Transcript: 10 Freshmen Lawmakers Talk With Diane Sawyer

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DIANE SAWYER: In connection--

TIPTON: --make sure it fits our-- it has to fit those principles that we'd originally talked about. We have to be able to see qualified cuts. We want to make sure that there are caps and then-- we'll look at the balanced budget component as well.

DIANE SAWYER: Congressman Gosar?

PAUL GOSAR: Well I like-- Senator Mike's idea. You know, there's optimism here. And you have to realize that-- we weren't part of this problem. We were here-- sent here to correct it. Winds of change are blowing through. We've got to take this big ship and turn it around. And when you turn a ship around you have to start eight miles back. It doesn't turn that quickly. And what we have is-- have to look at this. I voted for the Boehner plan the first time. I have an inclination I'm probably going to vote for this one on this aspect. It's not what I wanted. It's not anything that-- pretty much I wanted except one caveat and that is giving back to main street America with a balanced budget amendment which every person in main street can understand.

DIANE SAWYER: But are you all surprised that you're disagreeing? Because several months ago you came in with a kind of consolidated approach.

GRIMM: I'm not surprised.

DIANE SAWYER: You're not surprised?

GRIMM: No. Because I think this-- this conference and-- this entire congress-- is reflective of the United States of America. We are-- we are-- a melting pot. We have all different types from all over the world--

DIANE SAWYER: But is there anger even among you? Is there-- does it--

MALE SPEAKER: Oh I don't think--(OVERTALK)

GUINTA: No. And I think-- actually, we're-- we're all roughly on the same-- we're in the same book, we're in the same chapter. We just may be on a-- you know-- some might be a little bit farther ahead than others. But we're all going down the road of fiscal discipline and fiscal responsibility.

MO BROOKS: Right. If-- if you put this group together in a room, we could reach a decision.

MALE SPEAKER: Absolutely.

MALE SPEAKER: And solve the problem.

MALE SPEAKER: There's no question.

MO BROOKS: The challenge is getting all this past people who have a diametrically opposite view, who enjoy these spending binges and don't worry about who has to pay for it.

DIANE SAWYER: So-- Congressman, is Speaker Boehner the person to carry the banner for you still?

HUELSKAMP: Yes. He's still the speaker and-- it's a difficult job. It's a job I wouldn't want.

DIANE SAWYER: You've been meeting, he's been coming up with this compromise.

HUELSKAMP: Yes. That's what-- frustrates me the most. That you have an entire Senate in general-- with exceptions, they won't even allow a debate. I thought the Senate was the greatest deliberative body in the world and we're doing everything in the House. And-- and so it's difficult to--

DIANE SAWYER: But-- were you when the Speaker was going up and meeting with the President?

HUELSKAMP: No, that-- that's part of trying to work that out. But-- the typical process we all studied in school it's broke here when you don't have a Senate that even comes-- brings a budget out for a broke. And I-- like I said that's what my constituents talk about.

DIANE SAWYER: Well, you know, I've been looking through the bill. Seventy-four pages we have here. And-- now I see a-- a lot of numbers. But-- for the American people looking at this bill, how do we know what's going to be cut. How does--

MO BROOKS: That's why we need more time. To do this on a 24-hour timetable is inappropriate and it's unfair to the American people.

DIANE SAWYER: But what do we say to people who say is it gonna cut the ability of kids to get a loan in order to go to graduate school?

MALE SPEAKER: But that's--

DIANE SAWYER: Is it going to cut home care as--

GRIMM: That's part of the design of our government though. In-- the government was designed that a template would come out and then the committees would get together. The committees of specific jurisdiction and make those specific cuts. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. As far as time to read the bill, this is very, very similar to the Boehner plan that we already voted on and have looked at for more than 24 hours. I read it. I've seen the differences. The subtle differences between this legislation and the Boehner plan and that's why I feel pretty comfortable with my vote.

DIANE SAWYER: Congressional budget office came out today and said basically it's barely $741 billion in cuts. And there's-- what, it's about $156 billion in interest. So the actual cuts are $741 billion. Should that begin to make a debt? Is that enough of a dent?

