Rep. Van Hollen: President has acted on economic issues

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," September 6, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, D-MD.: You remember had this gigantic clock in the arena showing the size of the national debt. And Paul told America, if you elect Republicans, we can fix that.

But, if Paul Ryan was being honest, he would've pointed to the debt clock and said, we built that.


NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF "YOUR WORLD": I think Congressman Van Hollen was one of the few speakers to at least address the debt clock, maybe not the way some Republicans would like. But at least he mentioned it.

He joins me right now.

I got to tell you, congressman, it is amazing to me, with the exception of you referring to the debt clock, how few of your colleagues speaking down there do. It's like it doesn't exist.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I beg to differ on that.

In addition to myself and a number of others, President Clinton talked about the deficit and the debt issue. And he pointed out, really, what I pointed out, which is that when he left office, we actually had projected surpluses for a long period of time, because when he put together his economic plan, he did it in a balanced way.

He invested in the economy. But, if you recall, back in 1993, he also said we've got to take on this deficit. And he asked for some more revenue. He got it. Every Republican in the House, every one voted against it. But we had a balanced budget eight years later.

CAVUTO: But you know what's weird about it?

I have as yet to hear -- maybe there are speakers I missed -- anyone to say that this president has done anything wrong, even from the president, that he's made any mistake at all. And I think that the president's most revealing line was maybe I didn't tell my story better or argue my case better, but never that he botched anything.

Do you think the president botched anything? I know the Republicans are evil and their motivations are satanic and everything else, but I mean come on, did he do, in your opinion, anything wrong?

VAN HOLLEN: Not the substance of it. But let me talk about health care. He let some Republicans especially in the Senate make him think that they actually wanted to work out something along the lines of the Mitt Romney Massachusetts plan. People like Senator Grassley, who used to be very much in favor, of course of the kind of plan that Mitt Romney had in Massachusetts, and he had wanted to take it national.

Democrats thought, hey, here is a guy we can work with. After all, we're looking at his model. But other than that kind of thing, I think the president was in very challenging times. We know that. The economy was in freefall.

CAVUTO: Do you think he should give that a rest, by the way, the challenging times thing, and just, we know you inherited a mess, just -- if you're going to blame another president, I don't know, maybe move on to another one, maybe Millard Fillmore. I don't know.

But do you think the American people are in a mood to hear, oh, my God, here he goes again with the here's the mess I got from the last guy?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, two things.

You said that we think all Republicans are evil. You know that's not true.



Look, I get along personally with Paul Ryan.

VAN HOLLEN: Actually, yes, I remember. You try to reach across the aisle.



But we have really strong differences on these issues. When it comes to the situation the president inherited, it is certainly reasonable to point out that when he was elected, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month and that we now have seen 24 straight months of positive private sector job growth.

CAVUTO: But, by the way, that is another thing where you guys have moved numbers. Right?

Both parties are inclined to do this at their conventions. It only makes sense. But now the thinking seems to be, look at the four million jobs created since what February of 2010, right? So that's become the new period, not January 20 when he assumed office, when things really got going on February 2010.

But we judge presidencies, fairly or not, right, congressman, on how they did from the point they came in. So it's like you're trying to move the field.

VAN HOLLEN: Look, Neil, I think we all know that when something is going down really fast, it takes time to stop it.

The president acted immediately. He passed the recovery bill. He passed the auto rescue bill. I would ask what would Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan do.? We know that Mitt Romney was in favor of government intervention to help Wall Street, right? He was in favor of the bank rescue. But when it came time to help the auto industry and American manufacturing, forget it, no government role.

CAVUTO: But what do you think of some of the purists who look at rescues -- you and I chatted about this, congressman -- who were afraid -- on this show we raised our concerns about President Bush starting the bank rescue -- that it is a slippery slope and that it leads to other industries expecting something from Washington.

And that indeed is what has developed, to the point now where we have a lot of folks very dependent on the bigger government. How do you answer Americans watching this from home that, yes, I feel I'm happy for those who now have something maybe they didn't have before and the little girl who will be taken care of now, but what about all the taxpayers who will be saddled with the bill?

VAN HOLLEN: The moral hazard issue is a real issue.

Now let's apply it to what happened with the Wall Street meltdown. Republicans and Democrats alike – I mean after all, President Bush is the one that asked Congress to intervene, because they believed -- and I think they were right -- that if you hadn't intervened, you would have seen the total collapse of the American economy.

I mean a lot of us would be willing to let the financial sector take a hit if it wasn't going to spread to the rest of the economy.


CAVUTO: By the way, that doesn't necessarily still apply today. If Bank of America were to go belly up, would you entertain rescuing them? The new law says no.

VAN HOLLEN: No, no, one of the reasons we passed the Wall Street Reform Bill was to prevent the American taxpayer from being on the hook.

One of the provisions in there requires that companies have to pay in the end for the rescue, for any rescue.

CAVUTO: Fine, but if they are melting fast, like we had -- this is an important issue, because I think you raise a good one, that if we're in another meltdown environment, you know everything falls fast in that environment.

So their assets are worth spit in the end. Would the government then, God forbid we got back to that and Bank of America's going belly up, step back and let it go belly up?

VAN HOLLEN: That's we we're trying to create fire walls in the Wall Street Reform Bill.

I would be the first to agree that it is not perfect, but it's better than where we were in terms of preventing the contagion from spreading. What we're all trying to get to is a point where, no, that we don't have to rescue the banks and that they have to go bankrupt and reap the -- when they reap the benefits of the decisions, they get to keep them. Taxpayers shouldn't be on the hook.


CAVUTO: In the meantime, you will be playing Paul Ryan for the president -- for Joe Biden, I should say, practicing for the debate. How's that going?


Well, look, we're going to get started in earnest soon. The vice president knows these issues well, from budget issues to national security and foreign policy issues. I know how Paul likes to present those issues.

And so I think I may be able to be of some help to the vice president.

CAVUTO: Republicans are salivating that the vice president is a loose cannon, he will say something stupid.

You think Republicans are getting ahead of themselves.

VAN HOLLEN: The vice president is somebody who speaks from the heart. He'd be the first to say there are times when he has misspoken.

But what the American people know from Joe Biden is he may have the title Vice President Joe Biden, but he's the guy who always is looking out for the average Joe. He's known for that. And that will come through.

CAVUTO: All right, Congressman, thank you very much.

VAN HOLLEN: Good to see you.

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