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Durbin, Kyl and McCarthy on "State of the Union"

Durbin, Kyl and McCarthy on "State of the Union"

By State of the Union - March 13, 2011

CROWLEY: Joining me from Chicago, Senator Dick Durbin, who is the second ranking senator in the Senate. Thank you for joining me, senator.

Let me ask you about the continuing resolution, which is just a stop-gap spending measure while you all try to get your act together. I'm assuming that that's going to pass, that there will be -- there's no real threat of a government shutdown.

SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: No, I think it will pass in the House this week and later in the Senate. It buys us about three weeks. It includes cuts, which we have offered on the Democratic side in an effort to find a reasonable compromise here. I hope that the Republican leadership in the House will see this as a signal of good faith. We brought their budget before the Senate and it fell 16 votes short of passage, as did the Democratic budget.

We're in a position now where we need to sit down and reasonably come to a conclusion so that we can get about the business of governing this country.

CROWLEY: Well, I want to remind you of something that one your colleagues, Senator Claire McCaskill said -- she's from Missouri. And she was one of 10 senators on your side who voted against your budget. Which I think went down by more than the Republican budget did. So, I wanted you to just listen to Senator McCaskill again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, (D) MISSOURI: There are way to many people in denial around here about the nature of the problem and how serious it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: Basically saying, look, Democrats, some Democrats don't have an idea how much money needs to be cut. What's your reaction to that?

DURBIN: My reaction is this -- we're not going to balance America's budget in the next six months. We should be taking care that we don't do things that damage our economy and really slow down our recovery. The notion, as the president said, of cutting hundreds of thousands of children off Head Start at this moment, cutting Pell grants for college students so they would have to drop out of school, delaying or stopping research in energy when we see gas prices going through the roof, suspending medical research for six or seven months. Listen, that goes way too far. And it goes in a direction not good for this country.

I'm part of a group, six senators, three Democrats and three Republicans, we're looking at this in honest and hard terms about how we deal with this deficit. Not in a matter of six months, but over a period of time so that we responsibly cut spending and don't do it at the expense of America's economic growth.

CROWLEY: But senator, what is the message if 10 of your own party members in the Senate vote against your budget saying -- basically saying most of them, not enough?

DURBIN: Most of them want more cuts. And we have come through with more cuts. It is likely we will debate that. But I think what the president has said, and I think he's very accurate in this regard, we are going to be reasonable to get through this current political difficulty, but let's not do things that will harm us for a long time to come.

Cutting money for education and worker trending in the midst of a recession is not a good idea. Cutting back on research when we're in a fierce global competition so that America can create good paying jobs right here at home is not a good idea. Let's do thoughtful things.

CROWLEY: You know I know that you talk about thoughtful things, but the truth is you have had all last year to do this budget. And you didn't get it done by the deadline, which is October 1. Now we're doing yet another -- your sixth continues resolution. Is this any way to run a railroad? I mean, isn't why we always get into these things -- you know we can't cut Head Start, we can't do this. Shouldn't you all have figured this out last year?

DURBIN: Amen, amen. I agree with you. Candy, it is not a way to run a government or a great country. And what we need to do is put this in perspective. I watched your coverage on Japan. I've listened to things we face as a nation. And I think it's time for people of good will in both political parties to sit down, work this out. Let's resolve the budget for the rest of the year. If there are going to be new revenues or cuts in other areas, let's get it done. Let's move on and move forward. We need to be thinking about the rise in gas prices and what that means in terms of our economic recovery in this recession. The fact that we're spending $1 billion a day as a nation importing oil. These are things which call out for us to be thinking in bipartisan terms to come up with an energy policy that serves our nation.

CROWLEY: What do you want to do go gas prices, since you brought it up?

DURBIN: Well, I think the president's right. We need to consider moving toward the strategic petroleum reserve to put the oil we have in reserve into the economy, to try to temper this increase in gas prices. This isn't helping our recovery.

