This morning on “Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien,” Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) weighs in on the stalemate in Congress over working to avoid forced massive spending cuts.
Rush transcript available after the jump.
O’BRIEN: Congressman Aaron Schock is a Republican from Illinois. He’s the member of the Ways and Means Committee. Nice to have you with us. Appreciate your time this morning.
REP. AARON SCHOCK, (R) ILLINOIS: Good morning, Soledad.
O’BRIEN: So, what do you think? Two days to go, are you going to get this resolved, 48 hours?
SCHOCK: Well, I sure hope so. I agree with the president that we do not want to see a sequestration take effect. I would just respectfully submit that the House has tried to be responsible. I think what’s really been lost on my constituents back home is that the House of Representatives acted last summer with an alternative to the sequestration.
You know, it’s great to talk about how we don’t want this to happen. It’s another thing to put forward a specific plan that would prevent it from happening. And Soledad, you know that that vote last summer was a bipartisan vote. It voted with Republicans and Democrats out of the House of Representatives, went over to the Senate, and unfortunately, Harry Reid not only didn’t vote on the House version, but the Senate hasn’t put forward its own proposal.
So, I would just encourage the president to work with Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats to put forward their own alternative so that we can hopefully then go to conference and negotiate something between the House and the Senate because both sides agree that it’s better to use a scalpel than a hatchet.
O’BRIEN: You’re describing something that there’s just no way is going to be done in 48 hours so as much as you’re optimistic –
SCHOCK: I’m an optimist.
O’BRIEN: Well, that’s charming, but I don’t know that that’s actually going to happen in the next 48 hours. You wanted to ask a question.
CHRIS FRATES, REPORTER, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Congressman, Chris Frates with “National Journal” here. I have a story this morning that Republican House leadership are taking a wait-and-see approach to the sequester. They want to see if the sky really does fall. They think they lose some leverage. They’re going to need to negotiate on sequester.
And if the cuts are not to be that bad, they think they get some leverage and can roll this debate on the across-the-board spending cuts into a larger one about the debt ceiling this summer. Is that a prudent way for House Republicans to go forward on this, taking a wait-and-see? Shouldn’t your leaders be showing more leadership here?
SCHOCK: Well, I’m not sure that wait-and-see is the appropriate terminology. I would just simply say that we’ve done all we can in the House of Representatives. We can’t negotiate with ourselves and so short of passing an alternative to the sequestration, which we’ve done. We can’t force the Senate to act.
And so, for us to then begin negotiating with the president which you know we’ve done in the past with Boehner and Obama going behind closed doors and trying to negotiate a deal, that doesn’t seem to work. And so, what’s important is regular order –
(CROSSTALK) SCHOCK: Because I think both Republicans and Democrats in the House, particularly, are frustrated that we haven’t been doing more regular order. We haven’t been passing budgets that required by law. We haven’t been moving bills from committee to floor, allowing for amendments, allowing for input from both sides.
Nobody wants this kind of one and two-man negotiated deals, and then, we’re all told to just kind of swallow hard and vote for the bill. We expect to be a part of the legislative making process which we were.
O’BRIEN: OK. So, then, explain to me something. Forgive me for interrupting you, but at the same time, it’s your colleagues who have said, listen, we’re going to put fort legislation that would put this entirely into the lap of the president. The White House whether they want to make the cuts. There are going to be cuts made instead of having them across the board. Now, he can pick.
That seems to completely contradict what you’ve just said about being part of a process and actually being part of a negotiation of cuts. So, do you support that? What’s being proposed out of the House or would you not support it?
SCHOCK: Well, the bill that we passed six months ago was specific in what cuts we would have made, and as I said, that bill did not go anywhere in the Senate. And so, the latest proposal, you’re correct, is to say OK, if you don’t like the cuts we specified six months ago, then we will give you, Mr. President, the scalpel so that we don’t have to disproportionately make cuts, for example, in TSA within the Department of Transportation on TSA workers.
O’BRIEN: But isn’t the scalpel thing your job, right? I mean, like to some degree, when you say, OK Mr. President, here’s the scalpel, your job along with your colleagues is the scalpeling, right? The whole point is that all of you are supposed to come together and figure out how you come to some agreement.
O’BRIEN: So, it sounds to me like, in fact, you’re then giving it up and saying OK, let the White House do it, which would be constitutionally, I believe, against what your actual job is.
SCHOCK: Well, actually two things. Number one, I agree with you, we’re trying to do our job as best we can, but as i mentioned earlier, we can’t negotiate with ourselves. We can’t force the Senate to do its job. And the House has put forward in earnest its own proposal with specific cuts this last summer. We have now said, OK, Mr. President, look, we’re trying – Soledad, we’re trying to do everything we can to prevent the sequester short of just not making cuts.
I mean, my constituents back in Illinois have said, look, are you kidding me? You’re borrowing 40 cents out of every dollar you spend in Washington and you can’t cut three percent of the federal budget? I mean, who’s to think we’re actually going to solve our deficit problem in this country if we can’t cut three percent? Nobody believes there’s going to be this great calamity if the sequestration takes effect, unless, there’s not allowed some discretion within the department – within the administration. And Soledad, I would just say that I don’t think it’s us abdicating a responsibility to the president. I would simply say the president’s job as a chief executive is to administer the budget, administer the revenue lines that the Congress gives it.
And so, what we’re simply saying is, look, make the three percent cut. We’re willing to give you some discretion as the chief executive to make those cuts as palatable as possible.
O’BRIEN: So, here’s what I hear from both sides, blame, blame, blame, blame, blame, blah, blah from everybody, really, 48 hours to go. Aaron Schock, nice to see you, congressman. Thank you for talking with us. We certainly appreciate. You bet.