Huelskamp Discusses Boehner's Debt Proposal
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.
SIEGEL: 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: 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.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.