MEDIA STAKEOUT WITH HOUSE MINORITY LEADER JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH); REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN) REP. PENCE: Thank you all for coming. I'm Mike Pence. I'm the newly elected Republican conference chairman. And we're just coming from our first conference, Republican conference in the 111th Congress.
And before I yield to the leader, let me just say House Republicans applaud the effort by the president-elect and the incoming administration to reach out on the issue of turning this economy around. We're grateful for the spirit that our incoming president has reflected, and we applaud him for putting a focus on the economy.
But Republicans know that we cannot borrow and spend our way back to a growing economy. House Republicans are committed to working with our colleagues across the aisle and in the incoming administration, but we are even more committed to defending the interests of American taxpayers in that process.
Along those lines, House Republicans are deeply committed to a stimulus bill and any follow-on legislation that reflects principles of transparency -- we know what's in there any why -- accountability, and that there are specific and determined and measurable ways we can evalute the results of any stimulus legislation.
The stimulus legislation that was passed by the Congress last year clearly did not succeed. And Republicans on behalf of the -- of American taxpayers are commmitted to ensuring that whatever we do, that it is effective and transparent and accountable to the American people.
With that, Leader John Boehner.
REP. BOEHNER: Well, thanks, Mike.
Mr. Cantor and I, along with the other congressional leaders, had a very good discussion with the president-elect on Monday. And I do think that his focus on the economy and the anxiety about the economy is very important because it is the issue that most Americans are concerned about.
We're also very happy that he believes that tax cuts ought to be a major chunk of this package. And when you look at the needs of middle-class families and small businesses and the relief that they need, we believe that can help being new jobs to our economy rather quickly.
One of the -- one of the concerns that I've raised became a little more apparent today. The Congressional Budget Office this morning came out and said that the deficit for this fiscal year is estimated to be $1.2 trillion. That's before that we pass some kind of an economic rescue package. And so, as we look at this package, we want to put people back to work, we want to make sure that we maintain the jobs that are there, but we also have to be worried about who's going to pay the bill here.
Our kids and grandkids are already buried under a mountain of debt. And I do believe that we have got to be very careful in balancing the needs for our economy today with the amount that we're going to leave for our kids and theirs.
MR. CANTOR: Thank you, Leader.
The focus of any stimulus bill should be the preservation, protection and creation of jobs. I think all of us share in that.
As the leader said, we met with President-elect Obama the other day. I take him at his word that he wants to work with us. I welcome his notion that we need to strive to do things differently here, especially when it comes to transparency.
We told him that our concern is the staggering size of the spending bill causes great concern for us. He committed to me that he was going to put his proposal online for the American people to see so that the proper vetting process could begin as soon as possible. So we'll wait to see that, and I am glad that he is committed to that.
Now, look, we are about to engage, I believe, if we're not careful, into risky business. Anytime you are proposing over a trillion-dollar spending package, there is a potential that we could load up the next generation, we could threaten the future of the critical programs like Social Security and Medicare. So we have to be very careful to make sure that what it is we're doing, which is borrowing money to try and create, preserve and protect jobs, is done in the right way, without waste, and done in a prudent manner so that the taxpayers know that they're getting bang for the buck.
REP. MCMORRIS RODGERS: As we start the 111th Congress, I think without a doubt on the forefront of every American's mind is the economy right now. And everywhere I go, I hear about middle-class families that are struggling. And they're concerned, they're frightened about the economy and what it might mean to their families.
And as House Republicans, we believe it is very important that we are addressing this issue and that we -- we are committed to doing -- doing things that are going to help the American family. We -- we believe that Congress needs to act, but I think Americans expect that we act in a certain way. And they want us to be working in a bipartisan fashion, Republicans and Democrats working together to address this issue. They also expect us to act in a responsible fashion, and they're -- and as every family has to balance budgets, make tough decisions in their -- their family budget or small-business budget, they expect Congress also to make the tough decisions that are going to help the economy today, but also ensure that we aren't continuing to add to the debt for our future generations. And they -- and they don't want to see this just be a slush fund of where entities can come to Congress and just ask for specific projects for the here and now.
They also expect Congress to act in a fair and open process and be open to every idea possible on the table. And that is our commitment. We want to be offering our ideas to actually getting this economy going, getting it going strong as soon as possible.
REP. BOEHNER: Questions?
Q Mr. Boehner, the president-elect keeps talking about bipartisanship. What's your understanding of what he actually means by that? And what's your understanding of what bipartisanship should be in --
REP. BOEHNER: Well, let's begin with the economic rescue package. The president-elect has made it clear he's interested in our ideas. I frankly think that we're going to offer him our ideas about what we think will help create jobs in America and maintain jobs in America. So I think that's a good start.
Q What does yesterday's passage of the rules package signal about the tone of bipartisanship in the Congress ahead?
REP. BOEHNER: Well, I just think that when you -- when you begin to limit debate, you begin to limit choices. This is the people's house.
Our constitutents believe that we have a right to offer amendments. And when you look at actions taken by the majority to limit debate in the House, what you're doing is you're shutting out the American people. They're making it harder for us in their rules package to offer tax cuts, as an example. Most Americans think they pay too much in taxes. And so to the extent that they make it harder for us to offer a tax-cut amendment, it is not in the interest of the American people.
Q Mr. Boehner, you raised concerns about the deficit. Is there a cap to how big of a recovery package that Republicans could support?
REP. BOEHNER: No.
Q How much are you --
REP. BOEHNER: No, I don't -- listen, we've not -- we've not seen President-elect Obama's plan yet. And you know, he wants to put his ideas out there, he's looking for our ideas, and we're both committed -- the president-elect and Republicans on the Hill are committed to helping get this economy going again and to creating jobs for the middle class and helping small businesses that create more jobs. But we've got to do it in a responsible way, and we've just got to see his plan and look at our ideas. It's going to take a couple of weeks to kind of sort through this to find the right balance.
MR. : Last question.
Q Do you have any concerns about the inherent politics involved in this? One of the problems that you faced with the previous stimulus package was not only opposition from voters at large, to a great extent, but to its -- to the actual implementation of it, but also within your own conference. I mean, is that -- how much are those considerations at play at this point? And do you have real fears about it?
REP. BOEHNER: It's one of the reasons why I think it's important that we go through regular order. You know, when you look at what happened with the rescue plan last fall, you know, it was -- it was a negotiation, you know, in private, didn't go through regular order, and as a result people didn't have a chance to understand what was in the bill or why the bill was necessary. Members didn't get a chance to offer their ideas.
And I brought this issue up with the president-elect. He believes that there ought to be a lot of transparency and accountability in the process so that members do have input, the American people have input. And at the end of the day, we all know when we go through regular order we get a much better product.
And so I think, given the problems that we've encountered -- political problems we've encountered as a result of the rescue last fall, the financial rescue, taking a more deliberate approach would be in everyone's best interest.