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FOX "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren" Transcript: Obama and the Debt Ceiling

Interview

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Now to Washington, where it is not just Republicans taking President Obama to the woodshed over the debt ceiling, today the White House press corps taking on the president, and President Obama getting, well, rather testy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Are you considering a plan B? And if not, why not?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Chuck, what I'm saying to you is that there's no simpler solution, no ready, credible solution other than Congress either give me the authority to raise the debt ceiling or exercise the responsibility that they have kept for themselves and raise the debt ceiling.

QUESTION: What Chuck and I and I think many people are curious about is this new, adamant desire on your part not to negotiate, when that seems to conflict with the entire history in the modern era of American presidents and the debt ceiling and your own history on the debt ceiling.

OBAMA: I think if you look at the history, getting votes for the debt ceiling is always difficult. Look, I don't think anybody would consider my position unreasonable here.

QUESTION: So as you say now that you're not going to negotiate on the debt ceiling this year, why should House Republicans take that seriously and think that if we get to the one minute to midnight scenario that you're not going to back down?

OBAMA: Juliana, look, this is pretty straightforward. Either Congress pays its bills or it doesn't.

QUESTION: Are you prepared to allow the government to grind to a halt if you disagree with the spending cut proposals that they put forth? And who do you think the American people would blame if that came to pass?

OBAMA: And I don't -- I suspect that the American people would blame all of Washington for not being able to get its act together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Back in 2006, when President Obama was then a senator, he actually voted against raising the debt ceiling. So what has changed now?

Congressman Jason Chaffetz joins us. Nice to see you.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, R-UTAH: Thanks, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's all your fault!

(LAUGHTER)

CHAFFETZ: Well, if Congress just keeps spending money, the president keeps pushing for this -- we have to stop the spending. We have a spending problem. It's like the alcoholic who won't give up his drink anymore. You have to slow the spending.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, what President Obama said today was that -- is he's basically executing what you in Congress are telling him to do. You authorize the spending, and he's got to pay the bills. And so now you're saying he can't borrow the money.

CHAFFETZ: No, we've got to make sure we prioritize the payment of the $16.4 trillion that this government owes, but we have to solve the problem. We don't need just a deal. We actually have to solve the problem. And the way you solve that problem is to cut up the credit card and slow the spending to a point where you actually cut into the deficit and pay off the debt.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what I didn't like today? I thought it was annoying. He said that he may have to slow down Social Security payments if we...

CHAFFETZ: No.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I'll tell you why it's particularly annoying. There's never any suggestion that maybe he ought to -- maybe -- maybe Congress shouldn't be paid salaries, the Senate not be paid salaries, the president not be paid salaries, you cut down on Air Force One, your constituent payment to go home on commercial aircraft, all your districts, instead you all stay here. We'll save some money on your travel and maybe you guys will get the job done. But there's never any discussion about the politicians taking the hit, it's to scare the Social Security recipients!

CHAFFETZ: The president does an exceptional job of scaring America. He wants to use the military paycheck to try to scare people. We're going to, you know, hurt the elderly. You don't have to do that. There's revenue to the Treasury on a daily basis.

The problem is, we deficit spend about $3 billion to $4 billion a day. We collect -- we spend about $10 billion a day. That means we deficit -- we have to borrow $3 billion to $4 billion a day. We spend more than $700 million a day in interest on our national debt.

There are lots of things to do. The president has lots of discretion to curb back that spending to make sure that Social Security payments are paid, interest is paid, we don't default on our debts.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, he -- you know, in -- when he voted as a U.S. senator against raising the debt ceiling, he talked, in essence, about how irresponsible it was to raise the debt ceiling. You know, what in the world happened between then and now? Why is it suddenly responsible to do something, raising the debt ceiling, that wasn't before? What's the difference?

CHAFFETZ: I think the president was terribly irresponsible today. To say he's not even going to talk about it because he's above it, but blame all of Congress. Look, in part, Congress created -- helped create this problem, but we're going to solve this problem.