CROWLEY: Well, if I understood the president, senator, I think what he said was that the oil reserve was for when supplies are disrupted. This is not a supply problem. This is a demand problem. You want him to use that reserve to bring down gas prices, oil pries?

DURBIN: I'm worried that if we don't use the reserve, that our economic recovery will stall and fall backwards. We don't need to see unemployment figures going up, so that's my concern. But secondly, let's not overlook the obvious. We're still too dependent on foreign oil. Troubles in northern Africa have an impact on the price of gasoline right here in Chicago. We need to think about what we need to do as a nation to move forward. Responsible exploration and production right here in the United States, though we're at record levels over the last several years, we need to look and see what other things are available to us.

But beyond that, energy efficiency with a thought toward the environmental impact of the use of energy. These are things a great nation needs to do if it's going to lead into the 21st Century.

CROWLEY: Let me turn you back to one last question on the budget and play for you something Senator Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, had to say this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE MANCHIN, (D) WEST VIRGINIA: This debate, as important as it is, will be be decided by House Republicans or by Senate Democrats negotiating with each other or past each other. The debate will be decided when the president leads these tough negotiations. And right now, that's not happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Senator, has the president been AWOL in these discussions?

DURBIN: No.

CROWLEY: What's Senator Manchin talking about?

DURBIN: Well, I think there's a perception and a frustration among members of Congress that things aren't moving to a conclusion. The president is working behind the scenes. I've met with him with leadership. I know he is reaching out to try to find some accommodation here. He is trying to reach a point where we acknowledge the obvious. We have a serious deficit problem, borrowing 40 cents for every dollar we spend.

We cannot solve this problem in six months. We have to look at it in the medium and long term for the good of this nation and for our financial reputation in the world.

But the president's establishing priorities, the most important American priorities. And I think that should guide us in the negotiation.

CROWLEY: Senator Dick Durbin, I bet you we're going to talk about the budget in 2012 pretty soon here. We thank you for being with us on this one.

BURBIN: Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: Up next, we'll get a response from two Republican leaders in congress.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me now, the number two Republican in the senate, Senator John Kyl of Arizona; and the number three Republican in the House, Congressman Kevin McCarthy of California. So together, you equal five. Thank you for joining us.

Let me start out, seems we have yet another continuing resolution. And let me put the same question I put to Senator Durbin, this is just no way to run a railroad. You could have gotten together all last year. You didn't. Now you're still working on last year's budget. And guess what? This year's budget is already sitting on your plate.

What can you all give? Where can you give that this kind of stuff doesn't happen all the time?

SEN. JON KYL, (R) ARIZONA: Candy, first let's note Democrats were in charge of the House and Senate last year. Their job was to get a budget and fund the government. They didn't do that. So, when Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, the first bill they passed, and Kevin should talk about it, it's called HR-1. And it would fund the government for the rest of this fiscal year through the end of September. It has reductions in spending of $61 billion, which on a $3.7 trillion budget is not much. In fact, if you had a $10,000 budget in your home, by the way, 40% of that would be on your credit card, but you would be slashing spending according to Democrats by 28 bucks. So it's not a huge cut. So when you ask what can Republicans do, the House has put its proposed budget for the rest of the year. There were more votes for that in the Democrat-controlled Senate than there were for the Democrat alternative. And I think it's up to the president now to propose what he would do instead.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you how certain you are that you are going to be able to continue to do these kinds of stopgap measures. In particular this one. I want to first play, and it's not on your side of the Hill, but I want you to respond. This is Senator Jim DeMint talking about -- I'm sorry. This is Senator Jim DeMint, who was talking about voting against the very plan that you're talking about, that was going to cut $60 billion.

And what he said was, what we're trying to do on this is say, folks, we're not even in the ballpark of where we need to be. Similarly, on your side, you now have freshman congressmen, many of them with tea party backing, going, you know what, no, we're not going to do this continuing resolution, because it doesn't cut enough and it doesn't get to the core problem.

