“When the plate comes around and there’s a cookie on the plate, take the cookie.”
That’s how Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), a top Republican who served as the House GOP’s transition chairman, summed up the budget deal between congressional leaders and the White House late Friday night. That agreement was reached with about an hour remaining before the current funding measure was set to expire.
Walden agreed to a brief interview as House Republicans’ closed-door conference meeting broke up Friday night and as members were preparing to return to the House to vote on the short-term budget deal. Some of the highlights of the conversation are below. (We’ll be updating later with more reactions from members; as of this posting, the House was about to vote on the stopgap measure):
What do you think of tonight’s budget deal?
“I think it’s very positive for the country. We’ve got a terrific negotiator in John Boehner, and I think he got the best deal that was out there to be got. It’s great for the country. We’re cutting spending by $39 billion, which I’m told is four times any cut – you’d have to go back to World War II and the demilitarization. So for those of us that are fiscal conservatives, this is pretty good news.”
How’d things go in the conference tonight?
“Well, we’re all very concerned about the troops and their families and making sure they get paid. That was a big topic, obviously. But in general terms, he laid out that it was a tough negotiation and that if Republicans weren’t in the majority, the budget that would be in law would be $79 billion higher. So this is a huge shift. This is a big shift in attitude in Washington. And it has a lot to do with John Boehner, because he went through the last shutdown, and he meant it when he said he did not want us to go into another government shutdown. Nobody wins, including the American people and the men and women in uniform. And having had that experience and being as good a negotiator as he is, he was the perfect person to be at the table.”
Were there members tonight who were dissatisfied?
“Are there members who want to continue to cut? Yes. And they’ll have that opportunity starting with the budget, which will be on the floor before too long, and that’s where the big change is coming. I think people have come to that realization. We’re only dealing with six months left in this budget period, and so we’ve got to move onto the longer view, and that’s the budget that’s going to be coming to the floor.”
And the social policy riders?
“I think they’ve satisfied those who were seeking them. Now, he didn’t go through every rider that’s in there.”
How’d the freshmen react?
“Well, they’re not a monolithic block. But I would say the overwhelming reaction was positive. Are there people who wanted more? I mean, sure. ... When we went to sell our company, a guy was advising us on it, and we weren’t sure my wife and I were getting a good deal. And he said, ‘When the plate comes around and there’s a cookie on the plate, take the cookie.’ You know? Because the plate doesn’t come around again. And that’s, I think, where we’re at. Had this deal not been done at this hour, those who sought further cuts would’ve been gravely disappointed, because there would’ve been less. And you can see the pressure already building on everyone about the downsides of a government shutdown. I think it was a real wake-up call to those who didn’t understand the consequences.”