OTR Interviews

Van Hollen: Speaker Boehner Had the Rug Pulled Out From Under Him By His Own Party in Debt Talks

Congressman Chris Van Hollen responds to Boehner interview, addresses what's needed to break impasse

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 14, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: House Budget Committee ranking member Democratic congressman Chris Van Hollen joins us. Good evening, sir.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, D-MD: Good evening. Good to be with you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I got to tell you, no matter what happens, I'm lucky I got a job. None of this is going to hurt me. But this -- it upsets me profoundly! And I like Democrats and I like Republicans, I know all of you, but I think you all let us down.

VAN HOLLEN: I think it upsets a lot of people. It upsets me. It upsets our colleagues, and it certainly upsets the American people. That's why I agree with Speaker Boehner that it's important for us to come together and not only find our common ground, but also be willing to make some of the tough compromises. There are going to be areas where we disagree, but in the interests of the country, there's going to have to be a little give-and-take.

And I think one of the reasons the President of the United States is so frustrated is he's seen an attitude of -- on the Republican side, take, take, take and no give, with one exception, which was some time ago when it appeared that he and Speaker Boehner were close to doing a big deal. And when word of that began to leak out, the Speaker apparently had the rug pulled out from under him from within his own caucus.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, it -- is it true -- because in order to (INAUDIBLE) least a sort of an offer from each side -- Speaker Boehner just said that the president has not identified his number or specific cuts. Because that, to me, I think that makes a difference. Has he done that?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, to my knowledge, the president, and the president has said, he's put on the table something in the range of $4 trillion. I know one element of that, for example, is $1.1 trillion that's been talked about in the context of cuts to discretionary spending. The big decision there is creating some firewall so that it doesn't all come out of domestic discretionary spending. There's some on the security, on the defense side. You mentioned the GAO report. You know the one...

VAN SUSTEREN: That is horrifying!

VAN HOLLEN: And you know...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what? I think every American should just explode! If you -- I went through that report and I just wanted to explode when I saw it!

VAN HOLLEN: It is horrifying.

VAN SUSTEREN: Shame on everybody who works on that on Capitol Hill.

VAN HOLLEN: It is horrifying. But you know, the one federal agency that has never passed a GAO audit? It's the Department of Defense. You listen to conservatives Republicans, and they say, We need to cut some of that defense spending. There's a lot of waste. So we've said, out of that $1.1 trillion, you got to take some savings out of the Department of Defense. They don't want to do a firewall.

So those are the kind of issues that are still debated. The president's put quite a bit on the table. And in fact, it appeared that there was -- that Speaker Boehner was also prepared to make some tough compromises. And again, when word of that leaked out, the rug was pulled out from under him.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Explain to me about cutting. Usually, when I think of cut -- like, if my budget is $10, I would cut it down to $8. That's a cut.

VAN HOLLEN: That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is cutting on Capitol Hill mean that we don't have the increase as much as we thought? Is that what cutting is?

VAN HOLLEN: No. Under the proposal the president has put on the table...

VAN SUSTEREN: It's a real cut.

VAN HOLLEN: ... it's a real cut, certainly in terms of real dollars across the board...

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, so it's not...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: ... just we're not going to have as much growth as we expected, that kind.

VAN HOLLEN: No. And it would take domestic discretionary spending down to a smaller share of GDP since the Eisenhower administration. And that was the president's original proposal. And he has given more since then. Look, I think the real issue here is it requires give-and-take on both sides. Now, you heard the speaker talk about...

VAN SUSTEREN: It's not going to happen with -- I mean, the problem is, is that we really are at an ideology divide. That...

VAN HOLLEN: That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... and that makes it really hard.

VAN HOLLEN: That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think that makes it profoundly difficult.

VAN HOLLEN: But that's why compromise is necessary. And the one thing every bipartisan commission that's looked at this has said is if you want to get to a significant, big deal on the deficit, you got to deal on the revenue side. You've got to begin to close...

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let's...

VAN HOLLEN: ... corporate tax loopholes.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... talk about the commission...

VAN HOLLEN: You have to begin to get rid of the subsidies for corporate jets. Can I give you a fact...

VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, see, that corporate jet thing...

VAN HOLLEN: No, no.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's -- can I tell you -- that is -- that's a -- that is a political argument, such a small part of...

VAN HOLLEN: No, it is -- it is...

VAN SUSTEREN: But let me -- let me talk about the ...

VAN HOLLEN: It is small, but it's symbolic of the problem. They -- not one penny for deficit reduction from closing...

VAN SUSTEREN: Who came up with...

VAN HOLLEN: ... those kind of loopholes.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... that corporate jet -- who -- who was it -- which party brought up that corporate jet loophole?

VAN HOLLEN: Oh, it's on a list. I mean, we've -- it goes with...

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you vote for it?

VAN HOLLEN: ... oil and gas -- I'm sorry?

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you vote for it?

VAN HOLLEN: I didn't vote for the corporate jet loophole, but the reality...

VAN SUSTEREN: Did any Democrat? I mean, did any Democrat?

VAN HOLLEN: Look, there's a lot of stuff that has found its way into the tax code. It's spending in the tax code. It's pork barrel in the tax code.

VAN SUSTEREN: The spending -- the spending cod is -- I mean, the tax code is nuts! But it's like that GAO report. You know it. I know it. It's been going on for years, and nothing ever gets done!

VAN HOLLEN: But this is an opportunity. I agree with the Speaker. And why take the position that when you close a corporate loophole, you can't have the savings go to deficit reduction? That's what we've said. We want to close some of those -- look, when Ronald Reagan was president, he made some tough decisions. He did cut taxes. But as Alan Simpson, Senator Simpson, has pointed out, he raised revenue 11 times as part of an effort to get budget deficits deal. He raised the debt ceiling 17 times.

My view, in the current context, Ronald Reagan would lose in a primary to a Tea Party candidate because he was willing to make tough compromises.

VAN SUSTEREN: And you get the last word, of course, as you should, on this. Thank you, sir.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.