A brief chat with Rep. Jim Jordan

July 22, 2011

Any good wrestler will tell you that the key to success is knowing a limited number of moves very well — not trying to mastery every counter or attack in the book. Rep. Jim Jordan, chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee, was a champion college grappler who’s brought that focused approach to the House. I talked with him briefly this afternoon about some of the compromise deals floating around Capitol Hill. For instance, Nancy Pelosi said she’s open to this deal (via Talking Points Memo):

“We’re willing to bite the bullet and make serious cuts in discretionary spending,” Pelosi told a small group of reporters and bloggers. “That could go to a trillion dollars or more. And the interest saved on that can take us to like a trillion and a half dollars saved. .. We could go even further with non-health mandatories, could take us almost to two trillion. We could use the offshore — the Overseas Contingency [the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan] — could take us to two-and-a-half trillion dollars. Which is the dollar-for-dollar for the lifting the debt ceiling. I don’t think we have to have dollar-for-dollar, but for those who think they do, there’s a path to get there.”

Jordan said that sounds to him like more “gimmicks and games” and would be a poor substitute for the GOP’s Cut, Cap and Balance plan. And how about a temporary debt hike to buy time to work out some grand bargain? He was again quite clear: “No, no, no.” To him, these deals are business as usual to avoid fundamental reform. Forget them. Jordan’s focus is on CCB. “And the time is now.”

The beauty part of CCB is that it cuts spending right away, by $111 billion in 2012.  Any cuts beyond that are promises, he says, and promises from Congress are not like “promises from your wife or a trusted friend.” And while Jordan is in favor of tax reform — lower rates, fewer tax breaks — that should be done separately and not distract from the important business of cutting spending.

I also asked him about the possibility of a U.S. credit rating downgrade. He took it quite seriously but also made the point that if Washington doesn’t get its fiscal house in order, a downgrade is coming anyway — and probably a lot worse.

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