Meet the Press | February 19, 2012
>>> nine days to go for voters to go to the polls in arizona, and contraception issues back in the news. and rick santorum with a range of issues in what he called a phoney agenda. listen.
>> it's not about you. it's not about you. it's not abouter quality of life or about your job. it's about some phoney ideal. some phoney theology. not a theology based on the bible, a different theology, but no less a theology.
>> and paul ryan , republican of wisconsin and the ranking member, and chris van hollen . we are in the heat of a presidential campaign here, and a primary fight on the republican side and i want to ask more about the serial issues. rick santorum talked about a phoney theology, as he put it, that the president has, and he went on after that speech to stand by the remarks. here's what he had to say.
>> the president has come to owe pressing religious freedom , and it's a position of his values over a church who has very clear theological reasons for opposing what the obama administration is forcing on them.
>> chairman ryan , let me start with you. is that what we can expect from republicans in this campaign, as a faith-based broadside attack against the president's leadership?
>> i could not hear all the click from rick santorum , but what we are getting from the white house , it's not an issue about contraception, it's an issue that reveals a political philosophy that the president is showing that basically treats the constitutional rights as if they are revokable privileges by the government and not rights we have from our creator, and it's a political philosophy that puts new government-granted rights in the way of our constitutional rights . it's an argument for freedom in protecting the rights . it's really not about contraception, it's about violating our first amendment rights to a religious freedom .
>> you think it's an appropriate part of the debate for a republican contender for the white house to say things like if he says he's a christian, then he's a christian? haven't we been through this before trying to demonize the president?
>> i wouldn't say it that way. he believes he can mandate certain benefits and activities of the american people which conflicts with their constitutional rights . he believes these two government-granted rights trump our constitutional rights such as our first amendment rights to conscience and freedom of relidge yuns. i would go after him on his political philosophy that violates our founding principle.
>> congressman van hallen, how do you see it?
>> you see that as the economy is improving and more and more people are going back to work, and the policies on the economy are working, you find republicans going back to the old red meat social issues that helps to rile up their base. that's what is going on. the president put on the table a very principled compromise on this issue making sure that women would have the health care that they need, including contraception, and in making sure that people could pursue their own religious liberty . that's why groups like catholic charities and the catholic's hospital association says it's a fair compromise and accomplishes the goal of women's health as well as religious freedom .
>> how do you respond to more generally of what santorum said about a phoney theology he thinks the president asident at hears to.
>> he's questioning the president's faith, and that's a new low in politics and it has no place in our political dialogue. he should retract and apologize for that statement.
>> and republicans in the house are taking on this issue of contraception and what they see as a religious freedom test. this was the image at the first of two hearings in a oversight committee, all men, all religious leaders, and all men and no women . you heard nancy pelosi , she had a few things to say about that. listen.
>> where are the women ? and that's a good question for the whole debate. where are the women ? where are the women on that panel. they are having a panel on women's health and they don't have any women on the panel. duh?
>> this was a duh moment, and there was a second panel where there were women , but there's a larger question, there are democratic leaders who are woman that are using it for fund-raising, and saying a lot understand contraception is not about birth control but women's health . are you concerned as a republican that republicans are overdoing this issue and it can hurt the party's chance in november?
>> no, i am concerned the issue might get miscontrued. everybody in america is free to use contraception as they want to, and that's not the question. the question is should the government have power to mandate these things of us. the compromise is a distinction without a difference , and it's mandating that everybody pay for everybody's free birth control and contraception. can the government mandate that people violate their freedom of religion , the conscience. the catholic charities don't interpret document, but it's the bishops, and they are saying it's a violation of the constitutional rights . it's an issue of constitutional rights and of the government having the kind of power to trump them. the way i look at it, if the president is willing to trample on the constitutional rights in a difficult election year, imagine what he will do implementing the rest of the law when he doesn't have to face the voters again if he gets re-elected?
>> you heard what ryan said, or whether it's a women's health issue and protection of accessibility in key aelmentes to a women's health , is that what you think will play out here?
>> yeah, that's the debate. when the chairman refused to allow a woman, a democratic witness, to testify on the full first panel. i do think it strikes the american people as strange that has a panel talking about this issue, trying to protect women's health and religious liberty without having a woman on the main panel and denying her the right to testify. look, i think republicans are making a big mistake . after the president made the principle compromise that he did to make sure we protect a women's health and her liberty, we also have requirements that also meet that balance in that test and that's all the president has done in this case.
