing created jobs, we’d be the most highly employed society in the history of mankind.

HH: Now Congressman Hensarling, I’ve had it confirmed for me today that in a meeting earlier this week, the Democrats agreed that thus far, only $2 billion dollars in cuts have been identified by the whole Biden process. $2 billion dollars of cuts when we’re running a $1,500 billion deficit each year. Is that your understanding, that they can’t come up with more than $2 billion dollars in cuts, in next year’s spending?

JK: I don’t have that figure, Hugh, so I don’t know that. But you know, I hate to ever say that $2 billion dollars is a rounding error, but in the exercise in trying to save America from bankruptcy, yeah, that’s not even a rounding error. But I don’t have that number confirmed.

HH: All right, I’ll get it. I’ve confirmed it today, but it’s what McConnell asked Biden yesterday. Let me ask you about, speaking of McConnell, the McConnell plan. What do you make of what the GOP Senate leader laid on the table as a possible Plan B yesterday?

JH: Oh, well, I’ve known Senator McConnell for quite some time. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. But I’m not really sure. That struck me as like Plan 52, when we’re still looking at Plans 1, 2 and 3. So let’s just say it hasn’t exactly captured my imagination.

HH: All right, now let me ask you about the House Conference communication strategy. I have been fairly critical of the Speaker and the leader and the whip for not being out there everywhere at every time. I talked to John King last night, and he’s got a standing invitation to the Speaker to come over, and he hasn’t accepted it yet. When are you guys going to go on the offensive to come out and define this as a spending crisis that the President refuses to deal with?

JH: Well, I think you just heard me say it, Hugh. And if the invitation from John King is good for me, I’ll go on his program. I will go on any program to deliver that message. I mean, it is the President who has brought us here. He has created this crisis. It is a spending driven crisis created by this President and the previous Congress. And House Republicans are not going to vote to increase taxes for programs we didn’t vote for in the first place. Period, paragraph. Now I don’t want to say that August 2nd is not a serious date. I don’t want to make light of it. This nation, unfortunately, has a borrowing addiction. We’re borrowing forty cents on the dollar, as you well know, much of it from the Chinese, and sending the bill to our children and grandchildren. And so the proposition is do you borrow money to pay current bills? Well, the only way you would ever do that is if you cut up the credit cards, and that never happens again. And that’s why you clearly need to cut spending immediately. You’ve got to put on enforceable caps. And frankly, ultimately, it is time that we submitted and passed a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

HH: But Congressman, if you read the New York Times piece on your colleague, Kevin McCarthy, which I’ve linked at in the Sunday magazine, it makes it sound like the conference leadership, you know, the Speaker and the leader and the whip and yourself, are trying to corral the freshmen and keep them chained to the wall, because they are hard core, and the conference isn’t ready to back them. Was that article wrong?

JH: Well, I didn’t read the article, so I can’t comment on it. I will say that I don’t usually set my watch by the New York Times. So I haven’t read the article. I don’t know what the article is. I mean, Hugh, you probably know this. I’m a former chairman of the Conservative Caucus, the Republican Study Committee. I came into this Congress as one of two members of the entire House to have a perfect record with the Club For Growth, by almost every conservative rating organization. I’m one of the top five fiscal conservatives in the Congress. So no, I’m not trying to corral freshmen, and I don’t think the other leaders are as well. Again, I think it is a serious matter. I don’t want to make light of the fact that August 2nd is a serious date. We have made more commitments as a nation than we can keep. And so, you know, the President has been criticizing Republicans, you know, you guys aren’t willing to eat your peas. Well number one, it’s the President’s peas. What we’re saying is okay, listen, here’s what we’re bringing to the table. It is contrary to our DNA to ever vote to increase the debt ceiling. Period, paragraph. But we would be willing to do it if you cut up the credit cards, and that means you’ve got to change these entitlement spending programs, and we need a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. That’s what we need.

HH: Congressman Jeb Hensarling, keep saying it, and I hope you get the Speaker and the leader to join you in doing so publicly. Thank you for being here.

End of interview.


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