As the House was voting early Saturday morning on its eighth (and final) stopgap funding measure this fiscal year, we spoke with Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) in the Speaker’s Lobby, the hallway just off the House floor where lawmakers and reporters often gather during votes.
Andrews, an 11-term Democrat who is a close ally of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said he “enthusiastically” supports the 11th-hour budget deal struck among President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) late Friday night, likening it to the tax deal struck by congressional leaders and the White House during last year’s lame-duck session.
“[The budget deal], I think, will further create an atmosphere of some confidence and stability in the economy; I think the tax agreement in December was similar to this, and I think that this may have similarly positive effects on the economy,” Andrews said. “And second, it may serve as a template for us to work together on the more difficult budget issues, which are the mandatory spending.”
Of course, many liberal Democrats had been in open revolt over last year’s tax package, which they viewed as too generous to the wealthy. Might there be similar opposition brewing to the latest deal struck by the White House and Congress? And what about Democrats’ criticisms of the spending cuts proposed by Republicans as “extreme” and ”irresponsible”?
Read on for Andrews’s take on those and other questions related to the budget deal.
What did you think about the deal that happened tonight?
“I think it’s an excellent deal for the country. ... I think that there are sensible spending cuts that preserve education. I obviously believe that it’s important that we keep the health care law in place and that we don’t inject the politics of abortion and social issues into the budget. They protected the environment, women’s rights. So I think this is an excellent, bipartisan agreement. I think it’s good for two reasons here. It, I think, will further create an atmosphere of some confidence and stability in the economy; I think the tax agreement in December was similar to this, and I think that this may have similarly positive effects on the economy. And second, it may serve as a template for us to work together on the more difficult budget issues, which are the mandatory spending. I think this is an excellent signal for the country, and I’m going to support it enthusiastically.”
What do you think is the sense among the other members of the Democratic caucus?
“I think we’ll have a diversity of opinion. I’m not sure how many Democrats will vote which way, because there’s a lot to like and a lot to dislike in the bill. But I come down on the side that says this struck the right balance, and I’m going to be a proponent of it.”
You mentioned the tax deal. That was something that a lot of liberal Democrats had been opposed to last year.
“A majority of the Democratic caucus voted for the tax agreement. As a matter of fact, a substantial majority. ... It was well more than 50 percent. I don’t know what will happen this time, but I think the president did an excellent job of striking the right balance, and it’s a sensible, bipartisan spending-cut agreement that preserves education and preserves the health care bill and the environment and women’s rights.”
Back a few months ago, when House Republicans were first putting together their funding proposal, Democrats had criticized the $30 billion or so in cuts as “extreme.” But tonight’s deal would cut even more than that.
“Well, they were proposing more than that. The history of this is that you’ve got to compare apples to apples. If you want to talk about the $100 billion cut, they started out with I guess $65 billion off the president’s proposal and then kicked it up to $100 [billion]. And those cuts, in fact, did have a very negative effect on Pell Grants and on Title I and on IDEA and on Head Start. And I’m confident that the product that comes out on Tuesday or whenever it is will not have that problem. For most of us, it’s always been a matter of: not if you cut, but where you cut. And this is an agreement that preserves education, and I think that was a very high priority for us.”