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Why Democratic Rep. Israel Voted For Debt Bill


Let's turn now to a House Democrat for reaction on the deal. Democratic Representative Steve Israel of New York is on the line. Good morning, Congressman.

REPRESENTATIVE STEVE ISRAEL: Good morning. How are you?

MONTAGNE: Fine. Thank you very much. Now, let's just move forward in time. Democrats said they would negotiate once the government reopened and the debt ceiling was raised. Both of those done. Are you ready for serious budget negotiations?

ISRAEL: Oh, absolutely. We always have been. We've already demonstrated our willingness and ability to pass balanced budgets that includes essential spending reductions but also put revenues on the table. When we get down to Budget Control Act and we're ready to do that again. We are welcoming this debate that we will now have over the next several months on how you pass responsible budgets that reduce spending smartly, that generate revenues fairly, that help the middle-class and create jobs. And every time we contrast our priorities with the Republican priorities, voters side with our priorities.

MONTAGNE: Well, though some of your language you share with Republicans: sensible budget considerations, sensible changes. Those are Republican words as well. Now, there's a conference committee coming up. The president has offered to give some ground on entitlements. Some liberals have been unhappy about that. What about you? Are you ready to sign on?

ISRAEL: Oh absolutely, as long as the changes are fair. Let me give an example. You know, the Republicans talk about the need to make changes in Medicare. We'll take a look at that. We're open to reason and willing to meet in the middle ground. However, while they're looking at Medicare, maybe they should look at $40 billion in subsidies that taxpayers give to big oil companies every 10 years.

Maybe they ought to take a look at the entitlement programs where members of Congress actually receive checks from the federal government in the former farm subsidies. Maybe they should look at why big pharmaceutical companies aren't required to negotiate volume discounts with Medicare.

So as long as we take a broad comprehensive and fair look at both sides of the budget - spending, which I believe we need to continue to reduce - but also revenues and fairness, then maybe these negotiations can be productive.

MONTAGNE: Well, hopefully so, though when you talk about broad, that brings in so elements that in some ways that is the problem. Are we going to see a repeat of the same stalemate of recent years?

ISRAEL: Well, look. Since 2010 we have had a group of people who like to manufacture crisis, they bring us from cliff to cliff. There was just an analysis by macro-analytic advisors that said that these stalemates, these crises, these cliffs have actually cost the economy $700 billion. And so on this recent crisis, while I would've preferred a much longer extension of keeping government open and longer terms not to default, I came to the conclusion that it may be better to kick the can than to crush the can.

These people wanted to crush the can. They wanted to keep the government closed. They were willing to default. We did get ourselves some time. And now I hope that Republicans - that this is a teachable moment for Republicans, that they've learned that recklessness and irresponsibility and inflicting harm on the economy in order to advance partisan gain didn't work out for them and it's time to truly meet in the middle.

MONTAGNE: Well, you are the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. And as you've suggested, the Republicans have been hurt more than the Democrats in polls over this shutdown. Now, your job is to get Democrats elected in 2014. Do you think voters will remember the shutdown in a year's time?

ISRAEL: I think they're going to remember this. And I think they're going to remember two years ago when they tried to shut down the government over a woman's right to go to Planned Parenthood. And they're going to remember last January when the Republicans were willing to shut down the government and hurl us off a cliff rather than reforming the Bush tax cuts. They're going to remember this because this has inflicted real harm on the economy and hurt people's pocketbooks.

You know, federal workers who are out of a job and their families, they're going to remember this. Seniors, who are concerned about their pensions and retirements, they will remember. This shutdown cost our economy $24 billion, and so this is not some kind ephemeral, you know, one off. These Republicans, because of their irresponsibility and recklessness, have inflicted real harm on real people. And those real people will remember that harm.

MONTAGNE: Representative Steve Israel of New York, thanks very much for joining us.

ISRAEL: Thank you, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.