Have you got the votes to do this?

MCCARTHY: We will get it through, but we all agree. We don't want to run a government by continuing resolutions. But, remember, only one house...

CROWLEY: But aren't they kind of driving a party? That's what -- I mean, if enough of them decide that they aren't going to go for this, that you all haven't cut enough, you don't have the votes, do you?

MCCARTHY: We are dealing in a continuing resolution, you are just dealing with discretionary spending. No one thinks it's enough. Next month, when we deal with the budget, that's when you deal about the American dream to have a real change. But think for one instance, here we are with one lever in the house. Congress did an open debate. Democrats won amendments.

We had 90 hours of debate where anybody could bring anything up. The Democrats in the Senate haven't even produced a bill. The president didn't even call the speaker until the day before when we were going.

He enlisted the vice president to be the negotiator. They came in for one meeting, then the vice president left the country and we're only funded for two weeks. How serious are they about solving this problem?

Look, we're not going to shut down the government. We want the Democrats to step up. You can't negotiate with yourself.

CROWLEY: But what -- let me just sort of directly try again. Do you worry that there will be enough Republicans who are tired of these stopgap measures that will vote against this, that it will deny you the ability to pass the stopgap measure? MCCARTHY: We will pass the stopgap. But this is not the pattern we're going to continue down in the future.

CROWLEY: OK.

MCCARTHY: We think the Democrats need to step up and actually produce something. Our bill, H.R. 1, got more votes in the Democratic-controlled Senate than the Democrat bill. That should tell Durbin and Reid something, that they actually ought to produce a bill if they want to be in the majority.

CROWLEY: And you have, Senator DeMint, obviously, saying, you know, you're nowhere near enough of cutting. You have to somehow produce something in the Senate. Do you agree with Congressman McCarthy that the president has been absent from these talks? Senator Durbin says he has been very active behind the scenes.

KYL: He may have been talking to Senator Durbin and other Democrats, but he has not been talking to Republicans. No, he has not been around. And, yes, I agree with Kevin. If I could just show this chart one second here. What it shows is...

CROWLEY: We allow our guests to bring one prop.

KYL: Right, right, one prop. And the point is, you can see here that this is the $61 billion. You can hardly see the difference between the budget with H.R. 1 passed and without H.R. 1 passed. That's how little in effect it is. So my colleagues like...

CROWLEY: OK, so if it's so little, why are you doing it?

KYL: Well, the point is, my colleague, like Jim DeMint and others, are right when they say we could do more. The question is, what will Democrats do? Will they agree on 61. We're trying to get a bipartisan agreement here in order to build and fund the government for the rest of the year.

And we thought, and I certainly agree with my colleagues in the House, that this was a very good effort. It's significant. But you heard Senator Durbin say...

CROWLEY: But you can argue it's not really significant, because it's not very much and then argue it's significant.

KYL: You heard Senator Durbin he wasn't in agreement with any of those things. We have got to find some kind of middle ground here.

MCCARTHY: This is -- this year, if you don't start now, you have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run. If we avoid the big problems today, we force bigger problems tomorrow. That's why we stepped up today. Wait until the budget in April? This is more than about the national debt. This is about creating the American dream again.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, because this year looks to me like it's going to be an entire year, there's no doubt that you all feel that the American people -- let's read that, voters, want you all to cut spending and that's where you are going to just drive that home every chance you get this year.

I want to show you a poll. This is a Bloomberg national poll from early March. Which priority is more important? Creating jobs, 56 percent. Cutting spending? 42 percent. Aren't you guys on the wrong track here? If 56 percent say not the cutting spending, we need jobs.

MCCARTHY: OK. What have we been focused on? Jobs and spending. Imagine what the Americans can achieve if they didn't have the burden of Washington's debt. 1099s, if you are a small business and you just go buy stamps, you equal out at the end of the year 600, you have to fill out a 1099 to send to the post office. We just repealed that.

