Hugh to House Appropriator Jack Kingston: Do You Think We’re Stupid?
HH: I’m joined now by Jack Kingston, Congressman from Georgia. Congressman, how are you? It’s always a pleasure to talk to you, but I think we’re going to have to quarrel today.
JK: Hugh, I understand that you and I have to have a little discussion. And you know what? I really appreciate the fact that you are willing to call a guy like me to task. But I also appreciate the fact that you’re going to let me debate back. And so I’m looking forward to this, and I appreciate the opportunity.
HH: Let me put it to you bluntly. I do not believe you guys have a plan. I believe the appropriators are selling out the party. I don’t believe you’ve made any real cuts, and I believe you’ve disappointed the Tea Party and the conservative activists. And when I read in Politico and in the Daily Caller that you and other Congressmen are criticizing deficit hawks, I see red, Jack Kingston.
JK: Well, I understand that. But Hugh, let me say this, and I feel very strongly about this. Number one, we are still all on the same page and in the same family. I look at yesterday’s vote as second quarter football. And the fans may have wanted the coach to throw the long pass, and instead we ran it three yards up the middle. I just do not see this as being the goal line position that we’ve got to do this immediately right now. As long as we’re still at the table, and we’re negotiating, and we’re bringing down the expenses or the spending, I think that’s important. The other thing is I think it’s real important for John Boehner to walk in there with a strong hand, and having a unified Republican Party is a strong hand. But yesterday, he had to pass a bill with some Democrat votes. And I think if I’m Harry Reid, I’m going to say well Boehner, it looks like your own party is falling out from under you. And my statistics say I’m going to do better, my polling says I’m going to do better in a government shutdown mode, and I’m going to be able to eat your lunch. I think that weakens Boehner. And you know, I…well, let me let you…let me yield the floor, Hugh.
HH: Congressman, have you had a town hall meeting yet since this continuing series of resolutions began?
JK: Yes, I’ve had two
HH: And what did they tell you?
JK: People, you know, people are kind of a little bit confused. Now your callers and your audience really isn’t. But take John Q. Public out there, doesn’t quite distinguish between the budget, the C.R. and FY ’12 and debt ceilings, in that these are all four different areas of one important battle, or one important war. But they believe that okay, listen, your job is to cut spending, and your job is to get the federal government under control. And I’m not necessarily going to be following C.R. versus FY ’12. And you know, the continuing resolution is left over from FY ’11, and I just think that the Tea Party is certainly very attuned, your audience is very attuned, but in my town meetings, people are saying look, the general deal is to keep the throttle down and lower spending. And that’s what we are doing. I feel very strongly, Hugh, that what we need to do is defund Obamacare, and I am working on a bill right now with Michele Bachmann and Steve King and Louie Gohmert to do that. We hope we can get that thing out before we leave town. And it is a bill that’s written with all the bells and whistles so that it won’t be thrown out by the parliamentarian, which has been the problem on the original C.R. vote. But until, when we get to the debt ceiling, we need to have the defunding of Obamacare, we need to have entitlement reform, and we need to have a change in spending…
HH: Why…Congressman, you’re not going to have the votes for that, that you don’t have the votes for it now. Why not join the battle right now? Why not say defund Obamacare, as you guys pledged to do, stop the carbon regs, defund Planned Parenthood, get rid of Corporation for Public Broadcasting. You folks ran on that. You promised that.
JK: Oh, Hugh, now I agree we did promise that. But I think the difference is this was a tactical vote yesterday. This was not a philosophical vote. And the tactical thing, and let me say this, you may be right. I’m not sure that you’re right. And I may be wrong, but I don’t think I’m wrong. And the reason why I say that is this was a tactical decision, okay, what play do you call at this point in time to move the ball down the road. And in my judgment, I want John Boehner to go in there with a strong hand, because right now, Nancy Pelosi is not at the table. It’s only John Boehner and Harry Reid. And I want him to go in there with a real strong hand so he can say Harry, my folks are still intact, my troops aren’t bending. It’s the same vote that we had with the stimulus bill two years ago. It’s the same vote we had with the health care bill one year ago. And I’m coming in here from a point of strength…
HH: Congressman, though, the reality, I read your article. The reality is the fans are leaving the stadium. You lost 54 votes yesterday. It’s because the appropriators are holding the caucus hostage, and you’re endangering these freshmen who ran on a confrontation over spending, because it’s a national security issue. And you guys are selling us out. You haven’t really cut anything. What is that $8 billion, Congressman? What did you actually cut?
JK: Hugh, let me…well, right now, frankly, in my opinion, we’re not cutting anything serious. It’s earmark money, it’s duplication money. I mean, it’s stuff that…$10 billion dollars is $10 billion dollars.
HH: No, but what is it? I mean, people can’t even point to it. Did anyone lose their job? Was one program shut down?
JK: Anything that had to do with earmarks and duplications like some of the broadband programs and some other things. But let me say this. I’m in agreement you on that. I don’t think we’ve lifted heavily yet. And think about National Public Broadcasting. Tomorrow, we’re going to be voting to defund that. If we can’t get that done, how in the world are we going to reform anything…
HH: But Congressman, that’s a joke vote. That’s a complete sham. You guys are going to pass a bill out of the House that will never go through the Senate when you have the present ability to shut down NPR in the C.R. Do you think we’re stupid?
