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CROWLEY: First, a news note, as you rejoin us. For those of you who are following the Pastor Long story, we continue to monitor his sermon and we will give you an update later on in the show.
Joining me now, though, Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington. Thank you all so much for coming.
I want to start out by reading for you something that was said from an executive, the Club For Growth, a conservative organization particularly concerned with government spending. And this is about the pledge to America.
"It's so milquetoast that it proves to me that these guys just aren't ready to lead in order to prevent a return of the big-spending Republican ways during the Bush years. The House GOP needs to institute two things that will force them to behave: getting rid of the earmarks and enacting a balanced budget amendment or a spending limit amendment. This new pledge was silent on both. Therefore, the pledge has new teeth." So first to you, Congresswoman Blackburn. Why isn't there anything about a balanced budget in this? Why isn't there an end to earmarks in this? BLACKBURN: Well, two things to answer it, Candy. And I appreciate the conversation that is taking place across the country about the pledge.
Number one, in the preamble, we say, put us on a pathway to a balanced budget. And that is so important. You know, you have to take those first steps. The pledge is a first step.
When it comes to earmarks, we took that action earlier. We made certain earlier in the year that we put in place that one-year moratorium on earmarks. I'm one of those that has taken that pledge.
But, more importantly, I think what you're going to see -- and as we talk about the federal spending in our pledge, most of those candidates that -- and most of those members of Congress who have been big earmarkers are finding out from the electorate those days are over. Earmarks are going to be a thing of the past.
CROWLEY: Congresswoman Rodgers, let me ask you, point for me in this document some place where it says, "We Republicans get why you threw us out in 2006 and 2008, and here's why we're different now."
CROWLEY: Where is that provision?
RODGERS: Well, I just think that the fact that we have this pledge, it is positive, it's constructive. And the Republicans did lose their way. They were spending too much, and we're recognizing that. And in this pledge, we say that we're -- this is a pact to get us to a balanced budget, a pact to actually address some of the deficit, start paying down the deficit, which had never happened under Republicans or Democrats.
And we're going back to pre-TARP, pre-stimulus spending levels, and saying, you know what, we need to get our fiscal house in order. And we're very much making a commitment to do that. And it was developed after engaging hundreds of thousands of Americans all across this country. So it's ideas and principles that people from all across this country have brought to us.
CROWLEY: Congresswoman Blackburn, can you cure what ails the U.S. economy without taking on entitlements, which also are not addressed in this pledge? Nothing about Medicare, nothing about Social Security. Can you really do anything about the economy unless you look at those, as well?
BLACKBURN: Candy, one of the things we have to realize is the document that is in front of us, the pledge, is for the here and now. These are things that could have been -- they could be done right now before the November elections, and they should be done, to give some certainty.
And yes, what we do is roll the spending back, cap it, freeze the federal hiring, and then start working our way through. You know, what the American people have told us as we have listened to them, spent months listening to them, and developed this document is, look, show us what is going to be the pathway to a balanced budget. Show us how we're going to be able to get this debt under control because it has skyrocketed, absolutely skyrocketed in the past three years.
And then let's sit down and have a discussion, an adult discussion between the tax-payers, between our elected representatives of how we address entitlements and how we make certain that the commitments that are there on Medicare and on Social Security are going to be kept.
We have to remember that money, the Medicare money, the Social Security money, people have had that coming out of their paycheck all their working lives. It is their money. CROWLEY: Look, you know, the bottom line here is, it looked like you all dodged the tough stuff. You know, nothing about entitlements, nothing about a balanced budget. If you want a balanced budget, why not a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget? Looks like you sidestepped the tough stuff.
RODGERS: Absolutely not. This is a document -- a governing document for today. These are -- these are plans that -- these are positive, constructive solutions for the issues of the day that we'd like to see brought forward in Congress. Whether it's related to economic recovery, creating jobs, getting our fiscal house in order, changing the way government does business, this isn't the Republican platform. This isn't everything the Republicans want to accomplish.
These are the first steps. These are priority issues that we believe need to be addressed today. And we can very much take on a balanced budget amendment at a different time.
CROWLEY: Let me -- I want to play for you both something else that -- now this was before you all rolled out the pledge. But I want to play you something that Congressman Pence said recently.
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REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: We must not remain silent when great moral battles are being waged. We must demand here and now that the leaders of the Republican Party stand for life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty without apology.
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CROWLEY: Congresswoman Blackburn, we all know that in attempts to reach out to independents, they tend to get very skittish about the social issues. They are far more interested in day-to-day life and the economy. Nonetheless, the Republican Party, one of its core values, has always been the -- kind of the social issues. Very little mention of social issues in this manifesto which, again, looks political.
Why not get out there and say, here's what else we stand for, we're against gay marriage, we -- we don't believe in abortion? Why not do that?
BLACKBURN: Well, in the preamble, we do that. We reaffirm our commitment to conservative values.
And, Candy, bear in mind, what we have done for the past several month, I started my listening sessions last January. And what we have done is listened to the American people, and they've said -- we've said to them, tell us what is most pressing, what you want the focus to be, what are your priorities?
And we have heard it time and again: deal with the economy, where are the jobs, we want jobs, we want to make certain that you're creating the environment for jobs to be created and get out of the way, let the private sector work, repeal the health care bill, secure our nation, make certain that the government is more transparent.
Those are the type changes that the American people have repeatedly said in hundreds of listening sessions, thousands of constituents participating, millions participating in You Cut and americaspeakingout.com. They have let us know what their priorities are, and it is the economic issues, fixing the health care bill, having government transparency, checks and balances, and making certain that this nation is safe.
We have made that commitment and the pledge to the American people. We hope they're going to hold us accountable to do the things that are on this list and then let's add more to it. Let's make certain that we repeal some of these bills, get them off the books. Free up free enterprise, let jobs growth take place. Make certain no American sees a tax hike when January 1, 2011, rolls around.
Don't raise those taxes, provide certainty for our business community and our small businesses. Let them know what's out there. So those are the items the American people want to see. We have given them a good first step, and we are ready to get to work. We are in this fight.
CROWLEY: Let me pick up on one of those things. And that is, a repeal and replace of health care reform. Just this past week we saw a couple of the provisions of the health care reform bill go into effect. One of them was to allow children up to the age of 26 to remain on their parents' insurance should they need to. The other was to make sure that children with pre-existing conditions could still get insurance. You want to repeal both of those?
RODGERS: We would -- in our package, in our health care reform proposal, we include both of those provisions. So, yes, we believe that the health care bill needs to be repealed and replaced with better reforms that will actually reduce costs and make sure that people have access.
But in our -- in our plan, it does include the provision to cover those with pre-existing conditions, raising the age to 26 for children. That is not -- that is supported by Republicans and Democrats.
However, Republicans believe that there's more that could be done to actually reduce the cost of health care and that we need to have that debate. We need to enact tort reform, medical liability reform. We need to allow small businesses to pool together and access more affordable plans beyond state boundaries. And some of those kind of reforms will go a long way towards bringing down the costs.
And right now we're seeing premiums increase. Small businesses all across this country are seeing 10 percent, 20 percent increases in their health care premiums at the exact worst time. And so we -- we believe that we need to start all over, have a debate, bring Republicans and Democrats together with the best ideas. Let's move those forward, and we can do it in a better way.
CROWLEY: Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, I could go on forever about this. I'm afraid I have to cut it short. Thank you so much for joining us, I really appreciate it.
RODGERS: You too.
BLACKBURN: Good to be with you, thank you.
CROWLEY: Up next, we'll get an independent's take on the political climate in Washington, homeland security, and Afghanistan, from Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
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