As we go through, next week, we are going to have our jobs scenario (ph) coming in. We are focused on jobs and cutting spending, the two top items that Americans say they want.

CROWLEY: Where is the focus on jobs? Can you...

KYL: Stanford economist John Taylor talking to senators lasts week and made the obvious point that government spending crowds out private investment. If you can reduce the amount of spending by the federal government, the private sector has more money to grow and to create jobs.

There is a direct connection between government spending on the one hand and unemployment on the other.

CROWLEY: And I understand that. And that is a long-time Republican value, that you need to free up the marketplace. They can do the hiring, not the government. But the fact is, that's a slower path in some ways than saying we've got to speed up the creation of jobs in some way. And I think people look -- and regulation. But these are kind of long-term.

Like right now, what is it, 8.9 percent I think is where we are on unemployment. That 8.9 percent of Americans need a job tomorrow. They need a job next week. They don't need a job that is going to take a while while it all filters down to small business and you all...

KYL: Candy, it's a false assumption that it's a slow process. When are you able to invest money, you hire somebody. You can't do that if the government is sucking up all the credit. What didn't work was the stimulus. We spent almost $1 billion to try to quickly create jobs. You remember the "shovel ready" projects? Turned out they weren't ready. We didn't create jobs.

President Obama has had two budgets. We've gone $3 trillion in debt with those two budgets and we've lost 3 million jobs.

CROWLEY: Well, they would argue that the jobs are created and that they stopped the job loss from going higher. But let me move you just to something a little bit different. And that is the -- when Democrats look, and a lot of economists, look at this $60 billion that you want to cut out of really what basically is 2010 spending, they say that it will -- it will grind this economy to a halt. It will cost jobs.

And these are, you know, high-level economists. They know what they are talking about any more than most economists do. But nonetheless, do you not worry that you have got this fragile economy and you want to cut spending, cut spending, cut spending?

MCCARTHY: No, look, every other household had to balance and tighten their belt. American government should as well. This is less than 3 percent. Less than 3 percent. These are the same economists who said the stimulus would create jobs.

America today, the corporations have more cash on hand than they had in the last 50 years. Uncertainty is holding back investment. So when you look at the Republican budget, not only will we tackle the debt, but we'll tackle job creation, prosperity, and liberty. You will find a new tax system be able to allow the investment to end the uncertainty to invest in America, to stop forcing corporations that create money all around the world but have to keep it in other countries, but bring it back and invest it in America today.

Then we'll have an energy policy that can move us forward. You know, under this administration, our output has gone down 13 percent. Even President Clinton has criticized this president for the drilling permits. That's what's driving up costs. That's what's hurting economy. And that's what will hurt jobs in the future. That's the difference between a new majority in the House.

CROWLEY: We're down to one minute, so I want to switch to gas prices. Should the president open up that strategic oil reserve to put more supply in the country and bring down prices?

KYL: No, the problem is not supply, as all the experts will say. By the way, gas prices have doubled under Obama. And one of the reasons is because he has not issued drilling permits, including in the Gulf. And that's what President Clinton was criticizing him for. According to the DOE's own figures, we've lost 13 -- or we will lose 13 percent of the production this year. We can get American energy on-line if we simply grant the permits and so the companies can start the drilling.

CROWLEY: Can I do quickly, yes or no, should he open up that oil reserve?

MCCARTHY: No, he should open up the resources across America. And that's what the Republicans, when they produce the energy, all of the above.

CROWLEY: So you're going to go home to your constituents and say, can't do anything about these gas prices immediately?

MCCARTHY: No, I'm going to go home to my constituents and say, we have a plan to make energy in America energy independent once and for all. CROWLEY: Congressman McCarthy, Senator Kyl, thank you so much for joining us.

MCCARTHY: Thanks.

KYL: Thanks for having us.

 

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