MSNBC INTERVIEW WITH SENATOR SHERROD BROWN (D-OH)
SUBJECT: BUDGET INTERVIEWER: CONTESSA BREWER
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MS. BREWER: Let's stay on Capitol Hill now and bring in Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
We know that you're dealing with some massive fiscal issues in your state, for instance, unemployment in Ohio peaked at 9.4 percent in February. What does it do if there are major cuts to the president's budget?
SEN. BROWN: Well, it depends on what you mean by major cuts in the president's budget. There's agreement on almost all of the major issues, on education, on health care, on taking care of people that have been hit hardest by the recession and on looking to the future with alternative energy.
So I know that the budget discussed by the Senate Budget Chairman is, you know, has differences with the president's budget, but in the end, we will work this out, in the end, we generally agree on most of these issues and changing the direction of the country.
Look back at where we started when President Bush took office, we had a $6 trillion national debt. When President Bush left office it was $12 trillion. So President Obama is dealing with as all of us are, major challenges, but we're up to it.
MS. BREWER: You know, that's been a standard line that the Republicans use, Senator Brown, that the president inherited $1 trillion deficit, that being said, is that enough of a reason to go on and add more to the national debt?
SEN. BROWN: Well, the most important thing is what we do about this economy. We could continue the failed policies of the last eight years where the debt consistently got bigger and bigger. They deregulated Wall Street. They cut programs that mattered -- the people who are most victimized by the recession that they helped them stay above water and we continue to lose more manufacturing jobs. In my state, we lost a quarter million manufacturing jobs because of these policies.
So this budget has got to look to the future. We're going to add some to the national debt, unfortunately. I've been a budget hawk my whole career. We balanced the budget --
MS. BREWER: Yeah.
SEN. BROWN: By the year 2000. The problem is we've got to do these things on green energy, on health care, on education. A big part of our problem is we don't fund community colleges well enough to help people go to college and get the kind of skills they need to work in this workforce as this ever-changing workforce and we've got to keep our eye on that while we work towards cutting in half the budget deficit that President Obama inherited.
MS. BREWER: You bring up the green energy thing. I wanted to ask you about that and I mentioned to viewers before we were listening to the vice president that clean energy, the president says, is one of his priorities. He does not want to see that touched. Part of that involves this cap and trade system that would put limits on greenhouse gas emissions.
How would that affect your state? You've said you've lost manufacturing jobs. Would you lose more with that kind of a cap on emissions?
SEN. BROWN: Depends on how we do cap and trade. We're going to do it in a way and I spoke to the president personally in Columbus about it when he was in my state a couple of weeks ago and he reiterated last night with cap and trade, there has to be -- we have to take into account regional differences, my state, 85 percent of the electricity in Ohio has a dozen -- my part of the country mostly comes from coal.
So those kinds of regional allowances have to be figured in and we've got to make sure there are not sharp spikes either in individuals' electric bills or in manufacturing and what that could do to potential job loss.
So we need and that means and, obviously, this global warming, this whole issue of climate change, we need to deal with the Chinese and Indians and what they're doing on climate change in their countries so we don't put ourselves in an additional disadvantage if you will on manufacturing.
MS. BREWER: Senator Judd Gregg who, of course, was at one time the president's choice to join his Cabinet came on and he was rather critical of the budget as the president has proposed it. Let me play what he told us.
SEN. BROWN: Sure.
SENATOR JUDD GREGG (R-NH) (From videotape.): He's certainly trying to move it in the right direction. The problem he has is that he's used a lot of gimmicks, the old-time gimmicks to get his deficit down by basically counting for taxes, which we know we're not going to get and not putting spending in, which we know we're going to have to undertake.
MS. BREWER: You know, the interesting thing is with all the criticism and there was criticism of the fact that the Bush administration didn't include the cost for, say, the Iraq war into its big budget. Now, it looks like even the Democrats want to restore some of those accounting gimmicks.
Do you support that?
SEN. BROWN: Well, first of all, I'm a bit incredulous when I hear Senator Gregg who I respect greatly talk about gimmicks when he helped to lead the charge with President Bush on taking tens of billions, hundreds of billions of dollars of war spending off budget in AMT and all the other really, really big additions to the budget simply weren't part of the whole budget resolution.
So I think that, you know, every president plays a little bit at the edges on some of the figuring in of some of the accounting of the budget, but President Obama has made huge, huge strides by taking away the two or three biggest deceptive practices in budgeting. I, of course, want him to be as accurate as possible. I think he's made major strides; he can do a little more, but as I said, incredulous when I hear those kinds of criticisms by people who perfected the art of budget gimmickry.
MS. BREWER: Senator, I appreciate the time you've given us today.
SEN. BROWN: Thank you.
MS. BREWER: Thank you.
SEN. BROWN: Of course. Thanks.