Van Hollen Discusses Boston, Sequester, and Budget Conference on CNN
House Democrats Have Offered Plan to Replace Full FY13 Sequester 4 Times This Year and Haven’t Even Been Allowed a Vote
Today Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen was interviewed on CNN’s Starting Point about the ongoing investigation about the attacks in Boston, the sequester and the need to go to conference to move the budget process forward. Video and a transcript of the interview are below:
JOHN BERMAN, CNN: So we want to bring in Congressman Chris Van Hollen to talk to him about these latest developments. He’s a Democrat from the state of Maryland. He is also the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee. Congressman Van Hollen, thank you so much for joining us this morning.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Good to be with you, John.
BERMAN: I want to play you some sound from Senator Lindsey Graham, Congressman, because yesterday to CNN Lindsey Graham was suggesting that there is some blame here to go around about the miscommunication, and really the problems with identifying these suspects as far back as 2011. He said that some of these gaps in intelligence with the FBI, ultimately the blame lays with the administration. Let’s hear what he says.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: I have no idea who bears the blame. I just know the system is broken. The ultimate blame, I think, is with the administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Does the administration bear some responsibility here for these apparent gaps in intelligence dating back to 2011?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, John, this is an obvious example of where we need to collect the facts, do a thorough investigation, and figure out if there were gaps in the system. I think it’s way too early to draw any conclusions.
As I listen carefully to Lindsey Graham, he started out by saying he doesn’t know where to lay blame, and then he ends up laying blame on the administration. Let’s get the facts. And obviously we need to learn from any gaps that may have been there so that we close them in the future.
I mean, the whole idea after 9/11 was to create a better system of information sharing. We have seen dramatic improvement. If there are still gaps, we need to close them, but let’s get the facts. I think people are interested in getting the facts and solving the problems, rather than laying blame here.
BERMAN: So even if you put the issue of blame aside for the time being, some of Senator Graham’s allies, John McCain and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, are calling for hearings into what happened over the last two years dealing with this, to figure out if there were the gaps. Would you at least support the idea of hearings to figure out what intelligence communications may or may not have worked over the past couple of years?
VAN HOLLEN: Sure absolutely. Look, I think we need to have hearings. We need to gather information. These should be done in a professional way rather than people, on very little evidence, beginning to draw conclusions.
Let’s get the evidence, let’s figure out what went right, if anything, in terms of collecting systems. What went wrong because it does appear there may have been gaps. We don’t know exactly until all the evidence is in.
But by all means, yes, we should have hearings. The more information we collect, the more prepared we are for the next -- to try and prevent this from happening in the future.
BERMAN: As we mentioned before, you are the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. And there have been budget issues now for longer than most of us can remember, Congressman.
Let me start with last night. Last night, the Senate passed a bill that would give the FAA some assistance in their budgeting to keep these air traffic controllers from being furloughed. Do you expect that the House will pass a similar measure today?
VAN HOLLEN: I do expect the House will pass that kind of measure, but I think it’s important to point out that this is just a band-aid, John. I mean, this is just responding to the most recent example, and a very visible example of the disruptive effects of the sequester.
What we really need to be doing is replacing the sequester so we achieve the same amount of deficit reduction over a longer period of time, but in a smarter way. And I and my colleagues in the House have put forward a plan on four occasions to do exactly that.
Unfortunately, the Speaker of the House hasn’t even allowed us the benefit of a vote on that, but the real solution is to replace the sequester. Otherwise, we’re just attacking the symptoms as they pop up.
By the way, you know, we’re addressing these most visible examples. Members of Congress are flying around the country, so they’re feeling that. But there are seniors who get help through meals on wheels. There are kids in Head Start programs. There are people who don’t have as strong a political voice who are already hurting right now.
So let’s address the entire sequester which also, by the way, is having a very disruptive impact on job growth.
BERMAN: Congressman, you’re looking to have a conference committee between the House and the Senate budget plans right now. You don’t actually think we’re anywhere near doing something like that or close to a resolution, do you?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, the first step, John, is, of course, to have these talks. You know, the Senate has now passed a budget. The House has passed a budget. We don’t yet have a common budget for this coming year, for the government, which is why we’ve been calling for what is the next step in the budget process, which is to go to conference to try and iron out these differences.
And again, we’re very disappointed right now that the Speaker of the House has refused to allow that budget process to move forward. They were understandably critical that the Senate had not passed a budget. We remember that criticism.
Well, now the Senate has passed a budget, and the Speaker of the House refuses to have that next conversation in the budget process. In fact, we are now past the congressionally mandated deadline of April 15th for getting a conference committee report.
Well you can’t get a conference committee report if you refuse to go to conference. So I hope people will, you know, call upon the Speaker to get this process moving. We shouldn’t be waiting when we’ve got all these disruptions to the sequester and other problems in the economy.
BERMAN: All right, Representative Van Hollen, thank you so much for joining us this morning. Really appreciate it.
VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.