Ohio 16th District Republican Congressman Jim Renacci talks to ideastream's Brian Bull about where things stand on the debt ceiling situation and partial federal government shutdown.
(Editor's note: Renacci and Bull talked before 10 am Eastern Time today).
BULL: We've seen news reports last night and today that say there's a potential deal to be made soon, to resume funding to the federal government, bringing everybody back to work. Do you see that happening?
RENACCI: Well, I’m not sure where we’re at as of this point.. I’m very happy to see that the president has agreed to start talking and negotiating, I think that’s important. I know that the Republican House was there last night and the Republican Senate is there this morning. So the goal will be to continue to work together and try to come up with a solution. I personally never wanted to see this shutdown and I know that we need to make sure we move forward especially with the debt ceiling also, because we cannot have a situation where we’re messing around with the full faith and credit of the United states government.
BULL: Now I imagine Congressman, that you've taken a lot of calls from your constituents in the business community - you were elected on your pro-business platform. What are they telling you?
RENACCI: Well, there’s a varied message quite frankly. There are still many business members in the community who are unhappy with the president’s health care plan and want us to continue to do something there. There are many others who want us to work to get the government back open because they’re seeing a slide in their business. And there are others who are a little bit concerned about interest rates and the credit markets with the debt ceiling. So I’m hearing various comments, always…some small business owners who are hurt very, very bad by the president’s health care plan, you know are very adamant that we need to make some changes to that. So it’s a hodge podge, basically.
BULL: Do you see hope for Republicans to achieve some capitulation from Democrats and the president on, say, reforming entitlements, or eliminating the tax on medical devices that's part of the Affordable Care Act - or Obamacare as everyone's now calling it - or would it more likely be a short term continuing resolution and debt ceiling agreement, and then negotiations taking place over the next six weeks?
RENACCI: Well, as somebody in business and a business owner, I hope that we can do something longer than just a four week extension. It appears that’s the direction where we’re going. But in the long run, we have to bring certainty and predictability back to the marketplace. We have to make sure that businesses and individuals out there see some certainty in what the government’s doing. So I’m not…if we end up in the short-term, I sure hope that we can move very quickly to make it more of a long-term agreement and deal. Because without certainty and predictability, we really can’t be focusing on our number one priority which would be jobs and the economy.
BULL: Many pundits and analysts have been saying there's a significant split in the Republican party between those who support shutting down the government and holding firm on the debt ceiling in order to derail the Affordable Care Act, and those who think that's going too far. Do you agree that there's such a divide?
RENACCI: Well I think there’s differences of opinion, there’s no doubt about it. But keep in mind that there’s 233 Republicans, 202 Democrats. One thing for certain, the 202 Democrats are definitely holding the line as a “NO” vote. And when they do that, you need 217 to get anything accomplished. Which means if you have 17 members disagreeing with the other 217, you have a---er 216, you have a problem. You can’t get anything done. So you might call it a split or divide, but really I think it’s definitely a disagreement. There are people on both sides of that issue. But there’s definitely common ground down here on a number of things. You mentioned the medical device tax. 79 senators voted to repeal it. I’ve talked to many members of the Democratic Party on the House side who are in agreement with that. So I think what we’ll need to do is look toward those things we agree on and let’s move forward with those. And get some compromise and get some things accomplished.
BULL: As far as that divide, Congressman, which side specifically do you come down on?
RENACCI: Well, I’m a believer from day one that we never should have shut the government down. I’m also a believer that we should not be hurting the full faith and credit of the United States government. At the same time, I do have to represent my district and you know, there’s a majority of people who are unhappy with the Affordable Care Act. So what we have to do is be able to work it – look at the 2400 page bill. The President’s already made numerous changes to it, he should allow Congress to work with him to make other changes to it for the benefit of the people back in the district. But ultimately I think we have to make sure that whatever we do, that we get the government open and we make sure that our full faith and credit of this country continues to be the strongest in the world.
BULL: What do you take away from some of the polls that came out overnight showing that Republicans are shouldering the brunt of the blame for the shutdown?
RENACCI: Well, look. Polls are polls. And you can actually – depending on how you ask a question -- get a poll to pretty go whatever direction you want it to go. I think ultimately, everyone’s to blame down here. You know, the president for not negotiating, his numbers are coming down. The Democrats for holding the line, their numbers are coming down. And the Republicans, I realize, our numbers are coming down. Ultimately we shouldn’t be worrying about polls, we should be worrying about what’s in the best interest for our country. And what’s in the best interest for Americans. We should be getting things accomplished down here.
BULL: Critics say this seems to be the most polarized and ineffective Congress, ever. Do you agree? Who’s steering the ship?
RENACCI: Well again…”ineffective”? A lot of people chuckle when I tell them…when people hear that we’re not passing a lot of bills, because they don’t want us to pass a lot of bills. Our job really is defense of this country, passing appropriation bills, getting budgets accomplished, and keeping the government moving forward so that the economy prospers. And that has to be our goal. I don’t think we should be judged based on bills passed, bills not passed. But ultimately we do have a divided country, and we have a divided Congress. And we have to be able to work together. The lack of leadership is probably the biggest thing that’s evident here. And in many ways I have to blame our president. Because I look back at the Clinton Administration. President Clinton was very open in coming to Congress, working with Congress, President Kennedy, President Bush…I can go through a whole list of presidents, and you hear that from many of the senior members down here. And what we’ve found with President Obama is very unwilling to come over and reach across and talk to…ah, I’ve been here for two and a half years, I’ve seen the president two times. That’s really a problem in my mind. Leadership means you have to be willing to step out and work with people. And I think that’s one of the reasons….we’re just lacking that leadership down here in Washington.
BULL: Now the President and his supporters would say that he is willing to negotiate, and review the Affordable Care Act, but it needs essentially to be funded, and the government needs to start up again. Do you have a response to that?
RENACCI: Well keep in mind he said many, many times, “I’m not going to negotiate. I’m not going to negotiate. I’m not going to negotiate.” And the other thing that is very…you know, when you come out on the table and say “I’m not going to negotiate,” that’s a problem. Look, I’ve been in business for almost three decades. I’ve had differences of opinion with people on the other side of the table, many times in business deals and business relationships. But I’ve never come out and said, “By the way, I’m not going to negotiate” right off the gate. You sit down, you work with people. And that’s one of the things that for me personally that’s been an issue. We have to be able to work together down here. I’m glad to see he’s done that. I know as of yesterday he reached out to Republicans. I think that’s a good start. We have to have more of that, we have to be able to work together.
BULL: Very quickly, Congressman, do you have a sense as to when a deal might be struck?
RENACCI: Well, I hope sooner than later. I think the goal is to move forward but at the same time, we have to make sure we’re looking at our debt, and our deficits, and our spending levels, and whatever deal we do has to be in the best interest of our children and grandchildren and really America in general. And that has to be part of whatever negotiated deal we move forward on. And if it’s a short-term deal, I hope that it gives us the opportunity to think about….we’re not…this isn’t about Republicans or Democrats, this is about Americans and doing the right thing for America.
BULL: Congressman Renacci, thank you very much for your time today.
RENACCI: Thank you. Bye now.