HH: Joined now by Peter Roskam of the 6th district in Illinois. My WIND listeners are going to like this, and Congressman Roskam, of course, the deputy whip working with Kevin McCarthy to try and pass what is called the Boehner bill. Hello, Congressman, welcome.
PR: Thanks, Hugh, good to be with you.
HH: Good to have you. Do you have the votes?
PR: Looks, it’s trending in the right direction, and I’m confident when push comes to shove, this bill will pass the House of Representatives. But there’s a lot of folks that are doing their due diligence, looking at it carefully. It’s not a perfect bill, obviously, but it’s a good bill. And in light of where we are as a country, I think most folks are getting their heads around this idea that there’s three basic choices. One is to do nothing, which is absurd. The next is to wait for the Reid bill to come out of the Senate, which is a terrible bill. And the final option is to move forward on the Boehner plan, and that’s where I think most folks are going.
HH: Now Congressman, what I wrote this morning over at my blog before I got on a plane to come to do Hannity tonight was if I was one of the guys you were working, I would probably vote for this, but I’d turn to you and I’d say Pete, who are the members of the supercommittee the Speaker’s going to put on for the House?
HH: Do you know those names yet?
PR: Yeah, no, he doesn’t. I mean, obviously, the Speaker is not going to go in that direction. But look, look at the caliber of people that were put on the debt commission, for example, out of the House. So I know that there’s some level of concern about what comes out of that committee. But when it comes down to it, and you really think through the politics of that, House Republicans aren’t going to put anybody on the committee that’s going to be advocating a tax increase, obviously. Senator McConnell is not about to do that. He’s on the cusp of becoming the Senate majority leader. There’s not a chance in the world that he’s going to put in play a tax hike that would move through the Senate. So I think we are on very, very solid ground on the idea that the $1.8 trillion that the committee has to come up with is going to be cuts. And that’s entirely where the debate needs to be.
HH: Are you ruling out, then, for example, any kind of change to the home mortgage interest deduction or the charitable deduction?
PR: Well, there…I serve on the Ways And Means Committee. There’s a whole host of issues that come all the way around as it relates to those tax reform issues. And they’re…you don’t rule them in, you don’t rule them out, you don’t sign letters. But I think there’s a couple of real, solid mainstays. If you look at what our lives have been organized around for the past several decades, one is the home interest mortgage deduction. The other is the charitable contribution deduction. You know, to begin to move into those types of things, you really have to have a groundswell of public support. And absent some major change, I just don’t see those types of things being realistic.
HH: And would your caution there extend to even limits on the home mortgage interest deduction, or the charitable deduction, because I know that…
PR: Yeah, I think, look…
HH: …some back door people want to just, oh, let’s just make it apply to million dollar houses, or $500,000 dollar houses, or to second houses. But that, as you know, screws up the housing market everywhere.
PR: Yeah, and I take your point, and I accept it, and I agree with the argument that you’re making. This housing market is so fragile and so tenuous that it would be against everybody’s interest to do things that ultimately jeopardize any kind of growth possibility there. I think the larger issue is the ability to look at entitlements, the ability to look at the types of things that we did in the House budget in April that was authored and led by Paul Ryan. There’s some very, very thoughtful things that we can do to move this piece forward. But ultimately, you’ve got to pass the Boehner bill in order to get to that next conversation.
HH: Second and last concern about the Boehner bill, and again, it’s one that goes to who’s on the committee. If it’s Buck McKeon, I don’t worry at all about what happens to Defense spending. But if it’s one of our, you know, we’ve got some isolationist-leaning Republicans out there, Ron Paul, chief among them. I know Ron Paul’s not going to be appointed to the committee. He’s running for president. But what about Defense and the guarantees that the leadership are making to the Defense-minded members that that’s not going to become the whipping boy for the budget hawks?
PR: Yeah, fair question, and I am confident. You know, I mean, it’s an assurance, and I recognize that that’s, you know, people are always wanting the perfect guarantee, but the types of people that I’m confident Speaker Boehner is going to appoint to that committee are going to be the types of people who are rock solid conservatives, strong on Defense, strong on spending restraint, and aren’t going to be advocating tax hikes.
HH: All right, now, Congressman Roskam from Illinois, again, everyone just tuning in, deputy whip, you walk up to, your job is to corral votes and to find out what the members are doing. You walk up to a freshman with a big Tea Party presence, he signed the Cut, Cap and Balance pledge, or she signed the Cut, Cap and Balance pledge. The Tea Party is saying, Tea Party Patriots, my friends there, and others, they can’t go back, that that’s a pledge, they’ll be breaking the pledge, and then there’s the Pledge To America. What are you telling those members about this vote?
PR: Well, the Pledge To America, I was one of the co-authors of it. So this is completely consistent with the Pledge to America. In terms of the pledges and other things in terms of particularly advocating on behalf of a balanced budget amendment, this is my argument, and it’s very straightforward. The key to getting a balanced budget passed is the Unites States Senate. And the only way to get a bill to the United States Senate that doesn’t get tabled, and actually has a roll call, is through the Boehner bill. Once Boehner becomes law, then both houses of the legislature have, are mandated to take a balanced budget vote by a date certain. Now here’s the key. It can’t be subject to filibuster, it cannot be subject to amendment, and then you have to take up, if you’re the second body, you have to take up the balanced budget amendment that the first body passed over. There’s no other pathway that gets you to a balanced budget amendment absent a massive change in the election. So I say if you are a serious advocate for a balanced budget amendment, vote for Boehner. It’s the only pathway forward. Everything else is going to be a sideshow in the United States Senate.
HH: And what do you say to the Tea Party activists, again, they are legion, and many other people, oh, just run into the debt ceiling, just run into it, they can pay Social Security, they can pay Medicare, they can pay the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, we’ve got plenty of money coming in, they’ll have to shut some departments. What’s your response, Peter Roskam?
PR: Why would you cede that kind of authority to Barack Obama and Tim Geithner? Why would you give that sort of authority for them to make priorities? So ultimately, what they would be doing is clearly, the first priority would be to pay off the sovereign debt. So the debt bondholders are number one in line. And then ultimately, you’re going to allow Barack Obama and Tim Geithner the ability to decide who gets paid and who doesn’t get paid? I think that’s a fool’s errand, and I think it is completely underestimating what it means to hit the debt ceiling. And I think the better pathway is to deny, well, the other thing that you do is, to go that route, is you allow Barack Obama to essentially play the old game of not it, right? Right now, he is completely responsible for 9.2% unemployment. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said we own this economy, and without any ambiguity. The national situation that is so failing from an economic point of view is clearly on the White House. Now if you move into that default position, all you do is you tee up the idea in the minds of independent voters, and you allow President Obama to say see, those guys, they’re buckets of crazy, they can’t be trusted with this, and they’ve tripped into default, and now I can’t help it, because they’ve made it worse. I say deny him that opportunity and that argument going into the 2012 election cycle, pass Boehner, which has a premise of cuts, the types of cuts that were inconceivable nine months ago, and now move forward and then, if you can get the balanced budget amendment out of the House of Representatives, you’re guaranteed a straight vote up or down in the United States Senate, and that’s not something that’s happened, Hugh, in 15 years.
HH: Congressman Peter Roskam of Illinois, thanks, the deputy chief whip of the Republican conference. We hope to talk to you after the voting is done, Boehner 2.0 on the agenda tonight in the House of Representatives.
End of interview.