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Club for Growth's Chocola: GOP Has 'All the Leverage' in Debt-Ceiling Fight

By    |   Thursday, 03 January 2013 05:00 PM

The Republican Party holds the power in the upcoming talks on raising the nation’s $16.4 trillion debt ceiling — “if they’re willing to use it,” Club for Growth President Chris Chocola tells Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview.

“At some point we have to be serious about this,” Chocola tells Newsmax. “At some point, Republicans have to do what Republicans say they have to do — and they have to stand up for limited government, spending restraint, and fiscal responsibility.

“This is an opportunity they have. They have all of the leverage in the world on their side if they’re willing to use it,” he added. “They have a simple message — and they have public opinion that’s sympathetic. This will be a real test to whether Republicans can do something constructive and put this country back on the path of fiscal solvency.”

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The Club for Growth is a fiscally conservative political organization that supports an agenda of low taxes and limited government. Chocola became president of the Washington-based group in 2009. Before that, he served two terms as a U.S. congressman from Indiana.

Negotiations between President Barack Obama and Capitol Hill Republicans on raising the debt ceiling are expected to begin soon. House Speaker John Boehner, who was re-elected to a second two-year term on Thursday, has said he would no longer negotiate with the president.

Urgent: Do You Agree with Boehner and Obama's Tax Compromise? Vote Now.

Still, Chocola believes that an agreement can be reached without the partisan wrangling and derision that marked the discussions on a deal to avert the fiscal cliff. That agreement — negotiated by Vice President Joseph Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican — was approved this week.

“I don’t think it has to be ugly. It can be almost inspiring,” Chocola said of the upcoming debt-ceiling talks. “The Republicans have a pretty simple message: This isn’t about a debt ceiling. This is about debt — and the only question that we have to ask is do we want more of it or less of it.

“Republicans want less debt; Democrats want more debt. I don’t know what the number is — probably 80 percent of Americans, though, think that we should have less debt. So the Republicans have public opinion on their side. They have a very simple message that they have to deliver, but they have to be willing to back up their position with action.

“They have to be willing to essentially shut down the government or else none of this matters,” Chocola said.

And a government shutdown does not necessarily mean defaulting on debt interest payments, either.

“I don’t believe in the default argument. About 6 percent of the revenue into the Treasury goes towards interest payments right now,” Chocola said. “They’ll certainly have enough revenue to cover the interest payments, so the government will not default on any of the financial obligations it has. It may have to reprioritize spending. It may have to delay some bills for some departments, but the world wouldn’t come to an end.

“The pain of shutting down the government temporarily will be miniscule compared to continuing on the fiscal path we’re on. We are on the path to ruin. It’s unsustainable — and every time we raise the debt ceiling in the name of we-can’t-stand-the-pain-now, it only makes the pain worse in the future.”

As for the fiscal cliff deal itself, Chocola described it as “clearly a tax increase” and said that those GOP legislators who backed it will be scored for doing so by the Club for Growth.

“When you look at all of the taxes that are going to hit Americans in 2013, it goes everywhere from payroll taxes, to investment income, to marginal rates. It’s hard to argue that this is a tax cut,” he said.

“We think it’s bad policy. We think it’s anti-growth. You can have a debate on the taxes. Some members probably had an argument with themselves saying, ‘Well, if I do nothing, taxes go up on everybody; if I do this, they only go up on some.’

“But there is no argument about the spending,” Chocola added. “Pushing the sequester out for two months — trying to convince that, once again, we won’t do the hard work today but we’ll do it later — is typical and uninspiring. It’s a bad outcome, and we think ‘no’ was the right vote.”

The GOP, he said, must take the lead on cutting spending, particularly in the entitlement programs.

“There’s a real lack of political will from both parties. I always say that I have a morbid respect for Nancy Pelosi and the healthcare bill. She knew that it put her majority at risk. But it’s something that she believed in for 40 years. She found a way to get it through the House — and it’s a law today, even though she lost her majority in the process.

“Republicans have to find a way to take the risk of leadership, stand up for the things they believe in, and be willing to suffer the consequences,” Chocola said. “I don’t think they will. The American people would be on their side if they could finally find a way to deliver a clear, consistent, and convincing fiscal conservative message. The majority of Americans are still on their side on fiscal issues, if they can find a way to talk to them in an appealing way.

Urgent: Do You Agree with Boehner and Obama's Tax Compromise? Vote Now.

“This is an opportunity that they need to take. They haven’t taken any recently that have resulted in good policy. But this is one more chance and it’s the best chance they’re going to have, and we’ll see if they’re up to the task.”

That includes strong leadership from newly re-elected House Speaker Boehner, Chocola said.

“Boehner is a guy with a tough job — and I just wish that he would lead. His instincts are conservative. He has served as a conservative member of the House. I served in Congress for a while, and I heard him say many times, ‘I’ve been here too long to know what you can’t do.’ We need somebody who doesn’t know what you can’t do.

“I’m not aware of any new generation of leadership that’s obvious, that’s challenging the current leadership,” Chocola said. “Boehner’s instincts are right; I just wish he would lead much more aggressively according to his instincts.

“He’s not king. He’s Speaker of the House. He has to represent his caucus, but he could provide stronger leadership to really put us on a path of sustainability, which we’re not on now.”

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The Republican Party holds the power in the upcoming talks on raising the nation s $16.4 trillion debt ceiling if they re willing to use it, Club for Growth President Chris Chocola tells Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview. At some point we have to be serious about...
Thursday, 03 January 2013 05:00 PM
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