I got elected to uphold the Constitution and to leave this country better than how we found it. We can't keep spending our kids' inheritance -- I mean, we can't keep spending their money. We don't have it!

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, apparently, he has threatened -- at least, I think this -- he has stated this, that at least people who support him do - - that in the event Congress doesn't authorize to raise that debt ceiling that he will do it unilaterally himself, and he thinks he has the authority. Do you think he does?

CHAFFETZ: Absolutely not. Under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, you can only do this as authorized by law and law is only created through the United States Congress. So the president has absolutely no ground to stand on! Absolutely none!

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, speaking of law, he's supposed to by February 4th turn over a budget...
CHAFFETZ: That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... to you, and they sent a notice saying that they have -- that the president is not going to be ready with his budget by February 4th. So that's the law! And that one's not even being followed!

CHAFFETZ: The president doesn't -- I don't get any sense of urgency from the president. Four years in a row, the president submitted budget. In four years, not a single Democrat, not a single Republican House or Senate has ever voted in favor of the president's budget! Ever!

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, suppose that he -- suppose that you don't raise the -- that Congress doesn't vote to raise the debt ceiling. President Obama does it unilaterally. What are you going to do?

CHAFFETZ: Well, this is the constitutional crisis. I don't know exactly what that looks like. But the president has absolutely no authority to do that! I don't know how you exactly deal with that, but he cannot do that! There's absolutely no way!

VAN SUSTEREN: If he doesn't -- he says he's -- if he's not going to change the spending, the spending's going to be separate from the debt ceiling, in his mind. If he doesn't create spending or he doesn't agree to spending cuts, what happens? We've come to a standstill?

CHAFFETZ: Well, look, the first move is the House Republicans -- the House has to move first, and I think we've got to show the country we're serious about curbing back spending and we got to send that over to the Senate. And the Senate has to act.

Remember, it's been more than, like, three or four years now since the Senate has actually passed a budget! So not only we have problems with getting a budget out of the White House, but the Democrats aren't producing one out of the Senate!

VAN SUSTEREN: So war game this out for me. You send yours over to the Senate. What happens?

CHAFFETZ: Well, this is the classic, you know, let's not wait until the deadline. But the Senate has to act. I think if we can show in the House that we're acting responsibly, that we're curbing back spending, that we're doing the right thing and putting ourselves on a trajectory to put us into a point where we are actually cutting the deficit, and over the course of time, balancing the budget, then we'll be the responsible party and we'll push that over to the Senate.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, the president said that's -- that he's just not going to do that. So tell me, what's going to happen?

CHAFFETZ: The president's saying, Well, I'm going to be irrelevant. And so I should take the president at his word...

VAN SUSTEREN: So that -- that is -- so that's -- that is going to put us at a standstill. That's -- that's...

CHAFFETZ: The House can only control itself. And I think part of the reason Speaker Boehner, others, got our -- you know, we got ourselves into trouble is we listened too much to Harry Reid and this -- and the president. We should do what we believe in, what we were elected to do, and pass it over to the United States Senate. The Senate needs to do its job, and they haven't!

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's interesting. Secretary Geithner sent a letter to Speaker Boehner today about the debt ceiling. I thought it was very interesting because he talks about -- it says Congress should act as early as possible to extend normal borrowing authority. But the reason I thought this was interesting -- no place in this letter does he say the president has the authority to raise it unilaterally. There's no sort of - - I mean, I -- I don't know -- maybe there was no reason to include it in, but I thought that it was interesting that it was silent as that.

CHAFFETZ: Well, and the Democrats have this crazy idea we just print this, you know, multi-trillion-dollar coin and that was going to supposedly make everything go away! The reality is, we have to stop spending money we don't have. And you've got to attack entitlement reform and you've got to attack discretionary spending.

VAN SUSTEREN: Clock's ticking down! Anyway, Congressman, always nice to see you. Thank you.

CHAFFETZ: Thanks, Greta.


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