CNN "Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees" - Transcript: Government Shutdown and Debt Ceiling


By:  Pete King
Date: Oct. 9, 2013
Location: Unknown


Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa has been one of the headliners in the government shutdown and now on the debt ceiling. Just the other day he told "NEW DAY's" Chris Cuomo that talk of the default if the country doesn't raise the debt ceiling is, in his words, "demagoguery."

Congressman King joins us now.

Thanks for being with us, Congressman. I appreciate it.

Thanks for having me on, Anderson. I appreciate it.

COOPER: So the idea of a possible, maybe glimmer of a solution to the stalemate, a clean funding bill, short-term debt limit increase, if a framework for reforms are in place. Is that something you would at all support?

KING: You know, at this point I don't think so. I would look at all of it. I would read it through and see what we might have if we're making progress, and if we're making progress, commensurate with any length of time that one might extend the debt ceiling. I'm not one that said I'll never vote to raise the debt ceiling but I think it should be comparable to the issues we have.

And one of the problems we have right now is this risk of, and I've been warning against it for about a week, conflating the issues with this partial shutdown that we have. Needing a CR to get -- to keep the government going, or get the government going again, that compared to the debt ceiling. When those two things, if they come together, we won't be able to define the difference between the two because already they're conflating this dialogue.

I want to separate them and I want to resolve this issue with the CR and I think there is not an emergency on the debt ceiling. We are spending less than 10 percent of our revenue to service our debt and this alarm about default is just false.

COOPER: The plan that Paul Ryan wrote about really made no mention, defunding or delaying Obamacare. To you, is that a completely -- does that make it just a non-starter? KING: Well, I don't want to say non-starter because he's talking about the debt ceiling versus the CR or if he's conflated the two, and I couldn't sorts them out. One of the two. But this CR has been about Obamacare and shutting off the funding to implement it or enforce Obamacare and I wrote that language way back in February of 2011.

I am invested in it deeply and I think it's important that we hold the line and yet if we cannot actually contemplate the idea that we would go on forever and not increase the debt ceiling. So let's make sure that conditions are right for each one of them. For me if the entitlement reforms are strong enough, I will take a good look at it.

Better yet, if we bring a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution through the House and the Senate, and send it to the states where 38 would have to ratify, that would be something that would cause me to take a real good look at a debt ceiling because that's where the problem is.

This Congress doesn't have the discipline to get into a -- to balance the budget and start to pay down our national debt. A balanced budget amendment would bring that discipline. That's what the president fears. If he opposes a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution, I realize he doesn't get to vote on it. But if he opposes it and says I won't negotiate with you under any circumstance like that, he's saying I never want to see the federal government compelled to live within its means. And I think that's an untenable position.

COOPER: Try to answer this for me because I've asked this to a couple of people and I haven't quite got an answer that -- or got any answer to that that I can understand. Republicans, you know, are saying there is no point in bringing this up for a clean CR, for a vote on this in the House, that it wouldn't pass. Democrats are continuing to call for that, just bring this up for a vote, bring it up for a vote. It's going to pass. It's going to pass. There's Republicans who would support it as well as obviously a lot of Democrats.

Why not -- from your standpoint, why not, if you feel confident that it would not pass, why not bring it up for a vote, for a clean vote, and let it fail and that way you take away the strategic argument from the Democrats?

KING: Well, I wouldn't -- I wouldn't argue that a CR, as they describe it is clean, and I don't think it's clean at all, that it wouldn't pass. It's just we said this --

COOPER: So you think it might pass.

KING: I think it might pass. And -- but we have a constitutional obligation, we have constitutional authority to start the spending in the House, to start the taxation in the House, anything that generates revenue, and that's set up so that the House of Representatives as a quick reaction force to hold a president in check or a Senate that might be going off away from the interest of the people.

We have a full constitutional responsibility to do that and we should remember that Obamacare was passed on a purely partisan agenda on the narrowest of margins and I've often said that Thomas Jefferson once said that large initiatives should not be an advanced on slender majorities.

This was the slenderest of majorities and it was not just a slender majority, it was a purely partisan majority. The American people have rejected Obamacare. They have elected us to the House of Representatives to put an end to it. And this is the leverage point, this is where we need to make our stand, Anderson.

COOPER: But isn't it -- I mean, you're a big believer in the Constitution, obviously, as everybody is in this country or should be. I mean, that's what our constitutional calls for, a majority vote, the majority passed Obamacare, it was a slender majority as you say. You say it's very possible a majority in the House would pass a so-called clean CR. Isn't that constitutionally the way our system works?

KING: Remember, though, the Constitution also says that the speaker will be elected to be the speaker of the whole House and that the majority controls the House of Representatives. That's also the structure that we have for government and they determine the things that will be debated and the things that will be voted upon. And that always hasn't made me happy, either. I've had my frustrations with that system.

It is the system. But we're trying to bring out the will of the people and we should think also that even though we're into the, what, eighth or ninth day of this partial shutdown and there has been some really tough spots, especially seeing those caskets come off -- there at Dover, those are -- those are really tough things to see.

Even with all of that, however it's settled, the latest on the pressure cooker, the clamps are down, the pressure goes up, the temperature goes up every day and the American people will decide this. As they -- as they dialogue back and forth, they will call their members of Congress. They'll write their letters to the editor and in the end it'll be the American people that will sort out this.

But we should remember also, this is a constitutional issue. The president cannot be allowed to legislate by executive edict. And we are in the check and balance situation. It's about the institution. Is the institution going to hold its ground and actually be the legislative body? The president has changed Obamacare at least twice since the Supreme Court decided it was constitutional.

We can't let that go on, either, Anderson, otherwise the president has taken over the Article 1 powers of the Congress.

COOPER: Congressman King, I appreciate you being on tonight. Thank you.

KING: Thanks for having me.


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