A View Of Debt Ceiling From The House's Right Side

Rep. Bill Huizenga of Michigan attended the meeting between President Obama and House Republicans at the White House this week. Host Scott Simon speaks to Huizenga about the GOP's perspective on the debt ceiling negotiations.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

SIMON: We have two views on the debt crisis this morning - from a House Republican who attended the White House meeting, and a Senate Democrat. We'll hear from Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado in a few moments. First, we're joined now by Congressman Bill Huizenga of Michigan in our studio.

Thanks so much for being with us.

Representative BILL HUIZENGA (Republican, Michigan): Hey, my pleasure. Good to be with you again.

SIMON: You attended that meeting at the White House...

Rep. HUIZENGA: Yes.

SIMON: ...between the president and House Republicans. How do you feel after that meeting? I mean did it make you feel that a deal's at hand?

Rep. HUIZENGA: No. I'll give you the two points that I think made it most productive. One, was the ancillary issues. There were some other issues that were brought up about, you know, drilling permits and some different things like that, dealing with EPA and some other issues that some of the other members were having. And the president said, hey, you know, let's look at that. We want to work with you, we want to try and make some progress. So I think that was helpful.

The other thing is I think for the president to sit there and have 190-plus heads nod when Paul Ryan is talking about his plan in cutting down on the demagoguery or that our desire is to actually work with him and to try to find solutions on a lot of those things. Hopefully, it backed up the leadership a bit when they're saying those things in private.

SIMON: Now the bond rating agency Moody's said this week that it might downgrade U.S.s AAA bond rating if Congress doesn't make some progress on raising the debt ceiling. Does that affect your thinking?

Rep. HUIZENGA: Sure. That adds to that conversation about what needs to be done. My fear though, Scott, is that we aren't going to be making the really true tough decisions, that we're just going to be making short-term decisions that aren't really going to solve this and we're going to be right back to where we are now. Whether it's Moodys or Fitch, or for any of the rating agencies.

Its really what's important is what does the market feel and whats the confidence in the market. And I had somebody back home whose money manager say me, he said, you know, if you guys aren't willing to make the tough decisions, the market will and the markets decision are going to be far more harsh than any decisions you make.

SIMON: When Secretary Geithner though, says that a default on the debt ceiling would inflict - I think he even used the words catastrophic - didn't he? Might have used it with you. I mean is that much of a choice? If the short-term damage is catastrophic you have to attend to it anyway, don't you?

Rep. HUIZENGA: Well, we have to attend to it. The question is how do we attend to it? How do we avoid that? And the only answer literally that Secretary Geithner has is raise the debt ceiling. And he was asked, what's your backup plan? And he said raise the debt ceiling. And the backup to the backup plan is raise the debt ceiling. And I think there's a number of us that are looking at that saying okay, we understand that, but what else are we going to do to change that trajectory of spending?

SIMON: It sounds like you are amenable to a deal that would raise the debt ceiling if theres some spending cuts made.

Rep. HUIZENGA: I want significant...

SIMON: A lot spending, I'd say. Yeah.

Rep. HUIZENGA: I want significant change. And it's not just the cuts. I want to look, that's a kind of a short-term, you know, get through 2012 kind of a thing. We didnt get into this overnight. We are not going to get out of it overnight. We are so deep in the hole it's going to take some time to get out of it.

SIMON: Could you see yourself voting against raising the debt ceiling?

Rep. HUIZENGA: Yes. I could. This is a significant point I think in a crossroads in the history of America. And I believe we have to push forward with some very difficult decisions. I dont want this to dissolve into chaos. I'm not convinced that it will be quite the chaos that the secretary has laid out. I've talked to a lot of people up in New York as well and other people internationally and back home, who believe, again, you have to look at what we're doing. We take in plenty of money to service our debt. We do. Now the question is is, what are those programs that we're going to have to set aside to pay that debt and to pay our obligations? And that is, you know, youve heard sort of the demagoguery about, oh, so, you know, I can oh, hear the, you know, the radio ad already. You know, Bill Huizenga decided to pay the Chinese before he sent out Social Security checks. You know, I mean that kind of stuff is going to be out there.

SIMON: That was going to be my next question.

Rep. HUIZENGA: Yeah. Well, but here's the flipside to that.

SIMON: Yeah.

Rep. HUIZENGA: So, what, Bill Huizenga decided to raise the debt ceiling and borrow more money from the Chinese to go pay for those Social Security checks and every other program? I mean we are continuing to go more and more in hock. And it's to the wrong people. You know, we're, the percentage of our debt that we hold as American people has shrunk dramatically over the past 25 years. You know, it used to be five percent was foreign help. We're now at 47 percent. And that's, when we flip that around were really in trouble. And it's Pollyanna-ish to think that it's not going to affect our foreign policy.

SIMON: Bill Huizenga, Republican Congress from Michigan. Thanks so much.

Rep. HUIZENGA: Oh, my pleasure. And its always good to see you, Scott.

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