Debt Deal: A Republican's Perspective

Steve Inskeep talks with Republican Rep. David Dreier of California about the deal on the debt ceiling.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And now let's hear from Congressman David Dreier. He's chairman of the House Rules Committee, a Republican from California.

Congressman, welcome back to the program.

Representative DAVID DREIER (Republican, California): Good morning. Nice to be back.

INSKEEP: Of course, we've described how Speaker John Boehner presented this deal to the membership last night. How did people respond? What was that room like?

Rep. DREIER: Let me first say that I'm particularly proud that our Rules Committee staff worked overnight, and at 1:45 Eastern Time this morning we got this available online, so all of your audience - whether they're members of your affiliates or not - can go to Rules.House.gov.

INSKEEP: OK. OK.

Rep. DREIER: And they can look at that. So I just wanted you to know that that's made available.

In that discussion, the real point that the speaker made was that we've changed the terms of debate in this town. And we now are focused on job creation and economic growth, and we're working to get our fiscal house in order. And I think that while it's not a perfect deal, it is a very, very good one.

INSKEEP: Will enough Republicans vote yes to pass this?

Rep. DREIER: I believe they will and just having listened to my colleague, I've got to say that I don't know of a single Republican who wants to eliminate Medicare. Everyone has been forced to pay into the Medicare fund and through their FICA taxes, and that's not something...

INSKEEP: Well, let's grant that changes to Medicare are on the table, we can argue over how to describe them, that's fair to say. But you think that enough Republicans will vote yes. And are you committed to allowing a vote on this, willing to let it pass even if it required Democratic votes to get to that majority?

Rep. DREIER: Absolutely. I mean this is a bipartisan agreement that has been struck. And I believe that we are in a position where we have to ensure that we're going to increase the debt ceiling, which by and large virtually everyone has said needs to be done. But at the same time, we have to change the course we've been on.

This is the first time in the 75 times that it's been increased since 1962 that we actually are going to get to the root cause of the problem. It's not a debt ceiling problem, it's a debt problem. So bringing about these cuts will help us do that.

INSKEEP: Two things, Congressman, very quickly. First just to remind people, there's a trillion dollars in spending cuts right away. Then a committee comes up with more deficit reductions. Speaker Boehner, according to that PowerPoint presentation, told his members last night the rules were set up so that there would not be tax increases. David Plouffe, presidential advisor on this program earlier this morning, said 100 percent certainty there can be tax increases if the committee goes for that.

Will there be tax increases - let's not say will there be - can there be tax increases eventually, as part of this deal?

Rep. DREIER: Well, I don't believe that there can. But, Steve, you know, it's interesting, there's a bipartisan sense that we need to close loopholes and reduce marginal rates. President Obama has said that. Former President Clinton has said it.

INSKEEP: Tax reform.

Rep. DREIER: And I believe that we can come to an agreement to close loopholes, and bring about marginal rate reductions for job creators and for individuals.

INSKEEP: One last thing, Congressman Dreier. Months ago, late 2010, speaker Boehner told The New Yorker magazine this is going to be the first really big, quote, adult moment for the new Republican majority. And he referred to what he called the serious problem that would exist if you didn't raise the debt ceiling. Given that your speaker, in his words, said months ago that it would be a serious problem not to raise the debt ceiling, why did House Republicans spend this summer threatening to torpedo the economy by defaulting?

Rep. DREIER: No one threatened to torpedo the economy by defaulting, Steve. I will tell you what happened. The speaker said that we need to increase the debt ceiling but we can't continue with business as usual. That's what this new group of people who changed the Congress have said. And they've...

INSKEEP: Well, some publicly said that they wanted to not raise the debt ceiling.

Rep. DREIER: Well, there may have been a few people who said that. But no one in a leadership position said it.

INSKEEP: No one in the leadership. In the leadership, all the way along, you wanted to make sure this got done, is what you're saying.

Rep. DREIER: Absolutely. And it's going to get done.

INSKEEP: Well, Congressman, thanks very much.

Rep. DREIER: You bet. Always good to talk to you.

INSKEEP: David Dreier is a Republican congressman from California. We also heard from Claire McCaskill, Democratic senator from Missouri.

Much work left to do for both sides today. We're expecting possible votes in the House and the Senate in the coming hours, and we'll give you more details as we learn them.

And by the way, we're putting up on Twitter for you the link that Congressman Dreier mentioned, that takes you to the text of the bill. You can find us @MorningEdition or @NPRInskeep.

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