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MSNBC "Andrea Mitchell Reports" - Transcript


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ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC: In a bipartisan effort, the House Budget Committee is introducing a new line-item veto bill today, something that Presidents since Nixon have sought. And it's being championed by two lawmakers who join me now. In what is their first joint appearance on this issue, Ranking Democrat, Congressman Chris Van Hollen from Maryland, and of course the Republican Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Congressman Paul Ryan from Wisconsin. Welcome both, thank you. Chairman Ryan, what do you think the line-item veto could accomplish? And how can you get it passed?

REP. PAUL RYAN: We're not suggesting it will fix all our fiscal problems, but what Chris and I think this will help do is help change the culture of spending here, that both parties have been a party to. What we want to do is basically give us this tool so that we can "embarrass" the wasteful spending out of these spending bills. It's a constitutional version, so the President can pull a piece of pork out of the bill, send it back to Congress, Congress has to vote to it, no amendments, can't duck the vote, so we take the execution, the action, therefore it's constitutional, but this is a way of embarrassing pork out of the bills in the first place and getting after it if it's been put in there afterwards. Again, both Republicans and Democrats have messed up this system. They have given us a lot of wasteful spending. We think this is a good tool that both of us agree on going after that wasteful spending. We want to show that we don't always go at each other's throats. We can agree on some things. This is one of those we agree on.

MITCHELL: I think we're all going to post shots of the two of you standing next to each other, because usually people are firing salvos from opposite corners. But Congressman Van Hollen, in June of 1998 the Supreme Court struck down a previous attempt in a concurring opinion Justice Kennedy wrote "failure of political will does not justify unconstitutional remedies," meaning that was failure to attack the budgets. It was a 6-3 decision, the court ruling; the majority opinion was delivered by Justice Stevens at the time. So why would this be constitutional? I think Congressman Ryan was getting to the point this would be another vote.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well, that is the remedy, that's why this is constitutional. As you know, Paul and I obviously disagree on lots of policy issues, but we both agree we need to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollars; we need more accountability, oversight and scrutiny. That's what this does. Why this is different than the law that was held unconstitutional is back then it said a President can present Congress with a list of proposed items he or she doesn't think we need to be spending money on. By this version the Congress then acts and by a majority vote we agree or disagree, but we'll make sure Congress acts. We believe Congress has a responsibility to take a position up our down on whether or not that spending is something that the country needs or does not need.

MITCHELL: Congressman Ryan, can you get this through the house? And do you have any Senate support?

RYAN: I passed this bill the last time we were in the majority. John McCain and Tom Carper I think are echoing a version over there, so it's bipartisan. We consulted with the attorneys who argued successfully against the earlier version in the Supreme Court. This is a constitutional version. I agree with that ruling you were talking about. What we think this does is it gets after the shenanigans played at the last minute when writing appropriation bills tucking a spending provision in there that nobody ever sees. This goes after those games, which both parties have been a party to. We banned earmarks, but that doesn't get at the heart of this issue, and we think this is a step in the right direction.

VAN HOLLEN: What it does, Andrea, is makes it much harder for a member of Congress to sort of quietly slip on a spending project that may not be in the national interests.

RYAN: Right.

VAN HOLLEN: And sneak it on by sticking it with everything else that is legitimate spending. It's kind of the Christmas tree approach, where a lot of people may want to add their own ornament. This says, "we're going to take an opportunity to have an up or down vote on the things that may not be necessary."

MITCHELL: Now that I've got you both there, more or less a captive audience, you've agreed on the line-item proposal. How about the payroll tax? Can we work something out about that now? Congressman Ryan?

RYAN: I think so. We're in discussions about that. We want to pay for it. This was meant to be a temporary tax rebate, I don't think the economics really add up on it as far as creating jobs.

MITCHELL: You think it's a sugar high?

RYAN: Yeah, I do. I do, but of course I like the idea of people keeping more of their own money. If get a chance at cutting wasteful spending to let people keep more of their own money, that to me is two steps in the right direction. We have to watch out for making this permanent - if we do that we're accelerating the bankruptcy or social security or complicit with general funds transfer into social security, which turn into a cash welfare program, which I don't think any conservative or liberal would be in favor of, so this is meant to be temporary policy, we should treat it that way, and I don't think it's very good economics, but at the end of the day I think it's great and fine that people keep more of their money, especially if we can get a down payment on spending cuts, which we need to do anyway around here, all for the better as far as I'm concerned.

MITCHELL: What if you paid for it, guys with, you know, how about taxing the rich?

RYAN: Well, small businesses, actually, so what we don't want to do are tax those successful job creators. We don't want to advance mediocre economic policy with really bad economic policy to pay for it. We want to do is get after spending. There are enough spending cuts that we think we have agreed to in the past that we could take out of the President's 2009 budget he proposed and move that.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Andrea, we spent a good part of this interview talking about things we obviously agreed on, now you've gotten into an area of disagreement. I think it's very important, when you have a fragile economy, that we have today, that we not take more money out of people's pockets. We need people to have that income to go out and spend on goods and services, so small businesses can sell those goods and services and hire more people. I think it's very important, it should be temporary, it should be designed during this period when we have a very fragile economy, social security is kept entirely harmless under this provision, and I do believe we should be asking those folks who are doing very well to take a greater part of responsibility in reducing our long-term deficit. Those are areas we're going to be debating in the days ahead. But I am very pleased that we are coming together on this important measure. This won't solve the deficit problem, but it's an important measure in sending a signal we're going to try to get rid of the wasteful spending, unnecessary spending and increase accountability. So let's focus for a moment on what we think is an important measure.

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