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CNN "The Situation Room" Transcript: No Budget, No Pay

Interview

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JOHNS: Tough talk from both sides ahead of the coming battle on debt limits and spending.

BOLDUAN: That's for sure. President Obama says when it comes to paying what Congress has already spent, there's no negotiating.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: And Republicans in Congress have two choices here. They can act responsibly, and pay America's bills, or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis. But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about that and more with Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state. She's a member of the Republican leadership in the House. She's chairwoman of the House Republican Conference.

Congresswoman, thanks for coming in.

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R), WASHINGTON: Thank you. Good to be with you.

BOLDUAN: Of course. I wanted to get your reaction to what the president said there. His point that he's driving over and over again is that this is not about authorization new spending at all. This is about paying bills that we have already racked up. So how do you counter that? MCMORRIS RODGERS: It's the wrong analogy.

This is about the credit card being maxed out, and then we're going to the credit card company, and asking to raise that limit even farther. We are talking about future spending. And it is a debate that needs to happen. We need the president to get serious about the out-of-control spending, the record debt that we have accumulated as a country. And we need the federal government to stop spending money that it doesn't have.

BOLDUAN: I understand that it -- that you are making, and Republicans are making an argument about cutting spending. But when it comes to the debt ceiling, the debt ceiling, by definition, isn't about authorizing new spending. It is about paying the bills that we have already racked up. So are you just trying to say that you want to have this conversation together, at the same time?

MCMORRIS RODGERS: This is about -- this is raising the debt ceiling is like raising your credit card limit. And, historically, this has been a debate.

You look over the last four presidents in this country, and there's been a debate every time it has come to raising the debt ceiling because there's a recognition, for years now, that the federal government has been spending way more than it should, way beyond its means, much more than it's actually bringing in.

And now it is -- we cannot continue to kick this can down the road. We have come to the end of the road. It is time for us to stop spending money we don't have.

JOHNS: Former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich is not exactly conflict-averse, I think you would agree, and he has warned the House Republicans not to take up this debt ceiling fight. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Asking Barack Obama not to be a big-spending, high-taxing liberal is a denial of everything that we have learned about him in his career. It's much better for the House Republicans to say, this is what we're prepared to do. There are dozens of places you can dramatically change spending without having to get involved in a general crisis over the U.S. debt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Does he have a point? Do you think this is a message from the former speaker that's worth heeding?

MCMORRIS RODGERS: Well, we definitely want to work with President Obama, and we're at the beginning of the 113th Congress.

I would also say that this is our moment, though. The American people know that our economy is struggling right now, partly because of the debt that is impacting American families, hardworking taxpayers all across this country.

When President Obama was in the Senate, when he was a U.S. senator, he voted against raising the debt ceiling. And he said it was a lack of leadership that had brought us to this point. And so I would, at the beginning of this Congress, hope that the president would make this a new start, where we could look at this, and that we will actually get a budget in place.

The Senate hasn't passed a budget now for four years. The president, unfortunately, yesterday, said that he's going to delay his budget, even though the law says that he's supposed to submit the budget by February 4. That is concerning to me, that we are on autopilot, that the federal government continues to grow, continues to -- we're continuing to spend more money, and we need the president to join in this effort to get our fiscal house in order.

BOLDUAN: You're quoted in telling Politico that a government shutdown seems surely possible. You said in part that "I think it's possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we're serious."

And the point President Obama is making, and has been making, especially this week, is that House Republicans are holding the American people hostage to prove a political point. I mean, do you see a government shutdown on the horizon? Because it's hard to argue with that point that the president's making, because the American people don't like gridlock, and they surely don't want to see the government shut down.

MCMORRIS RODGERS: No one wants to see the government shut down. But what we need is for the president to get serious about addressing the out-of-control spending.

Under President Obama, we have spent more money -- he has spent more money than any other president in this history, actually, the combined total from Washington up to George W. Bush. President Obama has racked up more spending, $1 trillion deficits. And it's time that he join us in this effort to get our fiscal house in order. What is a drag on the economy is the spending.

That is what is hurting hardworking taxpayer right now. And so we need him to join us in this effort.

JOHNS: At the end of the day, this is going to be a question about public opinion. What makes you think talking about not raising the debt ceiling or shutting down the government, what have you, is a winner in the court of public opinion?

MCMORRIS RODGERS: Well, again, we don't want to shut down the government, but in the court of public opinion, people also know that the federal government and the out-of-control spending is unsustainable.

And large majorities of the American people want us to cut spending, to start making the tough decisions, to balance our budgets, start living within our means. The American people, in their own families, they understand that you have to do that. You have to make the tough decisions. You have to get your budget. You have got to put it in order. And they expect their elected officials and their leaders to do likewise.

And that's what needs to happen over the next few weeks, as we approach all of these fiscal debates.

JOHNS: So you think it's possible that there could be a shutdown of the government, but you're saying you don't want to shut down the government?

MCMORRIS RODGERS: No, we don't want to shut down the government. What we want is for the president to get serious. And, as I mentioned earlier, we don't even have a budget in place.

To think that we are running the federal government, this $3.7 trillion enterprise, without a budget, just -- I think it blows most people's minds. It blows my mind. We need to get a budget in place. We need the Senate to pass a budget. We need the president to at least a propose a budget. That's pretty foundational.

And the ways that we leverage and make this happen comes at points like this, where we're raising -- where we're talking about the -- raising the debt ceiling, sequestration, and the continuing resolution.

BOLDUAN: Unfortunately, Congresswoman, we're going to have to leave it there. I think everyone would agree it would be great to see a budget pass Congress, but I think, right now, everyone is a little bit more worried about facing the debt ceiling crisis yet again.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, thank you so much. We will definitely be talking with you a lot. Thank you.

MCMORRIS RODGERS: Thank you.


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