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MSNBC "The Ed Show" - Transcript: Sequester at the Local Level

Interview

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Our congressional panel tonight, let`s turn to it. We`re bringing
people in who are going to feel the pain of sequestration on a local level.
I`m joined tonight by Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont and also with us
is Jerry Nadler of New York.

Gentlemen, good to have you with here.

REP. PETER WELCH (D), VERMONT: Good to be here.

SCHULTZ: Congressman Welch, in your area, this is going an immediate
affect to families that are on this fuel assistance program. What about
that?

WELCH: It`s tough. You know, the price of fuel is going up and the
temperature is going down. And it`s really tough on a lot of families.

And we depend on getting some help for low income heating assistance. And
in fact, that budget was cut even before the sequester in the state
legislature, with very little money. And Governor Shumlin is trying to
fill the hole.

So this is going to be very, very painful for a lot of low income
families. It`s going to be painful for folks at the airport, when the
lines are longer. It`s going to be painful for some folks who work in
defense-related industries in small peaceful Vermont. So this is a big
deal for us.

SCHULTZ: Congressman Nadler, what will you lose if Republicans fail
to act by March 1st?

REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: We`ll lose about 878 million dollars
in Sandy aid, you know, to get some of our people back on their feet, to
get the city back on its feet. We`ll lose about 10 million dollars in
homeless services and 10 million dollars in home heating assistance each.
We`ll lose about 75 million dollars, I gather, from support for the New
York City Housing Authority to keep -- to maintain those buildings.

SCHULTZ: Are your districts ready for these cuts? What about that,
Jerry?

NADLER: No, not at all. The city and the state are both scrambling
and struggling to keep up the city and state share. We depend on the
federal money. And a sudden cut -- these have been cut back before. I
mean, the budget has been cut substantially in the last couple of years. A
huge budget cut on top of this in home heating assistance and certainly in
Sandy aid would be disastrous.

SCHULTZ: Sure. Congressman Welch, what do you think is going to
happen? What is the solution here?

WELCH: Well, the solution is that we don`t act so stupid. I mean,
this is really a dumb move. It`s not as though we can`t handle getting the
deficit under control by doing some of the things the president mentioned.

SCHULTZ: But the Republicans say no more revenue. The Republicans
have drawn the line in the sand, no more revenue. So where does that leave
the Democrats?

WELCH: Get rid of the loopholes. You know, in the fiscal cliff
legislation, we put in a paragraph at the 11th hour that gave Amgen about
500 million dollars in increased reimbursements for Medicaid -- a Medicare
drug. I mean, there`s loopholes in there that just have no basis
whatsoever, in the budget. And it costs an immense amount of money.

Instead, what we`re doing is shifting the pain down to the states.

Jerry`s state with Sandy and our state with home heating assistance in a
tight budget, it`s really going to be rough. But the point is it`s
unnecessary. And at the macro level, at the big level, it`s just a very
weak way for the United States to present itself in the world.

We can deal with our problems if we use our head. And we`re not doing
that.

SCHULTZ: There is going to be local problems and everyone is going to
feel it. These Republicans are going to feel it in their backyard when it
comes to defense contracts. And speaking of local problems, Senator John
McCain did not support the president`s Fix It First Plan during the State
of the Union Address.

But this might change McCain`s mind about funding for the nation`s
infrastructure. A 200-foot-long section of U.S. 89 near Phoenix literally
dropped four feet this morning. The Department of Transportation says the
sudden buckling of the road is not weather-related. And they expect the
road is going to be shut down for an extended period of time.

We have got bridges, gentlemen, in this country, in your backyard,
Jerry Nadler, that no doubt have got to have some attention.

NADLER: We have 78,000 structurally deficient bridges in this
country. I think what we ought to do is put a sign at the beginning of
every bridge that says, this bridge is structurally deficient, proceed at
your risk, and see what political pressure developed to start fixing our
bridges.

The American Society of Civil Engineers says we have a 2.2 trillion
dollar -- 2.2 trillion dollar backlog of just getting our roads and
highways and bridges and water systems up to a safe, reasonable level. And
this kind of cutback that we`re doing now, this sequester, besides being
stupid, because it`s across the board and nondiscriminating, is -- and
besides being unnecessary, is absolutely harmful for all the specific
reasons we`re talking about. But also, it will take so much demand out of
the economy that the estimates are it will cost at least a million jobs, at
least a point in economic growth, and probably about a point in the
unemployment -- increased unemployment.

And we should simply scrap it. You know, we`ve reduced the deficit
from 10.1 percent of GDP to seven percent. And it`s going down to five
percent. That`s enough for the moment. Concentrate on unemployment.
Concentrate on getting the economy back in shape. Worry about the long-
term deficit problem after we`ve got the economy in shape.

SCHULTZ: Well, if you believe that Powerpoint presentation that
Boehner put together in the summer of 2011, this has all been part of the
plan. Let`s bring in the conversation Congressman Cedric Richmond of
Louisiana.

Congressman, good to have you with us. What is this going to do to
your area, Cedric? Congressman, what is it going to do to your area?

REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND, LOUISIANA: Well, it kills our area, to tell you
the truth. In fact, part of the area where it hurts Louisiana the most in
terms of the Army Corps of Engineers, which of course is doing our coastal
restoration and protecting the infrastructure that protects our families
and citizens.

But if we can`t dredge the Mississippi River, then the rest of the
country can`t get their goods to market. So the cost of our goods are
going to go up. So our farmers and everyone else who produces goods from
manufacturers or farmer, they`ll be at a competitive disadvantage in
getting their goods to market.

So you`re talking about almost a 250 million dollar cut to the Army
Corps of Engineers. And it`s those things that are just mind-boggling, and
to me lack common sense. Because what we should be looking at is what kind
of return we get on every dollar we spend. So if you`re talking about
early childhood education, are you talking about the Army Corps of
Engineers and dredging, those are both things that give you a phenomenal
return on your investment.

But we just have this approach that our Republican colleagues are
trying to initiate.

SCHULTZ: Sure.

RICHMOND: It just lacks common sense. And that`s the frustrating
part.

SCHULTZ: Congressman Richmond, what about the military cuts in your
backyard? These are going to be pretty devastating. There is a big
military presence in Louisiana.

RICHMOND: We do. I mean, we have an extreme amount of shipbuilders
and other people who work on government contracts and work for our
military. So it`s just what you try to do is use common sense and cut
where you can cut, raise money where you can raise money. And our
colleagues have just refused to sit down like adults and plan out how we`re
going to run the country.

So we just have cliff after cliff created by our Republican colleagues
that raise the anxiety of American citizens at a time that we shouldn`t be
doing this. We have people out of work. And we have infrastructure
collapsing. We could put people to work fixing what is already broke.

SCHULTZ: Congressman Peter Welch, Jerry Nadler and Cedric Richmond,
great to have you gentlemen with us tonight on the Congressional panel.
Thanks a lot.


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