House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier On How Obamacare Will Get Defunded
HH: Joined now by the chairman of the House Rules Committee, David Dreier from California. Congressman, for the first time in years, people are actually watching the floor of the House and not knowing how votes are going to turn out.
DD: James Madison said that he wanted an ugly, messy, difficult process, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing. And I just concluded that when you go through four years of being shut down, Democrats and Republicans alike, from being prevented from having the opportunity to participate and amend legislation, you have pent up demand. I mean, we’ve had over five hundred amendments that have been submitted to this process, and we said we would have an open amendment process. And that’s exactly what we have had. We’re right now working on trying, with 145 amendments pending, we’re trying to propound an agreement between both sides that we will have a debate structure that will allow for these amendments to be considered, any member who wants to offer it. But we will sort of limit the debate, and we’ll be able to have a vote on those amendments. So we’re going to be, as we did last night, go through the night. We’ve been meeting for days on this. And I was sorry, by the way, that I couldn’t make your little gathering here. Right after we had the votes last night, I had to convene the Rules Committee, because the Senate came back with a 90 day extension on the Patriot Act, and we had to respond to that. And so that prevented me from joining you all. But I really wanted to, because it’s clear that you and Bill Bennett, Michael Medved and Dennis Prager and your colleagues at Salem have played such an integral role in giving us this chance to be in the majority. And so I wanted to…
HH: Well, we missed you, and I wished you’d been there. But you know, next time. I have just a couple of questions which have been sent to me many times, and I’m going to make them open-ended. Steve King’s amendment…
HH: Or Steve King wanted a rule that would allow defunding Obamacare.
DD: If we’d had, if we’d made Steve King’s amendment an order, it would not have been an open rule. And the reason is that we would have had to provide waivers that would have denied having an open rule. It would have become a structured rule. And we are going to have opportunity after opportunity. I mean, I said on your show repeatedly, and have said that the notion of cutting off funding for the 18,000 IRS employees to enforce the mandate, we’ve got to do it. And we have a laser-like approach in cutting off funding. And we’re going to be having a vote on that, the Rehberg amendment, which is going to cut off funding within this continuing resolution, is going to be voted on later tonight or early tomorrow morning. And that’s exactly what we’re doing. But it was extraordinary, and Steve King, to his credit, said when he testified before the Rules Committee, that he understood that members of the Rules Committee, and this is an…I mean, we’re talking about Thomas Jefferson’s manual, Deschler’s manual, Deschler’s Precedents. He recognized that we have, have to have a respect for the rules and procedures of the House. And that’s something that Nancy Pelosi ignored time and time again. And we weren’t about to begin this appropriations process and having anything other than an open amendment process. And if we had provided the extraordinary protections that that amendment would have done, it would have been unfair to the minority, and Madison focused on minority rights. And so we did the right thing to do, and I’m proud of it. And we’re, and it doesn’t mean that we’re not absolutely committed to doing everything that we can to bring an end to funding for the Obama health care bill.
HH: Now that is, and Congressman, I follow up on that. That is where I think most of the angry email I’ve got…I haven’t followed the King amendment much. That’s not my deal. I’ll come to my deal in a second.
HH: But it says that the House leadership promised they would do everything they could to defund Obamacare…
DD: Including waiving the rules?
HH: So you could have closed the rule…yes, and the rhetoric didn’t match up. And so what I hear you saying is we meant we’re going to do everything we can within the rules that we establish to defund Obamacare.
DD: Yeah, which again, again we said this would be considered. This is a modified open rule. If we had made that amendment an order, this would not have been a modified open rule.
HH: Okay, so when does Rehberg’s amendment come up?
DD: As I said, late tonight or early in the morning. I mean, we’re, it’s, you know, I mean, we’re working on the unanimous consent agreement right now. And as you know, there’s no certainty on it. And we’re looking to go through the night, and into tomorrow.
HH: Now to my stuff, the spending stuff. Amtrak got funded, the Legal Services Corporation got funded. I don’t know how you votes on these yourself.
