MR. WATSON: The GOP members came away praising the president as funny and personable, but they offered very few of their votes for the plan.
Today, the president said though it's time to get behind the bill, in fact, listen to his comments here.
PRESIDENT OBAMA (From video.): All we can do, those of us here in Washington, is to help create a favorable climate in which workers can prosper, businesses can thrive and our economy can grow and that is exactly what the recovery plan I've proposed is intended to do.
MR. WATSON: Congressman Peter King is a nine-term Republican from New York.
Congressman King, thank you for joining us.
REP. KING: Good to be with you.
MR. WATSON: So Congressman King, we know that the stimulus package is likely to pass in the House. Republican response right now, is that really about politics instead of policy? Is it really a reaction to Rush Limbaugh that we're seeing, instead of a genuine belief that they can alter the substance of the bill?
REP. KING: No. I think, certainly, in my own case and I will probably vote no is that we know this is coming back again, there's going to be a bill passing the House tonight. There will be another one passing the Senate and there will be a conference and the president pretty much indicated that there is room for improvement and that during the conference period, he urged us to meet with Larry Summers, with ideas we have.
My concern with this is that, even as Alice Rivlin said, there's really not enough for the short-term stimulus, you know, to affect unemployment right now and, to me, that is a real factor. There's good in there, to me, the Medicaid increases are very important for a state such as New York.
MS. BREWER: Yeah.
REP. KING: It's a close call for me. Right now, I intend to vote no, but again, when it comes back and we have an opportunity to improve it and the president, by the way, did make a very good impression yesterday.
MS. BREWER: Did you just say that Medicaid, the Medicaid provision is important to New York?
REP. KING: Yes, it's very important to New York.
MS. BREWER: But what does that have to do with economic stimulus?
REP. KING: What it does is it actually puts tax money in taxpayers' wallets. The reason I say is that this is not going to increase Medicaid spending overall, what it's going to do, it's going to increase the subsidy if you will to the states and in New York, 50 percent of that is paid by property taxpayers.
So that $10 billion coming into New York will have a significant tax relief effect on homeowners especially in my district where almost everyone is a property taxpayer.
MR. WATSON: Congressman King, let me go back to recent Republican criticism of the stimulus bill that there aren't enough tax cuts. They are already north of $200 billion. The House package calls for $212 (billion). President Obama's original package called for $275 billion in tax cuts.
How much more, given that there's already a trillion dollar deficit that we're dealing with here, how much more in tax cuts would Republicans really like to see?
REP. KING: We would look for significantly more tax cuts for small businesses.
MR. WATSON: But put a number on that please? I mean, are you talking about $300 billion, $400 billion? Are you talking about half trillion dollars in tax cuts?
REP. KING: I would like to see the tax cut number over $300 billion, and I believe that, for instance, tax cuts to small businesses actually create jobs and will bring in more revenue. I don't look upon this as a zero sum equation. I believe that those type of tax cuts to small businesses will reinvigorate the economy and will provide jobs and then end up bringing in more revenue, and also, a good part of the tax reduction is actually going to go to people who are not paying taxes or the earned income tax credit, so then it really taxes us. I wouldn't say they're wrong, but I wouldn't put them in the category of tax cuts.
MS. BREWER: Let me ask you about the money that's right now allocated for infrastructure, the latest infrastructure report card from the civil engineers, The American Society of Civil Engineers, a "D," and they say it's going to take more than $2 trillion to bring the nation's crumbling bridges and rail systems, roads up to speed.
So given that, I mean, here you are from New York, a state which needs some massive infrastructure spending, would you like to see more on that front?
REP. KING: Yes, I would, in fact, it's not often that I vote with Congressman Nadler, but he is going to have an amendment tonight to increase the mass transit money, I think, by several billion dollars and I'll be voting for that and even that is not enough. We do need more money on infrastructure spending and that's one of the reasons why --
MS. BREWER: Well, so you feel conflicted then about this bill because it offers a lot of what you want.
REP. KING: Yeah, but we need more on the infrastructure. We need more on the infrastructure and I am conflicted. I said this is a very close call for me.
MS. BREWER: Yeah.
REP. KING: But on balance, I am going to vote no and I hope that by the time it comes back and that we go through conference, I'll be able to vote for the final version of it.
MS. BREWER: Congressman King, thanks so much for your time today.
REP. KING: Thank you, Contessa.
MS. BREWER: We do appreciate it.
REP. KING: Thank you.