Senate GOP Whip Jon Kyl on the upcoming budget battle in the Senate
HH: Congress reconvenes next week, and front and center will be budget issues. And they will be right in the middle of the Senate deliberations. Joining me now to tell us how that will unfold is the Republican Whip in the United States Senate, our favorite Senator, Jon Kyl from the great state of Arizona. Senator Kyl, always a pleasure, welcome back.
JK: Thank you, Hugh, it’s always great to be with you and your listeners.
HH: Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed your vacation, but from the looks of it, there’s quite a collision coming up next week. How is this budget drama going to unfold?
JK: Thanks. By the way, this is not a vacation. This is the opportunity to be home and have all of those meetings with constituents that they’ve been waiting for two or three weeks to have with you. So you really learn what your constituents think, and what they want you to do. And that plays directly into your question. I believe that after having been home for two weeks, listening to our constituents, members are going to come back in both the House and Senate fired up to really do something strong to get the deficit and debt under control – limit spending and not borrow so much money. That’s the message we’re hearing. And the first thing where that comes up now is on the debt ceiling. And I’m not hearing anybody that’s excited about increasing the debt ceiling.
HH: Now that’s a separate issue. I want to come back to that. But when Leader Reid announced from China, because he wasn’t home talking to the constituents in Nevada, he was in China, and he announced that he was going to force a vote on the Ryan budget. And I said hooray for that. But then Leader McConnell came out and said he’s going to force a vote on the President’s budget, and I said hooray for that. I love votes on these budgets, Senator Kyl.
JK: Yeah, I do, too. I think Harry Reid was being a little bit clever, thinking well, Paul Ryan’s budget is, I mean, it’s really extreme and radical, are the words that they are required to use now, you remember, a la Chuck Schumer.
JK: And he just can’t imagine Republicans actually supporting it. Well, he will be very surprised to know that my guess is all, or very close to all of the Republicans in the Senate will say the same thing the guys in the House did, namely it is time to get serious about this, and of course we support it. And then we will say how about you? Do you support the President’s budget? Even the President no longer is supportive of his budget. Remember the speech that he gave about three weeks ago said okay, I recognize that isn’t going to do the trick, but I really don’t like where Paul Ryan stands. I think I’m going to propose something yet different. So of course I guess then the question is which of Obama’s budgets would we vote on?
HH: Now I had Mike Allen from Politico.com on the program yesterday, and he asked me quite earnestly whether I thought the Republicans were going to pay a political price for the Paul Ryan budget. I’m not seeing that yet, Senator Kyl. What do you hear from Arizonans?
JK: It’s too soon to tell. What we’ve heard reports of is that while people want us to get the spending down and stop borrowing so much money and adding to the debt, they are also concerned, from what they’ve heard primarily from the media and Democrats about the draconian cuts that are going to have to come from this program or that, and always mentioned is Medicare. Once they hear the truth about it, then they’re much more at ease. For example, none of what Paul Ryan proposes affects any senior, anybody aged 55 or older. The Medicare, the Social Security, there would be no changes in any of those programs for those people. But for people 54 years or younger, there would be some changes that would enable these programs to continue, and actually be there when these young people actually arrive at that age. So there are some concerns that have been expressed at some town hall meetings. That is true. And that’s the great thing about our country. When people have questions, you get a chance to respond to them, and if you’re, if you’ve got the right argument, you can get them then to support what you’re trying to accomplish.
HH: Now turning to the debt limit vote, I’ve read various analyses that say it has to happen in May, June, and the farthest out is September, or we’ll default. First of all, what would the consequences of default be, and what do you think is the timetable as the Whip in the Senate for the GOP to move on this law?
JK: The most likely scenario would be that by the end of June, we will have done something. But you’re right. The dates go all the way from May to September, and the reason is if you stop and think about it, you make a certain amount of money, you get your paycheck every two weeks, you’ve got a bunch of bills that come in. Sometimes, you’ve got so many bills coming in that you need to juggle the payment of the bills until after the paycheck comes in. And you may be late a couple of days on a couple of those bills, but you’ve got to wait until the money comes in. Well, that’s the same way with our budget. We are not borrowing 42 cents of every dollar the federal government spends. So naturally, there are a lot of bills coming in, and we don’t necessarily have the tax revenues every month to pay all of those bills. All it means is that the Treasury has to juggle the bills. Now it puts the first one, the most important ones first, so to speak. So it’s going to send out the Social Security checks, and it’s going to pay the Medicare bills. And by the way, it’s going to pay the Chinese creditors when their bonds come due and so on. But it might hold off on some other expenditures that aren’t as time sensitive. And you can do that for a matter of several months. Ultimately, however, borrowing 42 cents of every dollar you spend, you’ve got to figure out how to either reduce your spending, or get more revenue. And that’s why the debt ceiling has to go up so we can borrow some more money. That’s the argument that the President makes. And that probably would need to be done no later than the end of July, would be my guess.
