The Debt Talks: Where One Republican Stands

Weekend Edition host Scott Simon talks with Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga, of Michigan, about his year in Congress and the impending so-called fiscal cliff.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We've been checking in from time to time with a Republican member of the House, Congressman Bill Huizenga of Michigan. He represents the 2nd district in Western Michigan. We last spoke to him around this time last year at the end of his first turbulent year in Congress. And now, another year is gone. The fiscal cliff draws near. Congressman, thanks very much for being with us.

REPRESENTATIVE BILL HUIZENGA: Good to be with you again, Scott. Thanks for having me.

SIMON: First, your estimation of how the budget negotiations are going.

HUIZENGA: I would says poorly, based on what's been coming out in the news. And, you know, my fear is, frankly, that the administration has maybe misinterpreted this past election. I can understand how they would go and claim this is about increasing tax rates. I think they're wrong yet, that that's not the right direction, but I understand how they can make that argument.

But when they're coming back and saying, oh, by the way, that also means we're not changing any entitlements of any sort, near term or long term, and by the way, in fact we're going to double down and add $50 billion in stimulus spending and we would like the blank check, no more legislative approval of debt ceiling, that seems to me an overplay.

SIMON: Are you unalterably opposed to raising taxes?

HUIZENGA: Well, I don't believe we should be doing this, and there's different - there's obviously a difference in between raising revenues and raising rates, all right. And if we're talking about closing loopholes for people like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates and a number of others who frankly are just going to be fine, you know, I think we need to be open to that.

However, there is that second side of that coin, which is we need to change how we are spending. And there is absolutely no interest in that. And that to me is a non-starter. We have a broken political system, a broken governmental system that is spending way more than it's taking in. And let's assume that those proposed rates go through as the president has been talking about, it is a fraction of what our overspending is.

And to now come out and say, oh, by the way, we want to add $50 billion in stimulative spending, that is - that just compounds the wrong direction to me.

So it has to be - because I talk to people a lot who say, you know what - whether they're a senior or business owner, whoever it might be - they say you know what, I'd be willing to give up something a little bit more if you could tell me what you guys are going to do with it. If you're just going to throw it down the rat hole again, I'm not willing to do that. If you're telling me that you're going to shore up, you know, social security or Medicare for my kids and my grandkids, if you're going to tell me that we're going to get this debt under control, I might be willing to talk to you.

But when you've got an administration who's not willing to restrain any spending, and certainly not willing to sort of wall off any of that new revenue to use for debt reduction or any of those other things, I think that makes it very difficult.

SIMON: So if someone of the administration came to members of Congress who share your point of view and say, we want to increase revenues and here's how we want to do it, and we would like to spend it to reduce the deficit among other things, your reaction would be...

HUIZENGA: Well, very important, first, how you would raise that revenue All right. That - because I do believe, Scott, that the private sector is what's going to create that wealth and prosperity that we need as a country. That is my primary job here in Washington, is to help create the atmosphere that's going to allow that private sector job growth. It's when people are back to work, that their paying their income taxes, that their paying sales tax, that they're going to be using discretionary income to travel and to buy, you know, automobiles from Michigan or office furniture from my district.

So it is important how that revenue is raised. The other element to that is I think people of all stripes, political stripes and philosophical stripes, realize that we need to get this debt situation under control. We have to.

SIMON: Is there something you'd tell the freshman class coming in now or maybe already have that you've learned in your time?

HUIZENGA: Well, you know, I probably - the untold story element of this is - and it's fun to talk about all the votes in Washington and all the other stuff - is you got to do a couple of things. One, you got to make sure that you're good and solid with your family. You got to take care of your family and your home life, whether it's out in Washington or back in your district.

The other thing is you got to make sure that you're taking care of your constituents back in the district. That is probably an underappreciated element of what we do. We're making sure that government is working for our constituents, not against them. It could be everything from Social Security, international adoption, VA, whatever it might be.

And don't just get caught up in what happens out here in Washington and catch Potomac fever. Make sure you remember the people back home and what job you're supposed to be doing and it's for them.

SIMON: Congressman Bill Huizenga of Michigan. Thanks so much for being back with us.

HUIZENGA: Scott, good seeing you again, appreciate it.

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