House Freedom Caucus Member Responds To White House Budget Proposal
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
President Trump has released his proposed federal budget for the coming fiscal year. He wants more spending, for instance for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and to strengthen the military to fight ISIS. His budget director, Mick Mulvaney, says it sends a message to other countries that this is a strong power administration.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
There are plenty of trade-offs. The White House proposes cutting billions of dollars from the State Department, the EPA and other agencies. It's part of an attempt to shrink and reorganize the federal government, which we'll hear about in a moment.
CORNISH: First, on Capitol Hill, Democrats and some Republicans are critical of these proposed cuts. Others say the White House budget is a step in the right direction. Earlier I spoke with Ohio Congressman Warren Davidson. He's a Republican and a member of the Conservative House Freedom Caucus. And I asked him for his first impression of the president's proposal.
WARREN DAVIDSON: Well, the first thing when I look at the budget is to get a sense of perspective - how big of a slice is that of what the government actually spends? So this is the discretionary budget. And for some of your listeners, they may not be aware that this is only about a third of what the federal government spends right now. Two-thirds is on autopilot and is a big part of why we are in such a debt crisis.
CORNISH: Right. This White House budget does not touch or deal with the largest drivers of federal spending - Social Security and Medicare. Does that sit right with you?
DAVIDSON: Well, those are difficult problems. It's really hard because we just crossed a debt ceiling threshold. We're 19 - closing in on $20 trillion dollars' worth of debt as a country. And the good thing that this budget does - it shows that national security is the president's priority. And he offsets that with some nondefense discretionary cuts, which are always hard and sensitive to do. But those are relatively easy compared to the mandatory spending challenges that we're at.
CORNISH: You know, I can't tell from listening to you if you like or dislike this budget (laughter). And I know that the House Freedom Caucus hasn't taken an official stance. How come?
DAVIDSON: Well, it just came out. So, you know, I think everyone that I know is encouraged by having Mick Mulvaney at the OMB.
CORNISH: And he was a former cofounder of the House Freedom Caucus.
DAVIDSON: Correct and just a strong budgetary focus in his mind, which is why he's a great pick for OMB. And so he did take the tough decision to work with colleagues I'm sure in the White House and the staff over there to propose some cuts. There will be some dialogue and discussion in the sense that, yes, we do have to live within our means. Which things will we find? Maybe it's not these things, but we'll have a discussion about some other things. And then we can start to tackle the bigger problem, which is, as I say, the two-thirds of the budget that we're not talking about today.
CORNISH: The House Freedom Caucus has come out against another piece of legislation, and that's the American Healthcare Act. That's the Republican health care proposal. At this point, does it look like there are enough conservatives opposing it to block it from passing the House? I mean you've said, just a few days ago it might be in trouble.
DAVIDSON: Yeah, I still see that - that this act is in trouble. And I'm encouraged actually that Speaker Ryan is talking about, how do we work together to get this done? We might not be able to do it in one swing, but we need to be truthful to our public and say, hey, this bill does not repeal and replace Obamacare.
It is an amendment to the Affordable Care Act. It's constrained due to the rules of the budget. And I think a lot of people are very concerned that when they see this, this is what we're going to accomplish. And that falls far short of what we promised voters.
CORNISH: So you are getting closer or farther away from your goal, which was just plain repeal? I mean it sounds like you're talking about kind of compromising and making do with the fact that this is going to be amending the original Affordable Care Act, making changes to the law that you disagree with.
DAVIDSON: Yeah, so let's be clear. If we called the votes today, I would be a no, as would a lot of other people in the Congress today. And that's the House. From what I hear, the Senate's in even more turmoil in terms of whether they could support this. So this bill as it stands needs to be improved just to pass. But fundamentally it needs to be improved to deliver on the promise we made voters.
CORNISH: Well, Congressman Warren Davidson, thank you for taking the time out to speak with us.
DAVIDSON: Thank you. Thanks for the interest. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.