Interview with Congressman Tom Price (R-GA)

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Representative Tom Price (R-GA) has served the 6th District of Georgia since 2005. In that time, he has led conservative policy solutions as the Chairman of the Republican Study Committee as well as the Chairman of the Republican Policy Committee. He is currently the Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on the Budget.

With both the Senate and House having passed their respective budget resolutions for the first time in four years – in recent years, only the House has done this – a great deal of attention is focused on the budget. In order to find out what is going on behind the scenes, Tea Party Patriots blogger Dustin Siggins sat down with Congressman Price for a phone interview earlier this week:
Dustin Siggins: As the Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on the Budget, you were very involved in the House’s proposed budget. What was your role in negotiating the plan?

Representative Tom Price: The Budget Committee’s proposal came from a number of Members of the GOP in the House. Serving under Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been a privilege. Our goal was to put forth a budget, the “Path to Prosperity,” that would solve the spending crisis we face.

We wanted a budget that would deal with the non-mandatory spending – known as discretionary spending – tax reform, and mandatory spending – including Social Security and Medicare.

DS: You voted for the Republican Study Committee’s budget, which balances in five years and is more aggressive with regards to entitlement reform. Do you think this piece of legislation is better than the House-passed proposal, which takes a decade to balance?

TP: The vision both of us, both of the groups, have – the RSC, which I had the privilege to chair a few years ago – is we must get spending under control. There are different avenues to get in that direction. I’m supportive of anything that moves us in the right direction. Unfortunately, the President’s budget – in past years, that is, the President’s budget; he has yet to submit a budget to Congress, which violates the law – Senate Democrats, the House Democrats’ official budget, the Progressive budget – all of them never, ever get to balance. In the Senate, they call their plan “balanced,” but it never balances.

We want the federal government to stop spending more money than it takes in.

DS: The House budget proposal assumes taxes from Obamacare stay in place. Chairman Ryan has promised to turn these tax increases into tax reform. How would this work? What can Tea Party activists expect from the GOP-controlled House?

TP: This is really an important point. The House GOP budget does not keep Obamacare taxes in place. It repeals Obamacare in its entirety, including all of the taxes. What we do is keep the same level of spending and taxation in place as a starting point, for pro-growth tax reform. It’s almost a must, because of how baseline budget works.

We are looking to do pro-growth tax reform, not raise taxes.

DS: Following up on that, are you talking about the CBO baseline?

TP: Yes.

DS: When it comes to baseline spending and taxation, everyone knows those projections are unrealistic. They  are used for partisan bickering – Democrats use them now, Republicans use them a decade ago – but that’s all. Why is the House budget starting off at the CBO baseline?

TP: Well, we have to. It’s been the law since the Budget Control Act of 1974. We must use CBO’s baseline, which is current law, as our starting point. What we do from there is take the assumed tax revenue levels and do tax reform based off of those.

This is really getting into budget wonk stuff, but it’s an important point.

DS: So, in other words, people are confused. The House budget looks at the CBO’s baseline, which includes Obamacare’s tax increases, and then compares itself to that baseline? And people are confusing that with tax increases?

TP: Yes.

DS: One criticism of the House leadership in past budget debates is that while the Senate and President start on the left, the House’s efforts have started from the center-right. This is counter to most wisdom on any kind of negotiations, from legislation to buying a car – you would have a starting offer close to what you want to pay for a car. Given how liberal the Senate budget is, with its spending and tax increases, do you think the House budget – which takes quite a while to balance, especially as compared to the RSC budget – concedes too much before the real negotiations take place?

TP: Getting anything through a legislative body is negotiation, even through one’s own party. This wasn’t a top-down policy-driven product. This really was naturally occurring from the Budget Committee, and the Republican Members on it, and conversations between everyone, everyone in the GOP House Conference who wanted to have that conversation. It’s an exciting document because, for the first time ever, in the last two decades, it demonstrates that you can get to a balanced budget in a decade.

We’d see a faster balance than 10 years, I think, because of faster economic growth. In the 1990s, it was expected the budget would balance in seven years. It took four. Once the economy gets rolling, we’d see the budget balanced faster than the projection.