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House Freshmen Offer Competing Views On Budget Talks


From time to time, we've checked in with two freshmen members of the House of Representatives - Republican Congresswoman Mimi Walters of California and Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona. And as they face this full dress budget battle, we called them up this morning before today's House votes to check in once again.

Welcome back to both of you.



SIEGEL: First, Representative Walters, the Republican leadership in Congress seems to want two things - to defund Planned Parenthood and to keep the government open. Are those two objectives possible, and if not, which one's more urgent?

WALTERS: I believe the Republicans do want to defund Planned Parenthood, but I do not believe at the expense of shutting down the government, and I don't believe we will go down that path.

SIEGEL: Ruben Gallego, should President Obama veto any spending bill that defunds Planned Parenthood and risk taking the government to the brink of shutdown?

GALLEGO: Oh, absolutely. Look, this is a manufactured crisis. The tapes were heavily edited. There was nothing illegally done. No one's been prosecuted. The president should not deal with these kinds of tactics, and I think the American public will not stand for it.

SIEGEL: You're talking about the videos that have been distributed of people from Planned Parenthood and what purport to be conversations about what they do with the parts of aborted fetuses.

GALLEGO: Correct.

SIEGEL: Has the president, by the way, manufactured another crisis over carried interest tax breaks, the low tax rates that hedge fund managers pay? Is it grandstanding to say that should come out or not wait for a larger tax reform bill?

GALLEGO: Well, I believe that we need to start really chipping away at some of these special tax breaks, and also it's just an issue of tax fairness. People that actually are working with their hands and - or our school teachers or your firefighters, are paying a lower tax rate.

SIEGEL: You mean that people who are doing those jobs are paying a higher tax rate.

GALLEGO: Yes, higher tax rate.

SIEGEL: Representative Walters, would you accept that reasoning, that the carried interest tax breaks should be extracted from the tax code?

WALTERS: Well, first of all, we do need tax reform, but under this president, I don't believe we will get any sort of tax fairness. One way in order for us to create more jobs is corporate tax reform. I mean, right now we have many corporations who are moving out of our country because they just can't compete. And so if you want to look at people having fairness, we need to have a system where we incentivize people to have a job and be able to keep more of their money.

SIEGEL: Since we heard from the two of you, Congress took up the Iran nuclear deal and didn't so much approve of it as failed to disapprove of it.

Congressman Gallego, you supported the Iran deal, which, according to the polls, the public opposes. Have you heard from constituents who disagreed with that vote?

GALLEGO: I've heard from constituents that disagree and agree with that vote. And, look, it was a very difficult decision for me. You know, I heard from people that told me that if I voted for this that I was going to cause another war and kill more American soldiers. Very few actually have ever seen combat.

SIEGEL: You are combat veteran.

GALLEGO: I am, and I saw way too much combat, and the consequences of war were thrown around such a flippant manner, it really was deeply disturbing to me.

SIEGEL: Toughest decision you've made so far, would you say, as a Congressman?

GALLEGO: I'd say that, as a Congressman, the toughest decision I've made so far.

SIEGEL: Mimi Walters, for you?

WALTERS: Well, I was completely against the deal. And overwhelmingly in my district, people did not support the agreement with Iran. We are now going to be moving down a path where Iran is going to be able to have self-inspections and we're going to be, you know, potentially lifting sanctions of $100 billion to $150 billion right off the bat, and we already know that the Iranian regime finances terrorists. I don't know in good conscience how anybody could have supported this deal, and at the end of this deal in 15 years, Iran will have the capability to have created ballistic missiles which will reach America. Government's number one job is to protect American citizens.

SIEGEL: Well, we've found, obviously, an issue that's one of deep disagreement. I'm just curious - I've asked you about all these headline controversial issues. Are there things you've accomplished since we spoke last, as members of Congress, that fly beneath the radar but make you feel like you've achieved something?

Mimi Walters of California?

WALTERS: Well, I've been working very hard in terms of trying to figure out a way that we're going to fund the Highway Trust Fund on a long-term basis, and a piece of legislation that will be introduced shortly will create visa reform so that some of these high-skilled workers can stay in our country. And the revenue that will be created from it, we're looking at $110 billion for the first 10 years and then an additional $400 billion for the remaining 10 years, in order to make sure we can have a long-term fixed Highway Trust Fund.

SIEGEL: And Ruben Gallego, something a little less front-page worthy but successful that you've been engaged in?

GALLEGO: We've been very fortunate to have some great staff that have been working around the clock to get some of our constituents the veterans services they need. And then lastly, kind of a local neighborhood issue, you know, the FAA changed the flight patterns over my area, and I've been able to work together with Democrats and Republicans to basically start putting pressure on the FAA for them to actually come back to the table and talk to us and actually recognize that they made a mistake by changing the flight patterns.

SIEGEL: That's Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona and Republican freshman Congresswoman Mimi Walters of California.

Thanks to both of you for talking with us once again.

WALTERS: Thanks for having us.

GALLEGO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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