By Max Wallace
On September 26th, Congressman Rob Woodall came and spoke at a meeting of the University of Georgia College Republicans. Woodall, who took office in 2011, serves Georgia's 7th district and currently sits on the House Budget Committee. During the meeting, Georgia's youngest congressman shared his thoughts on the election, bipartisanship, and the debt crisis.
To open his address, the congressman began by commenting on the current outlook for the election. Although recent polls have shown President Obama pulling away from Mitt Romney, Woodall remained extremely confident that on November 6th, America would elect a new president.
"I tell you that this is going to be a runaway election for Mitt Romney, it's going to be a huge victory. Just like it was in 1980. Go back and look at the polls between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter; you're not going to see a big runaway. Go back and look at the polls between Barack Obama and John McCain in September 2008, we were doing pretty well. I don't know how you put together the coalition that Barack Obama put together last time around. Number one: without youth, if you don't get the young person turn out, he starts a good half a percentage point behind to begin with."
The congressman then moved on to speak to the pervasiveness of negative advertising and the impasse that Washington seems to find itself in due to the deficit. Congressman Woodall admits that he often receives calls from constituents asking him to compromise for the sake of progress, but that forging such compromise is extremely difficult due to the extremely divergent agendas in Congress.
"You don't really want compromise; what you really want is your opinion to become the law of the land. Compromise if you're a Republican means "let's not cut a trillion dollars, it'll be okay if we just cut $500 billion in year one.' Compromise if you're on the left means that "I won't spend an additional trillion dollars, but I'll just spend an additional $500 billion and we'll call that compromise.' We can't find those areas of compromise, but because what we show America over and over again on TV is the destruction of our republic and the breakdown of our political system, folks have begun to lose faith no matter which side of the aisle they're on."
Later in the evening, I had the chance to ask Congressman Woodall some questions directly.
Q: If Republicans don't take the Senate in this election, what can realistically be done to address the deficit? Is there a compromise to be made?
A: Let me give you the bad news first and then I'll give you the good news. The bad news is that we can have 51 in the Senate and that's still not enough to solve it. In the same way that I can tell you the names of the 24 House Republicans who will vote against me on serious issues, I can tell you who the one senator is who will vote against me on serious issues. We have a huge advantage in that when we voted on the Paul Ryan budget, nobody believed it would be implemented this cycle. So we got all the liberal Republicans to vote for it because they believed that it was a political statement; they didn't believe it was actually going to happen. Now we have them on the record supporting these big ideas. Some of these people are running for Senate, and our only hope is that enough folks have already gotten on the record, that even though it's scary to make that change, they'll do it anyway. We'll do it for reconciliation, so we'll only need 50 plus 1 and Paul Ryan will be that 1. Even if we don't win control of the Senate, I do think that there are one or two serious people on the other side of the aisle who would come together to work on that. The difference is not whether something happens. These are serious men and women and they realize that America is in economic peril. If Republicans win, we're talking how big the spending reduction is going to be, and it's going to be big. If the Democrats win the Senate, we're going to be talking how big the spending reduction is going to be and how big the associated tax increase will be as well.
Q: On December 31st, unless Congress takes action, the Bush tax cuts are set to expire and the spending cuts are set to take place. How do you think Congress will deal with this impending "fiscal cliff"?
A: I expect these issues to be addressed and solved in the lame duck session. We are not that far apart on some of these things. We are far apart on a long term vision, but the short term vision we're close together on. We just haven't been able to get it done because it's an election year. There's no possibility that the sequester will go in to effect, we'll replace it with mandatory spending cuts that everybody agrees on. And there's no possibility that income tax rates will rise for Americans. We may have to give some other things away as they did in the negotiations of 2010, but a down economy like this is no time to raise taxes on the job creators. It looks harder than it is because it has been made into a big political thing, but I don't believe that we will push it until the next president gets sworn in. I think we're going to take care of it in December.
Q: Ben Bernanke recently announced that he wants to pursue Quantitative Easing III. Being on the budget committee, what are your thoughts on this announcement?
A: I'm glad that the Federal Reserve is an independent body. The only thing worse than Ben Bernanke making these decisions would be the Republicans and Democrats making these decisions. These should be economic decisions, not political decisions. But we have to rope this spending in. I am not a fan of QE3. We passed a bill in Congress this time around called the Audit the Fed Bill. In the 13 months that QE2 was effective, the value of the dollar fell 18% against the world basket of currencies. There's no Congress in the history of the country that would have raised taxes on the American people by 18%, but the Federal Reserve by itself was able to devalue everyone's bank accounts by 18%, which has the exact same effect. The Federal Reserve is doing this unilaterally. We had Ben Bernanke testify before the Budget Committee and we asked him how he was going to unwind all this and he said, "I don't know, but don't worry about it. It'll be just fine." I do worry about it. There's a cost to the American taxpayer for every quantitative easing, and the American voter has not been involved in that decision whatsoever. In this unprecedented use of Federal Reserve power, I think the end result will be Congress passing legislation to reign in the Federal Reserve. We want it to be independent, but I think that independence has breached the comfort level and maybe even the trust level of so many members of Congress that you'll see an effort to reign that back in.