Congressman Explains GOP Schism Over Budget Battle

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Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on The Brian Lehrer Show, Congressman Scott Garrett (R-NJ) talked about his "no" vote on the continuing resolution to fund the federal government for three more weeks.

Congressman Scott Garrett (R-NJ) was one of 54 Republican lawmakers who voted against Speaker John Boehner and the Republican leadership on the continuing resolution to fund the federal government for three more weeks. The bill, which contains $6 billion in immediate cuts, passed both houses and kept the budget debate alive.

Garrett appeared on the Brian Lehrer show to explain why he voted against giving his Congressional collleagues more time to get a budget passed. He says the Senate is to blame for dragging on the process.

I gave the Senate the benefit of the doubt for the first two-week extension—I don't think they needed the extra time, a second time to come to a decision as to what their position would be. They couldn't vote on a Republican position, they couldn't pass a Democrat bill. The ball is really in their court.

Garrett believes he and his fellow lawmakers who voted against the bill actually gave the GOP House leadership a stronger negotiating position than before.

We're not repudiating leadership on the end game, we're just saying, 'We were sent here with a mission, the mission was to reign in spending, and we are going to be more conservative than others are in the Senate on this, so we want to push the bargaining position as far as we can.'

On Thrusday's Brian Lehrer show, Congresswoman Yvette Clark explained her rationale for also voting 'No' on the bill—her continuents would be drastically affected by deep cuts to basic services.

"Voting 'no' for me meant that we need to send a message to our constituents that we are fighting against what is happening to them," she said. "The misery factor in all of our communities is going to go up exponentially as we go through this agonizing process as we cut the nation's budget. We have yet to touch defense spending and in many cases we're funding obsolete weaponry just to keep certain parts of the country employed. There needs to be a shared burden here. Until I see that I'm going to stay in the 'no' camp."

Garrett says he has yet to hear from Clarke, and lawmakers who voted no against the bill on the grounds for its cuts to services such as Head Start, a way to reconcile the spending and growing national defecit.

They've been saying that for the last several decades, and that's what's put us into a situation where we have a $1.6 trillion defecit, where we borrow 40 cents on the dollar. I can accept what she is saying, if she would explain to us then how we get our fiscal house in order. Which programs does she want to cut?

Asked about raising taxes in lieu of or in addition to spending cuts as a budget-balancing measure, Garrett replied, "That still doesn't get you there. Even if you move back to Bush tax cuts, and so on and so forth, it doesn't get you as far as you need to go."

But a consequence of reducing spending on government programs and agencies (including NPR, which the House voted to defund yesterday) is that many government employees face layoffs. Doesn't that raise the jobless rate, put more people on the unemployment rolls, and hinder the fragile economic recovery that Republicans say they're nursing? Garrett conceded that it would hurt in the short term, but the shift in focus from public to private industry would make the country healthier down the line.

Yes, it will reduce job growth, certainly in the public sector, but we're looking to see what we can do for job growth in the private sector. The other aspect [Democrats] are not bringing into it is, what the implications on job growth will be if our debt situation in this country continues at the trend that we are, with a $1.6 trillion deficit. I'm not sure they're taking that into consideration.