Interviews

Rep. Becerra: We Have to Deal With Debt Ceiling

California congressman on president's call to hike debt limit

 

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF “YOUR WORLD”: Well, the president wanted it, and my next guest voted against it. I’m talking about the $2.4 trillion hike in the nation’s debt limit. It was a clean up-or-down vote last night in the House. It was voted down.

California Democratic Congressman Xavier Becerra joining me.

This was something the president wanted as recently as a few weeks ago. So, why was it being sort of dismissed now?

REP. XAVIER BECERRA, D-CALIF.: It was clear, Neil, from the beginning that this wasn’t the real vote. The Republicans made it very clear in the House when they had conversations with folks on Wall Street saying this is not serious.

And, so, I think people treated it as such. It’s unfortunate that we wasted the people’s time and taxpayer money on a bill that was never destined to go anywhere.

CAVUTO: All right, so, you voted against raising the debt limit, though, right?

BECERRA: I voted again the Republican bill that essentially tried to do something along those lines. It wasn’t the kind of debt ceiling vote that we have had in the past. I think most members of Congress want to be responsible.

CAVUTO: But it was a clean debt ceiling vote, right? I mean, it was up-or-down, no attachments to it, no riders, something that you and the party, Democrats, had argued for, like I said, a few weeks ago.

BECERRA: It wasn’t clean in the sense that it had language in there that accused the president of causing this -- the Bush deficits that led to these large amounts of debt.

But, otherwise, yes, it was a vote on whether or not to increase the debt limit, but, again, it was a message piece. And it’s unfortunate that House Republicans decided to use a very important vote on whether or not America should pay its bills...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But they were not alone, right, Congressman? 82 Democrats joined them in that? And I guess what I’m asking you...

BECERRA: Well, joined in the sense, Neil, that it wasn’t -- we were not -- a number of us were not interested in playing this game. When we get serious about a real vote...

CAVUTO: But you did. Then why not vote? Why not just, say, abstain, or whatever?

BECERRA: Well, that’s sending a message.

To me, it was more important to get out there and say something. And I -- what I said was, when Republicans decide to get serious, we should all then get serious as well. But until -- until then...

CAVUTO: Well, I mean, by the way, Congressman, let’s talk about serious. Democrats never offered a budget in the last couple of years. So, I don’t know where the serious campaign starts, but...

(CROSSTALK) BECERRA: Neil, look, when the House Republican leaders go to Wall Street and say, don’t worry this isn’t the real vote, it’s not serious.

CAVUTO: All right, fine, fine.

I’m not here -- I don’t care who to blame here.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: What I’m saying is it’s just a bit of a mockery of the progress.

(CROSSTALK) BECERRA: ... blame, though.

CAVUTO: But it’s a mockery of the progress, right? You guys never submitted a budget. Now you’re complaining about Republicans doing what the president demanded a little more than a few weeks ago.

What’s to stop me from stepping back from both of you guys and saying, you can’t play nice, you can’t do anything together?

BECERRA: Well, let’s -- let’s put it this way.

At some point, everyone doesn’t have -- you don’t have to play nice. You just have to be serious, do some tough, sensible negotiations and get to work. Sooner or later, the markets will react to the fact that Congress is simply twiddling its thumbs on something very important. If Americans stop paying their mortgage, they would lose their home and their credit rating would be shot. And that is what we are close to doing. We are going to have to deal with this sooner or later. And I hope Republicans are willing to put everything on the table, instead of -- instead of going to the negotiating room with some preconditions. That’s not the way you negotiate.

CAVUTO: All right. But, Congressman, could I get your thoughts on what’s happening with the economy?

I talk to a number of economists of all stripes who say it’s a double dip. We’re going to back into something bad. The trend isn’t the friend. What do you say?

BECERRA: I -- we better not only pray, but work to make sure that that’s not the case. And we should be talking about...

CAVUTO: So, what would you do to prevent it? What would you do to prevent it?

BECERRA: Well, we should continue to do the work that was done to create the 3.5 million jobs in the last year.

Remember, when Barack Obama became president, he inherited -- inherited an economy that was losing, hemorrhaging 780,000 jobs a month.

CAVUTO: So, you would continue doing what we’ve been doing? You wouldn’t change anything?

BECERRA: I would do the things that have succeeded in getting Americans back to work and make sure that we continue to get the economy moving.

CAVUTO: It really hasn’t, right? I mean, we are still, net-net, down jobs, right?

BECERRA: We’re -- well, let’s put it this way. During the Bush recession, we lost over 8 million jobs. We have now have brought back 1.5 million of those Americans to a job. That’s clearly not enough.

CAVUTO: But we’re still down. We still have more people unemployed today than we did when he took office.

BECERRA: True, but if you look at -- if you look at the president himself.

(CROSSTALK) CAVUTO: It’s a moving target. You’re quite right.

(CROSSTALK) CAVUTO: But I am just saying that why would you continue...

(CROSSTALK) BECERRA: But, Neil, the point is that, under President Obama, we have seat a net gaining of jobs. Under President Bush, we did see a net loss of jobs.

If you want to blame President Obama for President Bush’s job loss...

CAVUTO: No, no, we haven’t. No, no. We have seen a net decline in jobs since the president took office.

So what I’m asking you here...

(CROSSTALK) BECERRA: Since President Obama took office, we have seen a net increase of jobs.

CAVUTO: No, no, no, we haven’t.

I just want to get your thoughts on continuing the spending that’s yielded, by even some Democrats’ measures, very little to reverse a trend that now looks very worrisome. So, why would you keep doing more of the same?

BECERRA: Well, what I think you’re seeing is a reaction by not just the markets, but businesspeople around the country, saying that it doesn’t look like Washington can get its act together and continue to help those in the private sector who are trying to get out there.

Big business, by the way, is sitting on some $2 trillion in cash. It’s the small businessman who is struggling mightily. And that’s where really we need to concentrate our energies, is to try to get the guy who relies on that line of credit in that community bank back up and working, so that -- or running the business, so that he or she can hire that extra worker that he or she used to have.

We’re not doing that anymore, Neil.

CAVUTO: But what if they just want you off their back? What if they -- they want taxes lowered, regulations lowered, and they want you out of their way? Quit helping them, if that’s what...

(CROSSTALK)

BECERRA: Oh, sure, we could do some of that. If it makes sense...

CAVUTO: No, do all of that. That’s what they say, do all of that, not some of it, all of it.

BECERRA: Well, it -- you could talk -- go talk to all those Southern states that right now are reeling from the floods and the hurricanes who are looking for FEMA to help them out. They’re not asking for government to get off their back. They’re asking for assistance.

CAVUTO: I am not -- look, I am not talking about FEMA. I’m talking about general small businesses who are saying: We appreciate the effort. We appreciate the help. Stop helping. Leave us alone. Cut our taxes. Cut our regulations. And we’ll take it from there.

BECERRA: We must be talking to different businesspeople, Neil, because I know a whole bunch of folks relied on the Small Business Administration when banks would not lend them any money.

The SBA was out there providing very low-interest loans to keep them going during a very tough time.

CAVUTO: OK.

BECERRA: And, as a result of that, they’re now doing far better. Some are even thriving.

CAVUTO: All right.

BECERRA: So to the degree that government can be supportive, that’s what you want to do. Obviously, you want to let the private sector be the private sector, but please let’s not -- let’s not pretend that the Obama administration hasn’t helped get the private sector back in gear, creating jobs, because that’s exactly what we are doing.

CAVUTO: I will respectfully disagree.

But, Congressman, I always respect having you on. Thank you very much for coming.

BECERRA: Neil, always a pleasure to be with you.

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