Tags: Exclusive Interviews | steve scalise | sequester | control | spending

Rep. Scalise: Sequester 'Only Mechanism' to Control Spending

By Lisa Barron and John Bachman   |   Monday, 09 Dec 2013 03:21 PM

While it appears Congress is getting closer to reaching a long-term budget deal, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, and about 20 other GOP conservatives have sent a letter to push for another continuing resolution at sequester levels.

"Ultimately what we've been pushing for is to finally control Washington spending, and right now the only mechanism that's actually going to be successful at doing that is the sequester," Scalise told Newsmax TV.

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"The sequester has actually forced real cuts in spending because, historically, Washington would increase maybe about 2 percent instead of 3 percent and then try to call that a cut even though spending was growing. So, sequester is the first time in decades where we've actually seen for two years in a row now – if it's successful next year – we'll see two years in a row of actual reductions in the size of government on the discretionary spending side," he explained.

"We think it's very important that, short of a big deal that actually gets mandatory spending reforms, which are desperately needed to get our economy back on track, if that's not achieved by next week, then we do want to see that the sequester levels of spending are held so that we don't allow Washington to just increase spending, and so that's why we sent the letter," the representative for Louisiana's first congressional district said.

Before being elected to Congress, Scalise served for four months in the Louisiana State Senate and 12 years in the Louisiana House of Representatives.

Asked about the latest reports out of Washington that have House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., just a few billion dollars apart on a deal, Scalise said he was optimistic but would not support any budget that includes higher taxes.

"I'm strongly opposed to any increases in taxes, and in fact, the president got tax increases to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars during the fiscal cliff deal," he noted. "But what else is involved . . . there are a lot of things that they've been talking about that are on the table, but until I see a final deal I just don't feel comfortable commenting because there are too many moving parts that they're trying to finalize."

As for whether increasing fees on things like airline tickets to pay for security would be acceptable, Scalise said, "Well, it depends on who defines it. I've seen fees at both the state and federal level, something that might be defined as a fee that really was a tax, so, there is an important distinction where again the details are important."

Scalise and the RSC have also put forward an alternative to Obamacare, the American Healthcare Reform Act, which has been gaining support from other GOP members.

"All along, the first priority has been to repeal the president's healthcare law," he said.

"When I became chairman of the RSC in January, one of the priorities I had was for us to develop an actual alternative that was focused on putting patients back in charge of their own healthcare and also in lowering costs, which was one of the biggest impediments for people who couldn't get healthcare."

Scalise said that the RSC put together a task force that included physicians in Congress, and came up with a bill that "makes a lot of common sense," including letting people buy insurance across state lines.

"During Christmas, people are online, they're buying products in every state. If it's good for their family, it's a good deal for them, they go and buy it. With healthcare, you really can't buy a product across state lines if you think it's better for your family," he explained.

"So, there are a lot of impediments, like tax equalization, again, putting the patients back in charge that we focus on. We get rid of all of the mandates and the taxes that are in Obamacare and we say, look, let's let patients actually have real choices and lower costs."

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