DD: Well, I voted, listen, I voted to defund Amtrak, I voted to obliterate the Legal Services Corporation. You know, I mean…
HH: And so, we got, but we are losing all these votes. And so what is wrong with the party? Who are these people that are voting with the Democrats to fund Amtrak?
DD: Well, I will just tell you that you know this very well, and I’m not a defender of them other than the fact that they played a role in bringing us to the process. On the Amtrak vote, there are Republicans who we, I’m happy to say, have elected in the northeastern corridor. And they have come to me and they’ve said my constituents are absolutely insistent that we not do anything to undermine Amtrak. And how can I tell them, when they said this is their response to their constituents, that they have to be supportive of Amtrak, that they can’t? And you can just look at the names of the people who did that. I was not one of them, obviously, because I don’t believe in government’s involvement in areas like this. But these Republicans, newly elected Republican members who, you know, we’ve gotten Republican back in the northeast, they’re not as conservative as Hugh Hewitt or David Dreier, but they are…
HH: But I think 60 people voted for Amtrak.
DD: Was it 60?
HH: That’s what I’m told.
DD: Yeah, you know what? There are so many amendments that have gone on right now, I mean, if you’d asked me ahead of time and told me you wanted me, I could have given you a full report on that.
HH: That’s okay. I’m just saying that’s what’s stunning people, is that it seems like the Republican majority…
DD: You know what? After this call, Hugh, I’m going to ask my staff to go back and analyze it, and I’m going to look at how those votes came out on Amtrak and Legal Services. And there are people who have traditionally been supporters of the LSC. I mean, since the Reagan days, I have been working to obliterate the funding for the Legal Services Corporation, because I think it’s just absolutely crazy. I mean, there’s so much abuse. I liken that to ACORN.
HH: Well, that’s what it is.
DD: I liken the Legal Services Corporation to ACORN.
HH: And so I think, does the leadership, I know it’s an open rule and you’re not whipping things…
HH: But given that, do they realize the hemorrhage of credibility that is going on since none of these obviously left wing, ideologically-driven projects are being defunded by the new conservative majority?
DD: Well, the fact of the matter is if you look at, you know, this is the beginning of the process. And I will say that we have been able to bring about massive spending cuts, and we all know where the money is. It’s in entitlements. And I got up and actually praised the President for saying we all need to get into the boat together so that it doesn’t tip over. And I happen to believe that is going to take bipartisanship for us to deal with the issue of entitlement reform. And so…
HH: Okay, let me put it this way, David. What’s the pelt on the wall? When people say oh, we’ve defunded 150 programs, what are the three programs that people in America will say finally, the Republicans did something?
DD: Well, you know what? I mean, and you know what we need to do? We need to ask that question when we finish this bill sometime early tomorrow morning or in the afternoon, and see exactly how it will come out.
HH: Will you agree with me if we don’t have an answer to that, this will have been a disaster for us?
DD: Well, and we will. But you know, we’ve got 144 amendments that we’re going to be voting on through the night here and into tomorrow, just as we did last night. And so you follow it closely. You can go online. Your listeners can go online and follow not only the debate, but they can also look at the way these votes are going. And you know, we’re going to win some and we’re going to lose some. And that’s exactly what John Boehner has said, what I’ve said, is we need to allow the place to work its will. There are some people who are not as conservative as some of the rest of us, but I think….
HH: Last question, how much time will we have to read the bill before you guys vote on it, the final bill, after all the amendments are made?
DD: Well, I mean, this is the bill. I mean, the bill is out there, and every amendment, and so no, we’re going to be voting on final passage on the continuing resolution, and then it goes to the Senate. And then we begin this, because we’re faced with March 4th, and obviously the prospect of, you know, that’s when it expires. And so we’ve got to go back and forth, and we may have to have a temporary continuing resolution to keep this going. We’ve the issue of increasing the debt ceiling, and we’ve got to continue to focus on spending cuts. But I really want us to get on entitlement cuts, because that’s where it is, the reform of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. That’s where the money is.
HH: Congressman David Dreier, chairman of the Rules, thanks for joining us. We’ll talk with you again soon.
End of interview.