HH: Now Senator Kyl, when you say it that way, 42 cents of every dollar is borrowed, it’s so stunning and it’s very alarming. I’m not sure how much we were borrowing of every dollar when you first went to Washington. My guess is it was 15 or 16 cents of every dollar.
HH: Do your colleagues understand this has got to change?
JK: They do, but many of them don’t have the political courage to make the decisions to create the environment in which we can recover from this. And the irony is that Paul Ryan’s budget, and other proposals that we’ve put on the table, don’t do this in a dramatic, radical, extremist way. Paul Ryan’s budget is not even balanced after ten years. I mean, that’s a rather astounding fact I suspect most people don’t recognize.
JK: We have gotten so deeply in debt in this country that even making pretty tough decisions from all of the parts of the budget, the entitlement programs, the discretionary spending, all of them, unless you’re willing to be even more draconian than they describe Paul Ryan’s budget as being, you can’t even get it to balance in ten years. It’s going to take you closer to fifteen or twenty years. So his budget is not a draconian budget. But it recognizes that you’ve got to start sometime. And what I fear is that my colleagues don’t even want to do that. That’s what I hear when the President says oh, we don’t have to make the kind of cuts you’re talking about. One other quick point, Hugh. We’re not talking about an austerity budget. We’re talking about a prosperity budget. The way that we begin to get more into balance is to have good growth in this country that raises a lot more revenue in income taxes because people are going back to work and working, and companies are making money again, and so on. And if the government is spending 42 cents of every dollar out there available to be lent, the private sector doesn’t have anything to invest in capital or job creation, or anything else. So get the money out of the government sector and back into the private sector, and watch us take off.
HH: I will talk with Brian Wesbury after the break, one of the great forecasters in the country about the anemic growth in the first quarter. But against that backdrop, are you surprised, Senator Kyl, by the President’s rhetoric? Now he was your colleague in the Senate, you know him pretty well. But his rhetoric has been so in your face, and so disparaging of compromise, I wonder whether any kind of deal is possible this year.
JK: That makes it very hard. And you know, at the same time, he says look, we all have to come together, guys. We all know we have to do this. Well then why are you out there stirring up demagogic passions the way that you are, Mr. President? Why are you going after specific groups like people who make money, and oil companies, and so on? Let’s get serious about solving the problem, which is that since you came into office, your first budget doubles the debt in this country in four years. In other words, from George Washington through George W. Bush, the entire amount of debt that this country accumulated is what you are going to be adding in just your first term, hopefully only term. And then it triples within the next ten years. So the debt under Obama triples in ten years.
HH: Wow. I want to switch while we have a little bit of time to abroad, and to Syria where massive demonstrations again are occurring. I have not yet seen any casualty counts from today. Again, the President has not recalled the ambassador, hasn’t done anything really, Senator Kyl. Do you think the Senate will be passing resolutions urging him to act upon its reconvening?
JK: Well, it’s interesting you should ask. I have a good friend, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser in my office right now. Dr. Jasser has created an organization of moderate Muslims, just to use the shorthand phrase. People can work within the Muslim community to show that it is possible both to be able to practice the Muslim faith, and still be a very strong advocate of values of freedom and democracy and capitalism, and in effect, separation of church and state in countries like Syria. And in the case of Syria, the government’s got to be a lot more serious about who it puts on the list for sanctions, recalling our ambassador is another example, preventing Syria from taking a position on the Human Rights Commission in the United Nations, and bottom line, demonstrating our commitment to the people in Syria who are trying to fight for their freedom against a very corrupt regime.
HH: Last question, were you surprised by the President’s release of his birth certificate this week?
JK: I guess so.
HH: I was. I just didn’t see it coming.
JK: Well, I didn’t, either, but you know, the question is why didn’t he do it when the question was first raised, will always baffle me.
HH: I will, too. Senator Kyl, thanks for joining us. I will talk to you again in a couple of weeks. Good luck in returning to the fray back in Washington, D.C.
End of interview.