Interviews

Rep. Van Hollen: We're Working Hard to Avoid a Shutdown

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF "YOUR WORLD": I'm very honored to have this person with us, the top -- one of the top Democrats, certainly in the House, Chris Van Hollen.

Of course, he's one of the guys who has to sort of sign off on all of this.

So, as you see things Congressman, what do you think?

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, D-MD.: Well, I am a lot more optimistic right now than I was even five hours ago.

CAVUTO: Really? What changed?

VAN HOLLEN: I think there's been very...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think some of the cooler heads on the Republican side are prevailing in this sense. A lot of people were saying we have to have some of these social riders, especially with respect to Planned Parenthood.

CAVUTO: And, by the way, what happens with Planned Parenthood?  Because that was in from the very beginning. When did it catch people's attention?

VAN HOLLEN: No, this has been controversial from the very beginning, when it first passed the House. And the issue has been whether...

CAVUTO: Oh, I see. Is that going to be taken out now?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think -- again, I think that a couple of Republican senators earlier today said, let's not allow that issue to stop the government, make it close down, that we should come back and fight that fight another day.

These are controversial issues. They really don't belong...

CAVUTO: So, the $75 million that was allocated in cuts for that, if that goes, what was sent in its place? Do we know yet, or no?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, the overall number -- and I think you guys are reporting this -- may be in the range of about $38 billion. I don't want to say exactly what the number is, but I think we're talking about in that range. And then you would have an arrangement where, again, we're hoping that there would be no riders, because the idea would be, let's just focus on the spending piece. Let's not try and impose a particular social policy or agenda under the -- with the threat of government shutdown.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But time's a wasting, right? $ 38 billion, let's say it's that. Then you have got to really rush here.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN HOLLEN: Here is what would happen. Here is what would happen.

CAVUTO: Explain.

VAN HOLLEN: If you have the agreement on all those parameters and principles, then everybody together would agree just to say, over the weekend, while we do the paperwork, while we ink the deal and we do the clerical stuff -- so, for three days we would just, by unanimous consent possibly, by everybody agreeing, you could just say, let's extend -- let's keep the government open for four days.

CAVUTO: Oh. So you don't have to have a formal vote in the House and/or Senate, per se?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, you have to have a vote. But the form of the vote could be what we call by unanimous consent. Now, anybody can object to that.

CAVUTO: But it's not a member-by-member deal, or is it?

VAN HOLLEN: No, it can be voice vote.

CAVUTO: OK.

VAN HOLLEN: But in order for it to work...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: In other words, it takes time to do that.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, it can happen very quickly.

CAVUTO: OK.

VAN HOLLEN: But only if everybody's in agreement can it happen.

CAVUTO: Well, what if they're not?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, then you have to go through a more rigorous procedure. You would have to go through the Rules Committee in the House.  That would take some time. And that probably would take you past midnight, even if you had a deal in place...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: If we hit a second past midnight, we are technically shut down?

VAN HOLLEN: That's correct.

CAVUTO: There's no way around that?

VAN HOLLEN: Technically shut down after midnight.

CAVUTO: All right. So...

VAN HOLLEN: And so we're working hard to try and avoid that.

CAVUTO: Now, Republicans are saying, you know, that you guys are saying, we have gone to $38 billion. They say they've come down a lot more, because they started really at $61 billion. So they have given up quite a bit. It's not been as intransigent as has been portrayed.

What do you say?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, there are a couple issues, right?

I mean, there was a lot of intransigence on these so-called riders, a threat to shut down the government if you didn't get certain provisions, whether they're related to Planned Parenthood and clinics and that kind of thing. With respect to the numbers, there is a lot of math around here.

CAVUTO: Right.

VAN HOLLEN: But, just to be clear, $40 billion were cut from the president's budget back in December. And then, originally, Speaker Boehner and Paul Ryan and others said, let's do another $32 billion.

That was then overtaken by demands from the Tea Party, because when the president said, OK, we'll put $33 billion on the table that no longer was good enough. So now...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But, along the way, we cut a billion here, a billion here with extensions. And they argue that if you double this out, if you prorate it, they got $76 billion, $80 billion, however you come up with double that time period, and they won. What do you say?

(CROSSTALK) 

VAN HOLLEN: Right.

Look, I think the country will win if we're able to reach an agreement here. That's the important thing that we work together to try and prevent a shutdown. And, again, if it's the case that the Republicans who are saying let's not try and use this as a vehicle to impose a particular social agenda, let's argue those outside of this process...

CAVUTO: And, next week, you're going to be at this again for the new budget, the debt ceiling?

(CROSSTALK)

VAN HOLLEN: Look, we're going to get into a budget.

CAVUTO: Right. 

VAN HOLLEN: And one of the big issues there is going to be that the Republican budget would end the Medicare guarantee, and seniors would no longer be able to choose to stay in the Medicare program.

They're going to have to go into the private insurance market. And the way they save money is they say seniors are going to have to eat the rising health care costs.

CAVUTO: Well, they have shifted it to the states in that event, right?

VAN HOLLEN: No. Now you are talking about Medicaid. So they block granted Medicaid, which essentially gives a blank check to...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But you said that's the next Herculean battle.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, you have got Medicaid, you have got Medicare, you've got cuts to education.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: So, this is just one fight?

VAN HOLLEN: We will be talking again because they provide, at the same time, additional tax breaks to the folks at the very top, while they cut these other issues like Medicaid.

CAVUTO: Ah.

VAN HOLLEN: So, here...

CAVUTO: All right.

VAN HOLLEN: Yes, here we go.

But, yes, this will be -- round two will be coming up very shortly.

CAVUTO: OK. So you're not going to sleep?

VAN HOLLEN: I think we have got a long night ahead of us.

CAVUTO: Congressman, thank you.

But you guys have been good-natured about that.

VAN HOLLEN: Yes. 

CAVUTO: All right.

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