OTR Interviews

With Time Running Out, Barbour, Other GOP Governors, Send Spending Cut Suggestions to Super Committee

Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour details letter he and 3 other governors sent to debt reduction committee, weighs in on 2012 White House race

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 1, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Time is running out for the Super Committee, and right now there is a $1 trillion gap between its Republicans and Democrats. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour says he and some fellow governors know what needs to be done. We spoke with Governor Barbour a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, nice to see you.

MISS. GOV. HALEY BARBOUR: Hi, Greta. Thank you for having me on.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, I understand you and some other governors have written the Super Committee here in Washington about some of their expected or intended cuts. What have you written the super committee? What do you want?

BARBOUR: Specifically Republican governors have talked to the Super Committee and written them about making savings in Medicaid. Medicaid is our biggest entitlement program for states by far. And earlier this year Republican governors published a report of 31 solutions that would improve the quality of Medicaid while saving money.

So we brought that back to the attention of the Super Committee and said we know the country has to save and spend less. We are willing to do our part. Here are some ideas. So count on us to help us save, but please don't shift costs from the federal government over to the state government. We can save money but cost shifting is not saving money.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, did you get an answer like that's a great idea or let's talk or we will consider it or that's a lousy idea? Did you get any response, or does it go into a black hole.

BARBOUR: Well we have got response from the staff. Staff people have reached out to our staff to go through some of these ideas. We've made presentations to them. And as you know, Senator Baucus actually put out a proposal I believe calling for $100 billion in Medicare savings.

Unfortunately, from what you read in the paper anyway, it looks like most of what he was talking about was cost shifting, that is changing the rate of the federal government's payment for Medicaid versus the state, what they call a blended rate. All that does is mean that the federal government will spend less, but the states would make it up. There wouldn't be any savings involved.

We are willing to do real savings and we want to be partners with the federal government, but we want the federal government to save money but the state to save money too, and it can be done that way. We also told them, Greta, there are other non-entitlement programs that states are involved in where we know we can save money, like workforce training where there are dozens of different programs, and you can save a lot of money just by reducing the administrative costs by only having a small number of programs instead of several dozen programs.

And, of course, the example we tried to set with Medicaid is if we can save money on our biggest entitlement program, the federal government ought to be able to make spending not go up as fast and therefore have savings on the big federal entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

And Senator Baucus again has apparently proposed some savings in Medicare, and we applaud him for that. The last thing we told him was don't raise tax rates, that to deal with his deficits, we've got to increase growth. We've got to generate some growth in the United States, and raising tax rates will make the economy grow less. In fact, the president's repeated proposal for huge tax increases on employers makes it less likely and harder for employers to hire anybody. So those are -- we talked across the board, but with a big focus on Medicaid.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I would be more optimistic that they were seriously going incorporate your ideas if, a, it wasn't the staff to staff and b, that it wasn't Senator Baucus but instead they said governor, come up here and of it before the whole committee and lay it out so we can all talk about it among the decision makers. Have you gotten that invitation?

BARBOUR: Well, we have. I'm not sure that's operationally how they are working so I don't read too much into that. But hopefully they are hearing from us and understand a lot of Democrat governors agree with Republicans on this. Tax increases will hurt our economy where the biggest thing we need in the United States is economic growth and job creation.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I know you have not yet endorsed for 2012, but I'm curious, what sort of interests you more in a candidate for 2012, someone who is more in line with your thinking, your particular ideology on different issues, or someone you think is more apt to beat the president in a general election?

BARBOUR: Well, of course, I'm like any other voter. Both interests me and interests me a lot. But I think I am like millions of Republicans today who are looking at this field, and where those Republicans normally would be saying who do I love the most? Who is the most like me? I think there is a lot more sentiment in people's minds to say who has the best chance to beat Obama, because Republicans, conservatives, moderates, independents in the United States know we have to have a change and know that the direction, the policies of the Obama administration are bad for the country.

So I do think there is a bigger element this year than normal of people who are focused on that second point -- who is the most likely to defeat Obama and get our country back on the right direction?

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, I know you know political strategy probably as well or better than anybody else. Which in the field, and I'm not saying not necessarily the candidates most in line with your thinking, but which in this line of candidates is that person that is most likely to beat President Obama?

(LAUGHTER)

BARBOUR: Well, you know, that remains to be seen. I know almost all of them and a lot of them pretty well. Almost everybody has got strengths, great strengths, almost everybody has got weaknesses.

VAN SUSTEREN: Adding them all together, but, I mean, who has the most? Who has got the most, do you think?

BARBOUR: Well, I think that really remains to be seen. We have to see if Mitt Romney, who has great discipline, he's got proven management skills, is he going to develop that ability to really connect with the voters, because he's got a lot going for him?

Rick Perry, who has got a great record in Texas, and is for a lot of the policies I would be for, is he going to become a better candidate, a better performer, get more on his game? Herman Cain, can he add -- he's likable and attractive. Can he add issues substance, policy substance to what he's doing?

Newt Gingrich, who I think has done better in the debates than anybody else and is a brilliant guy, can he give people the belief that he can manage, that he can actually run the country? Michele Bachmann, somebody who is very articulate and I think has shown better in this than people thought, can she really rise to the occasion, or can Rick Santorum recover from having lost his senator by coming back?

Can Jon Huntsman, who is sort of coming at this from a different angle, can he catch on? Can he convince Republicans he's the right candidate for change? We're not going to know that, Greta, for a while. Remember, four years ago in October the two leaders were Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson. So we shouldn't be expecting everybody to have reached their full potential by now.

VAN SUSTEREN: But I assume you have sort of identified the president's vulnerabilities in 2012, where you think he is the most vulnerable to a Republican competitor, and I would assume you have looked through the candidates in the field and think, well, this person is probably the best to meet his vulnerabilities? It might not be the person I look the most or want to be, but have you not done that sort of strategy in your mind?

BARBOUR: Well, I have. The point, though, and it's a very good happy point for Republicans, is if this election is about President Obama's policies and the results of those policies, that is, if it's a referendum on his record, Obama is going to lose. And almost anybody we nominate, if the election is about Obama's record, is going to be a better candidate than Obama is.

That's why the Obama people are going to do everything they can do to make the election anything but a referendum on his record. They are going to try to not let his policies be what decides the election. Then you start seeing now which can dates are more vulnerable to attack or easier for the Obama people to change the subject? In our country, Greta, typically reelections are referenda on how the incumbent has done. If that's the case, everybody I've named would beat Barack Obama.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, thank you for joining us, and I hope you come back soon, sir.

BARBOUR: Thank you for having me, Greta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)