Interview with RSC Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH)
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) is the Chair of the Republican Study Committee (RSC). Otherwise known as the reason the Speaker Boehner is having a tough time corralling his Members on tough spending votes (nearly three-quarters of the House Republican Conference is in the RSC), the RSC has been a force in moving the Republican Party to the right in the last several years. And while the party itself may not be far enough to the right for some of us, it is the RSC that has led fights against major spending bills such as TARP and the stimulus, and in this Congress proposed a five-year balanced budget plan and hundreds of billions in annual budget cuts.
Rep. Jordan was kind enough to sit down with me this morning and chat for a short time over the phone about political events of the day, including the coming debates on taxes, his views on defense spending and a contempt of Congress hearing today against Attorney General Holder by the House Oversight Committee.
Dustin Siggins: In your Heritage Foundation Bloggers Briefing comments yesterday, you talked about tax reform and throwing out the current code. In a sentence, what would be your ideal tax code and at what rates? Related, since Congress is split between parties at the moment and you are unlikely to get an ideal code, what specific loopholes would you like to eliminate in order to either lower rates or put the extra tax revenue to deficit reduction?
Rep. Jim Jordan: In a general sense, lower rates, broader base. As I said yesterday, when almost 50% of people don’t participate in the main tax, and our corporate rate is too high, it’s a broken system. A flat tax would be the best system. When they have the certainty of a low, single rate tax code, I think it’s more conducive to economic growth. That would be ideal for me.
What we may end up with is flatter but still multi-rate system. That’s what the RSC’s Jobs Through Growth Act does, it’s what the Paul Ryan plan does. A two-rate system is much better than what we have, and it moves us toward a more flat, more fair tax system.
DS: On June 06 White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the President would not yield on raising taxes on upper earners. What will the RSC do to press the President to change his position, and does the opposition of seven Senate Democrats (noted in yesterday’s The Hill)to raising taxes on upper income earners without a so-called “grand bargain” help your position in this debate?
Rep. Jordan: Oh, it sure does. The President may change his position in November, as he may not be President. We’ve seen where this President wants to go — more spending, more deficits, and higher taxes. It’s going to be hard to reach an agreement with them; they don’t share a vision with us. We’re going to need an election. That’s what elections are for, when there are two competing visions. I think the voters will say it’s time for a new President and a new direction.
DS: This year’s RSC budget proposal balanced the budget in five years. Notably, it did not cut defense spending. Are you personally opposed to cutting defense spending period, or would you be willing to look at specific cuts as long as entitlement and other spending reforms were on the table?
JB: I don’t think that’s how you should look at it, in that sense. First, it’s [defense] the one area where you’re supposed to look at using tax dollars. I would say the government’s first responsibility is to protect the American people. I am open to savings, I am open to making things more efficient. I am not opposed to looking at savings; not naÃ¯ve to think there are not savings in a department that spends hundreds of billions of dollars every year.
The thing I won’t do is look at defense like liberals do. Liberals look at defense first for savings, instead of reforming and saving Medicare, reforming Medicaid, etc. From a constitutional perspective, those are not priorities. The Constitution provides authority for the Department of Defense, and not for these other programs.
DS: Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) RAISE Act voted on in Senate yesterday, and introduced by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) in the House. Thoughts on the RAISE Act?
Rep. Jordan: What’s that one?
DS: It’s a bill that was introduced in the Senate by Senator Rubio and in the House by Rep. Rokita that would allow union employers to pay individual employees more if they so chose.
Rep. Jordan: Oh, yeah, employers can give employees pay based upon what they do on the job. I support it. I didn’t know it by that name [RAISE Act]. I would like to see that pass. America’s built on the concept that if you work hard and do well your pay should be based upon your work ethic, etc. That’s a good bill.
DS: Yesterday, an amendment by Senator Rand Paul (R-OK) failed, 15-84, to end farm subsidies for millionaires. According to Senator Paul, 9% of farm subsidies go to 33% biggest farmers, and according to the Environmental Working Group 10% of Ohio farms collected 66% of farm subsidies from 1995 through 2010. Can I get your thoughts not on farm subsidies themselves but on subsidies for millionaires/upper-income earners?
Rep. Jordan: I would have supported Senator Paul’s amendment. I voted against the last farm bill whenever it was, five years ago, even though I got criticized for it by the Ohio Farm Bureau. We have to move to a market-oriented system. I’m as pro-farm as anyone, but we need to have market-oriented solutions. [DS: According to Jordan staffer Meghan Snyder, Rep. Jordan opposed the last farm bill twice because “it contained too much spending and not enough reform.” The Congressman voted twice against the bill.]
DS: Final question: the Oversight Committee is having a last-minute hearing this morning. I understand it may be about Attorney General Holder and his meeting yesterday with Chairman Issa (R-CA). Can you provide some insights into what the hearing is going to consist of?
Rep. Jordan: The hearing is at 10, and things are still on track to hold the Attorney General in contempt of Congress given his lack of transparency and the like. So that’s still on tap for 10:00 this morning.
[Originally posted in the Hot Air Green Room.]