Trying to find compromise before a government shutdown
Copies of the proposed federal budget of FY 2012 are seen at the Government Printing Office in Washington, DC.
Bob Moon: So to recap: The Republican-led House has easily passed a stopgap funding bill, but the White House calls that a "distraction," and is vowing to veto the measure. Uncle Sam's spending account runs dry as of midnight tomorrow. And there's no agreement in sight.
Among those lawmakers digging in is Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, a member of the House Budget Committee. He's on the line with us from the Capitol -- thanks for joining us.
Jason Chaffetz: Hey, thanks for having me, I appreciate it.
Moon: So let's cut to the chase: Is there going to be a government shutdown?
Chaffetz: I hope not. Nobody wants to see the government shut down. We just walked off the floor having passed a continuing resolution for another week, but most importantly, funding the military through the rest of the fiscal year to make sure our troops get paid.
Moon: Now you say you've passed a continuing resolution. What is that going to do?
Chaffetz: It basically cuts $12 billion for the fiscal year, but like I said, most importantly, it funds the military for the next six months.
Moon: Why is it so tough to reach bipartisan agreement on deficit cuts and tax reform?
Chaffetz: I mean, I don't know. Each side will kind of point at each other, but we think we're asking for a very modest cut, given the size and scope, and the fact that we're upside down financially and have a deficit this year of something in the magnitude of $1.5 trillion. And here we are trying to ask for a few tens of billions of dollars. We think it's a reasonable balance, but good people will differ.
Moon: I've heard Democrats -- and not just Democrats -- who are painting the GOP as unwilling to compromise on the $33 billion, and in fact I've read some reports that some Republicans are worried that the party is in a bind here. Why not just compromise on the $33 billion and move on to bigger stuff later? Why do you think it's important to hold out for more?
Chaffetz: Well I think the Republicans having passed the continuing resolution very convincingly, not only we're seeking upwards of $60 billion in cuts, but also defunded Obamacare, which is really a trillion dollar-type of event, in addition to Planned Parenthood. And so, if they want to take those so-called riders off the table and then just think they can cut the $61 billion in half, that certainly doesn't seem like meeting us in middle ground. So as the president rightly said yesterday, no one person gets everything that they want. We understand that. But we're going to have to figure out how to deal with the debt crisis, and not keep punting this down the road.
Moon: You know, we're finally talking seriously about bigger entitlement cuts. Why not tax hikes? Doesn't that also need to be on the table if we're really going to dig ourselves out of this hole?
Chaffetz: Well if Democrats really want to argue for tax hikes, they can. We happen to think that we're taxing, borrowing and spending too much money already. The 25 cents out of every dollar being spent in this economy, 25 percent of GDP is just far too much. You know, I hear a lot about taxing the so-called "rich" -- that would never, ever make the type of debt that's needed in order to actually solve the long-term challenges.
Moon: I've heard people say, including people like Warren Buffett, that they're willing to pay more in taxes.
Chaffetz: They can go ahead and pony up. There's nothing that precludes them from paying more right now. They don't need legislation. If Warren Buffett thinks he owes more money to the federal government, then pay it.
Moon: So let me come at this from another direction: What do you think is absolutely going to have to happen to head off a shutdown?
Chaffetz: Well, I think the most encouraging thing is the fact the president is actually staying in town -- yesterday he left town. That they're actually going to sit down and spend some time talking this out.
Moon: I have to ask you: You famously have chosen to sleep in your office when in town. Now a government shutdown might mean the building shower facilities are going to be shut off. What are you going to do if that happens?
Chaffetz: I better figure out where the local YMCA is. I bet there's one fairly close. I do have a bicycle here, so I might be visiting that YMCA.
Moon: Congressman Jason Chaffetz is a Republican from Utah. Thanks for joining us.
Chaffetz: Thank you.