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GOP Congressman Steve Stivers Meets With Central Ohio Business Group.
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15th district congressman (R) Steve Stivers this morning told about 150 members of five area chambers of commerce that the U-S House will consider a 2011 federal budget resolution in two weeks. The U-S government is currently funded through March 9th. In an interview after his address, Stivers weighed in on topics ranging from federal budget to his decision to bunk in his Capitol Hill offices.
Interview with 15th District U-S Congressman Steve Stivers at the Holiday Inn in Worthington with WOSU Reporter Tom Borgerding and WTVN reporter Matt Bruning. The interview was conducted after a breakfast meeting with approximately 150 members from Chambers of Commerce from Worthington, Columbus, Upper Arlington, Grandview, and Clintonville.
Borgerding: First thing, the budget battle, let me ask about that first, Representative Ryan says he’s going to cut 32-billion dollars from this year’s budget. The Obama Administration says he wants a pledge from Republicans not to shut down government. How’s it going to be resolved. Are you going to compromise or stalemate? Stivers: Well, I think we’ve got to compromise. But, we’ve got to figure out how to cut government. You can’t balance a budget by freezing expenditures, We’ve got to actually cut expenditures. We have a spending problem in this country. So, you know we’re going to work together, but even the President recognizes that we’re spending too much money. So, the good news is we agree on a lot of things. And, hopefully we’re going to be able to come together and find a compromise that works for everybody.
Borgerding: In your remarks, you said you’re going to start with the easy stuff. Can you tell me, what is the easy stuff?
Stivers: The easiest thing was cutting Congress’ own budget. And we cut congress’ budget first. And we’re going to move on to looking at line by line, especially things that on a performance basis may be aren’t doing the things that they used to do or aren’t as effective as they should be. There’s for example, about 2-billion dollars in money that subsidizes union activity in this country. You know, the unions are doing okay, I don’t think they need any more subsidies. You, know, if unions want to do something they should pay for it. So, there’s things like that. That’s another easy thing. There’s probably ten or twenty of those that we can do. But then we’ve got to figure out how to look again, line by line, to say, is this program working? Is it effective? Is it efficient? Because what the American people want and what the people in my district have told me they want is government that is effective and efficient and does the job that it needs to do without taking any excess money out of their pocket.
Bruning: Wanted to ask about health care here real quick, if you’ve got a moment. You know, where are we going with this? We’ve had the judge rule parts of this is unconstitutional, the whole bill’s void. What’s next?
Stivers: Well, what we’re going to focus on is trying to reduce costs in health care. We’re going to focus on things like tort reform , even the President talked about it in his State of the Union. We’re going to focus on dealing with the fix that needs done on the 1099 provision, it’s a bi-partisan issue. We’re going to try to deal with the individual mandate that’s keeping small business from hiring new people. We’re going to try to deal with making care more affordable by doing Food and Drug Administration reform. We’re going to try to pass more consumer behavior by expanding health savings accounts, not limiting them like the bill did last year. So, there’s a lot of little bills and they’ll be done one at a time. I’m going to work on a bill that keeps 26 year old folks on their parents insurance. We’re all going to work on lots of individual bills that won’t be one massive 27-hundred page monster. It will be individual bills moving. And the ideas will rise and fall on their own merits.
Borgerding: What is your sense? Is there more urgency on getting health care reform or more urgency on some of the economic development. In this group, obviously a small business group, there are a lot of small business questions but the animated questions really came about health care.
Stivers: I think jobs is issue one but the two issues are linked. When small business can’t add jobs because they’re worried about the mandate, when small business can’t afford to operate because of health care costs, we’ve got to deal with costs. So, the two are linked. But jobs is clearly issue one. And I talked, for most of the hour I talked about, It was about jobs. And there’s all different aspects of jobs and cutting spending is part of job creation and growth in this country too. Cutting federal government spending and getting government more efficient and effective.
Bruning: I heard one question was asked about the budget and linking jobs, he said, hey you know the budget’s not been approved. There’s no defense spending, you know, we can’t add jobs if we’re not getting contracts. When will we see a budget passed?
Stivers: We’ll pass a continuing resolution, on February, I think its 17th, in the House. And then it will go to the Senate, hopefully they’ll pass it quickly and we’ll have a budget for rest of this year. We’re already working, and you saw Chairman Ryan release some things yesterday. We’re already working on next year’s budget too. So, we’re trying to work ahead to make sure that , so we can make sure that the problem of last year’s congress is not the problem of this congress and that we’ll get next year’s budget done on time before October when the fiscal year ends.
Borgerding: Congressman, I’ve got one more real quick question. CBS News last week identified you as among a group of freshman congressmen that’s actually bunking in your office in Washington. Why are you doing that? Stivers: Well, you know I decided to stay in my office early-on here because frankly , I didn’t want to make a bunch of commitments to a rent payment that I didn’t know what made sense for my family. And, my commitment is to my family here in Columbus first. I spend most of my time here in Columbus too. I didn’t think it made sense to have a $2,000 apartment in Washington, and that’s what things cost up on Capitol Hill, if I was going to be here in Columbus most of the time. For the temporary time I’m staying on an air mattress in my office and just go down to the House gym and shower in the morning. It allows me to work later at night and get back to work earlier in the morning. I don’t know that I’ll do it forever, but it’s the right thing to do for doing more work. I kind of look at this as a temporary deployment like when I went to Operation Iraqi Freedom and so I’m sleeping on an air mattress again to turn our country around.
Bruning: I had a real quick question about this unemployment compensation because I know the state is obviously is facing this eight-billion dollar budget deficit. This is something just to add to that a little bit. I guess, what can the federal government do. Will they forgive that? Is there something we can work with?
Stivers: I don’t know that we can forgive the money that was borrowed because, again, we want to encourage states to be responsible and if you forgive money like that it actually encourages people to be irresponsible. But, there might be something we can do on the interest, like Andy Doehrl had suggested and I look forward to meeting with people and talking with them about it. Ironically, when I was a state senator I tried to solve this mess before it came and I said we’ve got a pending crisis in our worker’s comp or in our unemployment comp fund we’ve got to get it fixed and unfortunately it didn’t get fixed. Sometimes that’s the way it goes, you win some, you lose some. But, I wish I could have solved this one before it came but now we’re going to try to do what we can to help from Washington.
Borgerding: One more question, this district has changed parties, obviously twice in the past two elections. You know, how do you keep the pulse of voters and have you made any changes in plans in the wake of Gabrielle Giffords incident.
Stivers: You know, I’ve not changed anything that I do based on the way , what happened, the sad tragedy that happened to representative Giffords. But what I want to make sure we do, and that we’re going to continue to keep an eye on is make sure people feel safe meeting with their representative. I was lucky and I think I was glad that over one hundred people this morning felt safe and comfortable coming here to meet with me. We want to make sure that people feel safe when they come to meet with me. And so we’re going to make sure that we employ active and passive security measures . And its something that I started even before the Giffords shooting, the tragedy in Tucson. We made sure that we built the system that had active and passive security measures so when people wanted to visit with me they were safe. And I think that’s really important because our system of government depends on interaction between the people and their representatives.