Huelskamp Discusses Boehner's Debt Proposal

Robert Siegel talks with Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a freshman Republican from Kansas, about whether he'll vote for House Speaker John Boehner's proposal for lifting the debt ceiling. He has said he would not vote for the original proposal — and talks about how it would have to change to get his vote.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host: So why are there possibly more than 20 Republicans who are so cool to the speaker's plan that its success on the floor of the House is in doubt? Well, this afternoon, we spoke with one of them. He's Tim Huelskamp, who represents the 1st District of Kansas. He's a freshman, and he's a Tea Party conservative. Welcome to the program, congressman.

Representative TIM HUELSKAMP (REPUBLICAN, KANSAS): Thank you. Thank you.

SIEGEL: First, what's wrong with the speaker's proposal?

HUELSKAMP: Well, it is a start, but I do not believe it goes far enough to solve our long-term problems. And we have a pivotal point in American history where we can solve what is an ongoing economic and financial and a spending problem that's gone on for not just a few years, but decades. And after $14.3 trillion in debt, I think it's time to put a stop to the spending and find a way to start balancing our budget.

SIEGEL: What can the speaker do to convince you - if anything - that you should vote for his plan to raise the debt ceiling?

HUELSKAMP: It's not about what the speaker wants. It's not about necessarily what I want. There's two other principles involved here. It's what the constituents in my district want, and they didn't want to raise the debt ceiling unless there were significant structural reforms and spending cuts to help us balance our budget, and it does not include that. Secondly, the principle involved is the folks that loan us money, and the international creditors and our national creditors, the credit rating agencies say, in my opinion, that this is not nearly enough to prevent a downgrade in our credit rating, which is - would be a very serious event in which many folks are worried about in Washington, myself included.

SIEGEL: But you speak of what the speaker has put together as a start. It's pretty late in the game to be talking about starts. The downgrade would come next week if you don't raise the debt ceiling.

HUELSKAMP: Well, I don't believe the downgrade comes next week. We have asked the Treasury Department for their evidence that August 2nd is the deadline and certainly, it's probably a week later. But whatever it is, fundamentally, we just can't continue to borrow and spend at the same rate we've been doing for many years in this country, and that's the fundamental problem. And any plan that will help solve that problem, both short term and long term, I'd be supportive of.

SIEGEL: I'll just ask you a hypothetical question. If the White House doesn't budge from something that's a lot more like Senator Reid's plan and there, in fact, is no raise of the debt ceiling, do you think you could tell your constituents it's a good thing - we've defaulted, but it's better than what they had on the table otherwise?

HUELSKAMP: The speculation of what might occur is, you know, something that - we're still trying to figure out the impact of that. But again, when the president of the United States threatens to withhold Social Security checks on August 2nd...

SIEGEL: But he's saying there won't be any money if they don't have any borrowing authority - is what he's saying.

HUELSKAMP: He is - well, he is saying that. He's threatening that, but the Social Security Administration says that is not the case. And so yeah, if we can pull off the scare tactics and focus on the problem, the problem with many of these proposals is they don't cut any spending, essentially, next year. The plan from Speaker Boehner would cut six to seven billion next year, and that sounds like a lot of money, except when you have a $1.65 trillion annual deficit.

Most of the cuts will happen five, six, seven, eight years from now, when I'm probably not in Congress. There's probably a new president. And the idea that somehow Washington, after 17 deficit and debt commissions, somehow this one is going to work a little bit differently, that somehow a decade from now, we're going to make these cuts - You know, most American people say, you know, the history shows the cuts they propose never happen unless they happen near term. And so again, it's more Washington same-old approach, that we'll make those cuts sometime in the future.

Now fundamentally, if we can't make those cuts, it doesn't change the situation. And so we need to do things more quickly, rather than further down the road. And that's what most creditors are saying to our country.

SIEGEL: So Congressman Huelskamp, I know you have to go. But before you do, when you sum all this up on the Boehner plan, do we put you down as a certain no, a likely no, undecided, leaning yes, yes - where are you?

HUELSKAMP: Well, I'm a certain no and...

SIEGEL: You're a certain no?

HUELSKAMP: I am a certain no to this plan, and we'll see what happens in the near future with that. But we need a long-term solution, including a balanced budget amendment, to make it work long term for the American people.

SIEGEL: Well, thank you very much for talking with us.

HUELSKAMP: Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's Representative Tim Huelskamp, who represents the 1st District of Kansas. He's a Republican, and he is a certain no vote, he says, on Speaker Boehner's plan to raise the debt ceiling.

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