>> i want to get to one more issue before i turn to the economy and the budget , and that's gay marriage . you saw the veto in new jersey, and in maryland they passed it and we will get to eight states. if it's signed in maryland they have recognized same-sex marriage in their state. it's a significant part of the population. is this -- should this be a campaign issue as we move in this country towards a situation where blue state america , if you will, is supporting the rights of same-sex couples to marry, and red state america is voting against it or doesn't want to have it on the ballot. go ahead.
>> certainly this is a legitimate issue and part of the debate we should have. i support a civil marriage equality, and people have different views on this, but the focus remains on the economy and jobs. that's why it's interesting to hear republicans trying to switch the subject in so many areas. what we are seeing is the president's plan has been working. he inherited an economy that was in total free fall . we passed the recovery bill and helped to rescue the auto industry , and now we have seen 23 months of consecutive private sector job growth , and 23 million new jobs created --
>> we will get to the economy. but i asked you a question about same-sex marriage. you don't support same-sex marriage, do you?
>> no, i do support same- sex equality . the maryland legislation is being worked on --
>> but you don't support what maryland has passed as a state, do you?
>> i support what maryland has passed, yes.
>> same-sex marriage, is, in your view constitutional and same-sex couples should be fully recognized as a marriage?
>> i support the maryland legislation, yes.
>> and mr. ryan , do we have to have a way of looking at same-sex marriage?
>> actually, i came on to talk about the debt crisis and the budget , and that's the driving issue of this election. but i supported the wisconsin amendment to define marriage between a man and woman. bill clinton signed into law the defensive marriage act . if i recall from the last presidential campaign , president obama , vice president biden said they supported marriage as being between a man and woman. i don't know why we spend all this time talking about this. we have a debt crisis talking about it, and the administration gave us a budget that just failed to tackle the challenges. i think that's what we ought to be talking about right now.
>> there's a presidential campaign , and you are a republican leader in congress, and these issues are talking about the bandwidth. and that's why i wanted to get your views on them. i want to move on to the economy. let's talk about the payroll tax cut that was passed this week. neither of you actually supported it. my question for you, congressman ryan , do you think this has any economic impact on spurring economic recovery or jobs?
>> i think chris did support it, so to set the record straight on that, i did not because i don't think it grows the economy. temporarily tax rebates and spending, they didn't work when president bush tried them and didn't work when president obama tries them and it's a poor substitute for pro-growth economic policies . that's the problem is these are crowding out what we could otherwise do to bring more certainty to job creators. this does not do that. what drives me crazy is we couldn't get the democrats in the senate and white house to support cutting $100 billion over ten years to make sure that this did not hurt the deficit. $100 billion over ten years of spending cuts they could not come up with, and the president gave us a $47 trillion budget , and wouldn't agree to spend 46.9 trillion to pay for this. we pay for these with spending cuts, and i voted for that. and we talk about not paying for these things, and i don't think it works. it's not good economic growth policy and we have proven the temporarily sugar-high economics, they don't work to grow the economy and they are a poor substitute forgetting rid of capitalism, and addressing the drivers of the debt which would do so much more to grow the economy than doing these sorts of things.
>> and i spoke at a panel here in washington, and you can't argue this is a big profile encouraged to extend a tax cut not paid for during a great fiscal imbalance in washington.
>> i do support the extension of the payroll tax cut and the democrats did want it to be offset. we proposed we offset it by closing corporate tax loopholes and by asking folks at the high end of the income scale to pitch in more, and we did not think it made sense at all to provide $160 million working americans with a payroll tax cut to help them and at the same time cut things like medicare support and increase the premiums to help offset it. that didn't make any sense --
>> that's why you voted against it?
>> yeah, i voted against it because of one of the pay fors disproportionately impacted the federal employees. your question is did you support the payroll tax cut, i do, and very strongly, because paul is not right on this. it will help economic growth . it could add up to 1% gdp this year. it's common sense . you are putting more money in the pockets of the american people , and then they can go out and spend that money buying goods and services , and that means small businesses and businesses could sell more goods and services and hire more people. just as the congressional budget office had the recovery act, and they said it saved jobs in the economy, and like the auto rescue helped to save 1 million jobs. it's an important step.
>> chairman ryan let me ask a larger philosophical question. budget of government. they have not passed one in over 1,000 years. budgets seem not to matter. what you have are campaign blueprints, and i had the chief of staff, jack lou here, head of omb for the president, and i asked him about what was necessary now, and i want to you respond to what he said.
