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Rep. Warren Davidson On Rifts Between Republicans


This is also a moment when President Trump's relationship with members of his own party in Congress is strained, to say the least.

Trump scolded Senate Republicans in a White House meeting yesterday.

And Majority Leader Mitch McConnell still looks like he won't be able to pass a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This, of course, follows the failed effort in the Senate to pass a new health care bill.

Meanwhile, Republicans in the House seem to have their own problems. The budget Speaker Paul Ryan proposed may not be able to get enough votes to pass it. Republican congressman Warren Davidson of Ohio is on the line with us now. He's a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

Congressman, good morning.

WARREN DAVIDSON: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So many of your fellow Freedom Caucus members have said they are voting against this budget from Paul Ryan and leadership. Are you joining them? Are you going to vote against this?

DAVIDSON: I'm still undecided. I think a lot of people are undecided because you have incomplete information.

So you've got a number on the discretionary budget. And we're planning to spend 70 billion more per year. And on a 10-year - the way this stuff is scored is on a 10-year cycle. So if you just do straight math, that's 700 billion. That's obviously not real - you have time value of money. If you did a net present value, that would be, you know, a much higher number. And they're talking only about 200 billion in mandatory cuts.

So fundamentally, in a country that is on a path towards bankruptcy, spending half a trillion dollars more, just in straight-line math, isn't rational.

GREENE: You're - I know you're throwing some - some numbers at us. I just want to - broadly speaking, I mean, what exactly do you want to see more of in terms of cuts? What programs are you talking about?

DAVIDSON: Well, for example, what people are talking about right now as a way to get at mandatory cuts is work requirements for able-bodied adults.

So these - these are things that were in place when President Clinton and Newt Gingrich worked together in the '90s.

And then in the Great Recession, President Obama and a Democratic Congress came in and stripped the work requirements. It's was a recession. It was hard to find a job.

GREENE: Just so that people understand, you're talking about people - you're talking about people who receive assistance through welfare and food stamps, for example, suggesting that there should be more work requirements on people who get that assistance.

DAVIDSON: Well, for able-bodied adults.

And it also fits with when you talk with Janet Yellen or any of the macroeconomic folks - frankly, just small businesses all around Ohio, we need more labor. We need labor participation.

We've got a chance to grow the economy. Even with all the things that came in with regulation and taxes, companies managed to grow, but the constraint for many of them has been labor participation.

So it really deals with two things, or three, just by saying we expect able-bodied adults to work.

GREENE: Congressman, I - as - as I understand it, the House budget already says it's going to impose work requirements. What more do you need?

DAVIDSON: Well, it's a little bit nuanced to understand the language. So there's a number, but then there's budget reconciliation instructions. You talk about how tight it is in the Senate. Budget reconciliation lets you accomplish things with 51 votes in the Senate.

And so that language is really important, and it really guides what - how binding these things are because there's a trend in Congress where you look at the numbers, and they just kind fill in the blanks out there in the out-years, but there's not solid policy behind making sure those happen.

So those cuts get talked about when it's time to pass a budget, but they don't get implemented. So we can't just talk about it. We got to be about it.

GREENE: So if you do, indeed, are not satisfied with whatever language is there, and other members of your caucus decide to vote against this budget, this could also mean saying goodbye to another Republican dream for a tax overhaul because you need a budget before you can do that. I mean, are you ready to spike yet another dream of a Republican Congress and a Republican White House?

DAVIDSON: Well, no, I'm here to fulfill the dreams and fundamentally do what we promised. And so when we give half measures, we're not doing what we told people we were going to do. So, of course, we're going to find a way to do tax reform. And, of course, we're going to find a way to pass a budget. We may not be able to pass this one. And that's part of the discussion.

GREENE: But after the health care bill from Senate Republicans went down in the Senate with not enough votes, do you worry that you're contributing to a party that looks like it's in sort of an embarrassing level of deadlock right now?

DAVIDSON: You know, I was a manufacturing guy before I got into Congress. And I kind of look at it as we're in the business of launching products. We want to launch really successful products.

We want to be like Apple with respect to phones. We don't want to be like BlackBerry. We want a product people like. I love Blackberry but kind of a niche product right now. We've got to get the product right.

And we've got to get a much better, more rapid product development process. And right now, we're struggling with that.

We got it done in the House. It wasn't elegant. And I think we have an opportunity to get together and take the lessons learned and do an after-action review and really improve the product development process here.

GREENE: All right. Speaking to Ohio Republican Congressman Warren Davidson on the line this morning.

Congressman, thanks for your time. We appreciate it.

DAVIDSON: Thank you.