Interview with Representative Allen West

Interview with Representative Allen West

By John King, USA - December 19, 2011

KING: One of those conservatives who's doesn't like the two- month bill and wants the one-year extension joins me now, Congressman Alan West of Florida.

Congressman, it's good to see you. You're a freshman elected with Tea Party support. A lot of people are thinking that it is the new members like yourself who told the speaker, "Sorry, sir, I know you're on the record saying this is a good deal, but we don't think it is."

Here's what the Democrats are trying to make of this. Chris Van Hollen, a member of the Democratic leadership, said, "We are witnessing a pattern of Speaker Boehner walking away from bipartisan compromises to kowtow to his extreme Tea Party wing of his caucus." He means you, sir. Is that what happened? Did you guys pull the rug out from under the speaker?

REP. ALAN WEST (R), FLORIDA: No, I don't think we pulled the rug out from under the speaker. As a matter of fact, when I flew back in Saturday morning, before I even landed, I had message upon message from friends and constituents down in south Florida saying what is this about a two-month extension? No one can do any type of proper analysis with just a two-month, and that's bad fiscal policy. As a matter of fact, we just had today the National Payroll Reporting Consortium say that the Senate amendment could create substantial problems, confusion and costs affecting a significant percentage of U.S. employers and employees.

The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council said indeed the uncertainty regarding what happens next following the two-month expiration date will serve as additional fuel to currently low business confidence levels.

So this is not what we should be doing up here. We passed a bill that gave a one-year extension, which is something that the president said. Senator Harry Reid said and Senator Chuck Schumer said. For them to come back with this Band-Aid approach is just really, as you said, playing political chicken with the American people, who are suffering under failed economic policies. And I'm not going to stand for that.

KING: I understand that. Forgive me for interrupting, sir. You called it political chicken. I think that is a fair way to call it. I may have said it first. Some moderate Republicans, especially in the Senate side, are a bit nervous, though, because of the political environment.

Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts faces a tough re-election campaign. He put out this statement today: "The House Republicans' plan to scuttle the deal to help middle class families is irresponsible and wrong." That's a Republican, sir. What do you say to Senator Brown?

WEST: I say very simple. I'm not up here worrying about re- election. I'm up here to do what is right by the American people. And I hate to say it: There are senators over there that are more so concerned about re-election than they're missing the boat. They should have got on board with the one-year extension that was paid for. That will make sure that we don't see a Social Security deficit as we did with this pay tax cut.

We had unemployment insurance reforms, as well as we had a two- year extension on the sustained growth rate, which is important for doctors who are treating Medicare seniors down in my neck of the woods.

Also, we had a good thing with the payroll -- not the payroll, but the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Ibolamac (ph) provision continue to provide the opportunities and the conditions for private sector jobs.

John, look. We have to be very honest. I know that the messaging machine is going to be kicking in full time. I think the American people should be absolutely appalled, and I'm embarrassed. The fact that the Senate sent over something here for just two months.

We're going to vote on this Senate amendment. I don't think it will pass. And then we're going on continue with regular order, which is something that we've established this year. We're probably going to a conference.

KING: And you say probably going to a conference. The Senate is gone. They can come back, yes, if the Democrats blink. They say they have no plans to do that.

You mentioned the messaging machine. The White House has up on its Web site in the White House briefing room, they've had a clock, saying, "If Congress doesn't act in X number of days," and the countdown going on. They've now crossed that out. If you go to the Web site, it says if the House doesn't ask. They're putting the blame directly on you.

You might have a tough reelection campaign next year. Are you at all concerned that, when we're in these meetings that we're not allowed to bring a camera into, what is the level of concern in there that, if we do this, even if we think we're right on the policy, we could pay a price for it?

WEST: It's not about paying a price. You just said you have to do what is right about a policy for the American people. This past year we have seen such abysmal economic growth. A GDP in the first three quarters of 0.4 percent, 1.0, 2.0 percent. We have to do something that is better to provide predictability and certainty and confidence, which is exactly what several of these groups have said about a two-month extension that does not do that.

So John, I'm not up here wanting to play games with the American people. I'm not up here worrying about political tick-tock clocks and thing that are truly immature and a reflection of the lack of leadership in the White House.

Two months is not viable, and the American people don't need us to come right back in January or February and go through this whole machination again.

So I think that it ends right here. We're going to come up with a one-year solution, which is what I voted for last week so no one can say that I don't believe in having this done. I'm voting against the short term measures.

KING: Big vote tonight for Congressman Alan West of Florida. Sir, appreciate your time tonight. We'll watch this one play out.

WEST: Yes. Thanks, John.

KING: Fascinating stuff. Thank you, sir. 

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