JK: You see? Now I think one difference is where you and I are is that I’m looking at this, again, as a second quarter in a four quarter football game. I don’t think this is the fourth quarter. I don’t think this is our only opportunity to say okay…
HH: But Congressman, can you hold over for the break, because honestly, when someone says hey…we’ll push Chris Cillizza back. I want to keep Jack Kingston. I honestly cannot believe it when someone says to me don’t worry, we’re defunding NPR, and I know it’s a sham and you know it’s a sham, and you expect the conservative to say okay, sell us a sham. So I want come back and give you the floor.
JK: I’m holding on.
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HH: So Congressman, I want to give you back the floor with this setup. Since November 2nd, spending went up $100 billion in the special year-end deal. You guys came back, and out of Appropriations came a $32 billion dollar budget that was a renege on the Pledge To America, got increased to $60 billion, which is still a renege. Then you guys have blinked twice with $10 billion dollars in fake cuts. Then you put forward an NPR bill that isn’t really an NPR bill, because it can’t get through. And you don’t defund Obamacare when you could enforce, in fact, force the showdown now and sell it to the public. And so I’ve had it, and I have Mark Meckler and the Tea Party people coming up next. They’ve had it. And then your people go in onto the internet sites and start blasting the deficit hawks. Do you actually think that the base is going to stick around for this?
JK: Hugh, I really do, and I’ll tell you why. I think that this is a lot of drama, as I’ve said, over a second quarter call which people have disagreed with what the coach did. But I don’t think that’s the end of the game by any stretch. I feel strongly in my position. I understand you feel strongly in yours. But we are going to have an end of this C.R. And just like the Governor of Wisconsin, who waited patiently and said you know what, I think at this point we’ve done all we can, these senators aren’t going to come back, we’re going to move forward. I think it’s very important for John Boehner to have a strong hand, and be able to say we have done everything we can to work with the President. He’s been gallivanting around the country on his education bill, Joe Biden has been in Europe. And at this point, it is time to have a showdown. I think that winning the soul of the independent voter is pretty important right now. But so trigger one, where I think you and I disagree with where the goal line is, we have this C.R. which will be expiring. And I think at that point, you do your line in the sand number. I think also the debt ceiling debate is extremely important. Number three, you’ve got the end of the fiscal year that’s coming up, which as you know, from the Gingrich-Clinton days, that’s when we had the government shutdown before. So this is not the only train leaving town. And by the way, I did want to say, you know, on the subject of some of those cuts, I did get a list. I’ve asked my staff to email it to you so you’ll know. But it’s, there’s 25 programs that it actually cuts or reduces, $4.6 million in a Preserve America program, $14 million in Save America Treasures program, climate change, $10.5 million, greenhouse gas caps, $5 million. There’s a list, and I’ve asked my staff to go ahead and email it to you so that you can have it. And there’s, you know, some of this stuff, I just think that you’re talking about less than 2% of the cuts.
HH: Congressman, I want to go back to the idea that I think you’re missing entirely, is that we don’t trust you. After the start, we just don’t believe you guys.
JK: You know, I understand that, and I can say fine, you don’t trust me. But I don’t think that…
HH: What about when that…
JK: …the vote.
HH: …that first appropriations budget came out, it was $30 billion instead of a $100 billion, and you winked at us, and you went back and you doubled it, and you said it was off of the President’s 2011 budget, was never presented, never mentioned in the Pledge. How do you expect people to believe any of this stuff?
JK: You know what, I fought as a member of Appropriations to get it to $100 billion. As you know, the $60 billion is something like $120 if you pro rate it. And there was a discussion about okay, is it pro rated, or is it off the top. And you know what? And I think you’re right on that, it should have been $100 billion, and no discussion of pro rated. So we’re in the same camp on that. You know, it’s still, the situation is we want to reduce spending. 60% of spending actually is in three areas – retirement, military and health care.
HH: Congressman, we all know that. I mean, that’s the other thing. Everything you say, this audience has heard a hundred times. And it sounds like a filibuster. Just tell us this. Planned Parenthood will be defunded or you won’t vote for it, NPR will be defunded or you won’t vote for it, and regulatory enforcement of Obamacare and the carbon regs will not be funded or you won’t vote for the next C.R. Tell me that, Congressman.
JK: Well, let me say what I’d rather do, because I think they’re bigger. I think on the debt ceiling, we have got to have entitlement reform, which is a bigger enchilada. We really need to bloc grant Medicaid. We need to move Medicare from a defined benefit plan to a defined premium plan. And I would love to see a Gramm-Rudman type spending cap in place that says we are going to hold spending to 20% of that.
HH: Congressman, we’ve got thirty seconds. That’s all nice. Are you not going to commit to those goals that I talked about?
JK You know what, Hugh, I will tell you what I will commit to. I will commit to coming back on your program, letting you raise hell. We’ll raise hell back and forth. I’m committed to the process. The big argument I think you and I are having is that I don’t think this is the fourth quarter yet. I can promise you…
HH: I think we’re down 45-0, and it doesn’t matter what quarter it’s in, and I’m leaving the game, Congressman. I look forward to having you back, but I’ve just had it with appropriators. You guys have just done it to me for the last time, making us all look like dummies, because we keep letting you pull the football away from us. Thank you for coming on, Congressman, we’ll have you back.
End of interview.