Monitor Breakfast with Congressman Jim Nussle (R-Iowa)

Excerpts from a Monitor Breakfast with the Iowa congressman about the need to balance the federal budget.

Rep. Jim Nussle was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1990. He represents eastern Iowa's first district. Nussle is a member of the Ways and Means Committee and its trade subcommittee. Prior to being elected to Congress, Rep. Nussle was Delaware County Attorney.

On why a balanced budget is needed:

"I want to show my colleagues a path to balance. Not only for balance's sake, but for two reasons. Economists tell us the growth package is only effective if we control spending. That the drag on the economy from spending can overcome the tax relief. And number two, we have huge out-year obligations in Medicare, in Social Security, and other entitlements that will swamp the budget - not the budget, it will swamp America because America is the budget. We don't just print this money out of thin air, it comes out of people's pockets. [Unless we make] systematic changes - they can be small adjustments now, very small, on the margins - but they can pay huge dividends if we act smart and act now."

On his commitment to a plan that produces balance over time:

"I am going to put a plan on the table that does it ... I am dead serious about it. This is what we need to do to manage the government. I am not going to support a budget that doesn't balance."

On President Bush's leadership in the budget debate:

"I don't believe the president adequately started that discussion [on the need for sacrifices to trim the budget]. I believe his job, and it is the most important job right now, is protecting America. That is his job. His job is to figure out how to get the economy growing again. Our job, because we are Article One [of the Constitution] and in charge of the purse strings, is in charge of making sure we have a tax code that works and making sure we have a spending plan that is fiscally responsible. That is our part of the bargain and I believe we can accomplish that in this budget."

On holding spending increases to 4.5 percent, which the administration says would produce budget balance in the future:

"I have zero hope. [Much of the budget] is growing at an enormous rate."

On paying for war and rebuilding iraq:

"I am not willing to accept that the United States is the only one that is going to pay for this stability in the region beyond a conflict. And I would challenge the administration as happened in the first Persian Gulf War to go out and pass the hat. We understand that there are costs to the United States and that we intend to bear them when it comes to war and stability. But the rest of the world should share in this cost."

On Pentagon spending:

"They should not go without scrutiny. Half of the discretionary budget is currently without audit. That is a problem in my estimation.

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