Exclusive Interview with Rep. Jim Jordan
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) is the Chair of the Republican Study Committee (RSC). With nearly three-quarters of the House Republican Caucus joining its membership after the 2010 elections, the RSC has gone from being a thorn in the side of Republican leadership to being a major player in moving the party to the right. And while the party may still not be as dedicated to lower spending and tax reform as many grassroots conservatives would prefer, under Rep. Jordan the RSC has proposed significant spending, tax, and entitlement reforms. It also proposed a budget that would balance in five years.
Rep. Jordan was kind enough to sit down with Dustin Siggins of Tea Party Patriots yesterday afternoon to discuss how he plans to have the RSC lead the upcoming budget and tax debates that will land on Congress’ table before the end of the year. These debates include extending tax policies, potential budget cuts, the fiscal year 2013 budget, and potentially a vote on increasing the debt ceiling.
Dustin Siggins: Rumor has it that the Senate and House leadership is aiming to pass a six-month Continuing Resolution (CR) at Budget Control Act (BCA) levels. A couple of questions on that –
Rep. Jordan: First, let me say that a bunch of us conservatives pushed for this, on the House and Senate side. You know how this game is played – a CR that lands in the kind of situation we’re looking at – a lame duck session – will impact defense, and the government will threaten shutdown, the troops won’t get paid, etc. We thought it was important enough that, while we don’t want to have a full year at the level of spending, hopefully a new Congress and/or new President will get a new, lower level in the last six months of the 2013 fiscal year.
DS: Interesting. I didn’t realize you were a leader on that.
RJ: I went back and said, “let’s get it out of the lame duck.” I don’t like doing things in the lame duck.
DS: How much spending would that actually reduce in the six-month window?
RJ: The idea is that we’ll go with the BCA levels, but only for six months, but in the next Congress we have a chance (assuming a change of leadership in the White House and Senate) to scale it back to at least the Rep. Paul Ryan level, though obviously the RSC budget would be more ideal.
It’s a guess, but we’d save about $10 billion.
For the record, we shouldn’t be doing major policy during the lame duck anyway! We’re holding off on major issues for the election, such as sequestration, a debt ceiling deal, etc. There are a lot of big issues, the Doc Fix and tax issues… I would be in favor of pushing as much of that into the next Congress as possible.
DS: Regarding the “fiscal cliff” at the end of the year, two major parts of it are the AMT & the Doc Fix, both of which have been having one-year patches for around a decade. What’s stopping Congress from a budget-neutral, permanent fix for both?
RJ: If you look at our budget, we do enough tax reform (a fairer, flatter, two-rate system), and we cut spending, especially discretionary, significantly, and send Medicaid to the states. We pay off the changes we need to make for the Doc Fix and get rid of the AMT patch system. It needs to be done in a comprehensive way.
We need to send Medicaid to the states, change Medicare for younger people, do a tax reform that encourages growth, change the SGR payment system, etc. We have to do all of this to balance the budget.
This is where Paul has been very helpful on the ticket because he knows how bad the system is, and that we have to cut spending, but we need to have better monetary policy, spending policy, tax reform, etc.
DS: The payroll tax holiday has now been extended once. Do you see it being extended again? Do you support eliminating the holiday and its $125 billion impact on the deficit, or do you see it as a tax increase?
RJ: Now that we’ve had it in place for two years, it looks like this President is bound and determined to raise taxes, but if he can’t get his way on taxing the rich he wants to raise taxes on all people.
I would prefer to have a one-year extension and then do major tax reform with Republican control of the White House and Congress.
I originally voted against the payroll tax holiday because we had a huge election that year , because I said “Guys, let’s wait for reinforcements. Don’t you think we can get a better deal with 87 freshmen in the majority in the House?”
So, again, all of these things are coming up again, including unemployment extension, SGR, AMT, sequestration, and I’d rather push it off to next year to get a better deal. I don’t like doing these major policies during a lame duck. We need to avoid tax increases, but we should push all we can to the next Congress.
DS: There may be a debt ceiling increase vote before the elections. Will the RSC put forward a plan similar to the one it promoted last year as a requisite for raising the ceiling (Cut, Cap, & Balance), or is there another strategy entirely?
RJ: First, the agreement put together last year was bad. Think about it, the day after the agreement passed, the DOW dropped. The second day, we got downgraded. The scheduled cuts that are in the bill that passed are now being discussed for suspension, meaning that the only thing conservatives got out of that deal is $2.4 trillion in debt. If this comes up before the next Congress, we need to do better.
We should look to cut spending, we should certainly look to cap spending as a percentage of GDP, so that’s something Rep. Paul Ryan and Romney have talked about. The difficult thing will be a Balanced Budget Amendment [BBA]. If in fact, if the GOP is in control, Democrats won’t help us. So, last year we could make a trade, using split government to our advantage – the President said he needed a $2.4 trillion debt ceiling increase to get us past the next election. We said, “There’s the trade. You want $2.4 trillion, we want you to get your Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate to support a Balanced Budget Amendment.” We’d get the start to a BBA through the House and Senate that still has to get through 38 states. I would argue that it’s the only thing that can save us, can keep the politicians on track to spend only what we take in.
One-sided government is more difficult, so I’d have preferred a solution over a deal, and if the GOP has control of Washington next year, this will be more difficult. This is why we pushed so hard last year. This was our best chance. He [Obama] wants an increase, we know the nation needs a balanced budget. We would have settled for less in the down payment – we wanted $100 billion in first-year cuts – but the process for a BBA was so important we could have compromised more. Unfortunately, the House leadership disagreed.
DS: Regarding a BBA, many consider it something of a political football. You’ve explained how it could actually work, but is the BBA more important than, say, a Back in Black-style plan (Senator Coburn’s plan from 2011) or other comprehensive plan for reform to spending and taxes?
RJ: Ultimately, we need a BBA. That’s why we pushed it. All across the state at events, I have at least one person who says “Well, what about a balanced approach?” I just don’t buy that. I joked to someone about that last week, that every family has someone you don’t loan money to. That’s the federal government and Congress. So any kind of tax increase in a plan is a bad plan, period. Congress never follows through on spending cuts in a “balanced plan.”
Is there something else we can do that’s big in a GOP-controlled Washington, such as Medicare reform and Medicaid to the states? Things that will make huge differences on the debt? Yes. Those are things we could look for, and we could try to tie that to the debt ceiling. I’m nervous about a debt ceiling with a promise for looking at reforms later. That’s like spending cuts later, tax increases now.
Dustin Siggins recently joined the Tea Party Patriots as their Content Coordinator, with a primary focus on providing timely, hard-hitting policy and political analysis for the Tea Party Patriots’ blog. His work can be seen at HotAir.com, HotAir.com’s Green Room, Race42012.com, RightWingNews.com, American Spectator’s Blog, and other publications.