>> i think that there's pretty broad agreements that the time for austerity is not for today. we need to be on a path where over the next several years we bring the deficit under control. if we were to put in owe stair tea measures right now it would take the economy in the wrong way.
>> congressman ryan , do you agree with that, to protect the recovery, and don't get into the realm of austerity where we are belt tightening to the point where you see what is happening in greece where you can hurt recovery that is occurring here in the country?
>> well, first of all, the white house 's rhetoric doesn't match the substance. what chairman bernanke said to us, if you put in place the long-term plan to help the crisis it will help today. the white house is not trying to solve this problem. when you strip away the budget tricks and accounting tricks, they gave a budget that gave a net spending increase of $1.5 trillion, and a tax increase of 1$1.9 trillion. if you pass the president's budget , it goes up 76%. so what they are doing is they are not leading. they are ducking responsibility, and that threatens our economy. that will make us more like greece . here is the issue. if we keep kicking the can down the road and don't face up to the great fiscal challenges we have. we have a debt fuel economic crisis ahead of us, and you might have to impose the kind of austerity they are imposing in greece . let's fix this now and put something in where we can broaden the base, and we are giving the country a clear and specific plan to get us off the path of debt on to a path of prosperity. what we think we will achieve is that we will give the country a choice of two futures. we feel we owe the nation an opportunity to choose which path they want for america , and we will be specific. what is frustrating about the white house is they have had four budget submissions and they decided to duck this challenge every time. more debt, more spending, more taxes, and that hurts our economy. that will lead to austerity, and we think that's wrong, and that's why we put out alternatives. we had tim geithner who game to the committee on thursday and said, quote, we don't have a definitive solution, we just don't like yours. i can't think of a better example of what stems up the crisis.
>> congressman van hallen, respond.
>> jack lew and ben bernanke are right. if you have a strict austerity plan right now, we will lose the gains we made. we need to follow-up with the rest of the president's plan in addition to the payroll tax cut, and the president proposed last september we have a major infau structure investment, and we have roads and bridges and airports that need to be renovated and built, and we need to put those things together. that's the one piece of what this president's job plan and budget does. the second part is we need to balance the deficit and deal with it in a balanced way. this is not a question about whether or not we should reduce the long-term deficit. it's how. the republicans and paul ryan 's budget does this, it's a one-sided lopsided approach. they want to take it all out on middle-income americans. the result is that you are going to have folks on medicare, seniors with a 23,000 median income taking in the burden for increased medical costs because they don't want to ask folks at the very high end to pitch in by closing corporate tax loopholes and by going back to the same top tax rate in place in the clinton years when the economy boomed and we balanced the budget by the end. they all signed a pledge saying they won't close one tax loophole for the purpose of deficit reduction. the first action taken by the house of representatives when the republicans took charge was to change the house rules to say that you don't have to pay for tax cuts for the folks at the very top. you can put that on your credit card . what we need to do is take a balanced approach to deficit reduction, and that's what simpson-bowles did and other bipartisan groups did. we need to make cuts and the administration's budget makes $2.50 in cuts per $1 in revenue. that's what the american people want.
>> you have two visions there. i want to do one for each one before we're out of time. i do want to ask you a straight up political question , congressman ryan first, which is if mitt romney who i thought at some point was the frontrunner loses michigan, do you think it's possible and advisable that somebody else should get into the race on the republican side ?
>> i don't see how that can happen. it's just too late. it's february. these things have a way of taking time. i assume it will drag out well into april, so we will be relevant here in wisconsin , so i have a hard time seeing how somebody could get in on this late date. i hardly think a budget that never ever proposed a balanced budget is a balanced plan. we proposed closing loopholes for economic growth . there's a bipartisan consensus that the best way is to lower tax rates by closing loopholes and doing the entitlement reforms in a gradual way. the president's plan does the opposite. he's got massive tax hikes and massive debt increases that threatens the economic security , and his budget hollowed out our national defense and that threatens our national security .
>> i would like to respond to that.
>> we are for the bipartisan consensus and the president is not.
>> paul is talking about tax reform , but not the way the bipartisan commissions have. we all want tax reform , and it's just the republicans don't want one penny of tax reform to go towards deficit reduction. if you don't do that, it means you have to cut deeply into critical investments in the national infrastructure and education and we don't need to ask the middle income and seniors to bare the entitle burden. that's what it's about, whether you want a balanced approach. it's not when but how to reduce the deficit.
>> on "meet the press," we can talk social issues and faith and the budget and economy. see, we can do it all. i thank you both very much.