GOSAR: It's a plan-- it's a part of a process about a plan. You know, we've gone over 820-some days in the Senate without a plan. People in main street America have to acknowledge we have a problem. And 50 percent of this population across this country doesn't realize what kind of problem we're in. And so the first thing you do is acknowledge that you have a problem, build a plan. That's called a budget. And that's what it's going to force us to do, is have that discussion with the American people on a constitutional amendment of balancing the budget.

TIPTON: And I-- I think we're looking at it too from the standpoint that many of us-- perhaps-- some of my fellow members, you know, we ran for office because we've often heard that story from Washington send us the money and then we'll fix it. And so while we're examining this piece of legislation we say that's not acceptable anymore. We have to be in process of fixing now.

DIANE SAWYER: But then help me understand the difference-- Congressman, between you and the two on your right. How-- what's the essential difference that you think that this is the moment to go ahead and do this, begin something? Begin the process and you do not?

GRIMM: Well-- my question is what would be the alternative. If we really analyze the politics of it, if we hold firm-- at some point the markets will start to crash. And I believe part of our conference will weak and they'll vote for something less than this. And then what we did was make a point we didn't make any progress.

DIANE SAWYER: Well what about that Congressman (UNINTEL)? What about that?

MO BROOKS: I can't control what other people do or say. I can only control the one vote I've been bestowed upon by the people in the Tennessee Valley. And the sole issue to me is are we fixing the problem. It's quite clear to me that we're not.

DIANE SAWYER: Prospect of markets crashing.

MALE SPEAKER: They're gonna crash worse if we have a federal government insolvency in bankruptcy.

GUINTA: Yeah, I got to say I don't think the debt ceiling issue is going to make the markets crash. What's really going to make the markets crash which is what happened earlier-- reported earlier in the week which was our GDP numbers, our continued unemployment numbers. Those things are going to have a far more devastating effect.

And relative to this whole discussion, it is clear to me that 2012 is the second half of the 2010 puzzle. We have moved the ball forward significantly, we've changed the debate. But we need a Senate and a President who will join with us. And we don't have that right now.

GOSAR: And it-- it's not one event. It's a series of events and a timeline that you're getting something each step of the way. Retooling, reteaching people how you can get a budget.

DIANE SAWYER: Are you going to be anxious tomorrow night at midnight if this doesn't pass?

MALE SPEAKER: I will--

MIKE LEE: Of course we will. Of-- of course we will. We're anxious-- as we approach that deadline, just as we're also anxious over the thought of raising the debt limit without putting adequate structural spending reforms in place. I-- I feel so strongly about this. I-- I wrote a book that was-- published just a couple weeks ago. It's called The Freedom Agenda. And in that I explained-- there's a new-- a new movement in America.

We will see an-- an emerging group of people that is neither conservative nor liberal. In some instances there were will be liberal, in some instances conservative. But Americans are understanding from all political backgrounds that whether you're a conservative and you're most concerned perhaps about protecting national defense or you're a liberal, most concerned about protecting perhaps entitlements you should want a balanced budget amendment. Because if we don't get this process under control from--

DIANE SAWYER: So if it's not possible in this moment right now, you got a whole year ahead with the campaign ahead to convince people to do it anyway. If it's not possible in this moment right now?

MIKE LEE: If it's not possible at this moment right now, we don't know that to be true yet. Look, we pass something out of the House that--

GRIMM: And-- and that's where I disagree with this President and-- this Democrat controlled Senate. I think-- we have to accept that fact that imposing our will on this President is not an option. He's-- he's obstinate and he's going to hold true to his-- his addiction. This President's addicted to spending and limiting him. Trying to control that spending as best we can I think is the best fight we can have until 2012.

MO BROOKS: May I explain why I'm not anxious about-- August the 2nd. I'm not anxious about August the 2nd because it's an artificial date. We know that every creditor and every obligation of the United States is going to be paid. It might be a little bit slower, yes. We are going to raise the debt ceiling. The issue is not whether we're going to raise it. The issue is when and how. And it's much more important to get this right than to get it wrong in haste.

DIANE SAWYER: Let me ask a question for you 'cause you know people will start asking when the cuts begin to come in their neighborhood. Any of you willing to cut congressional salaries?

GUINTA: We've already cut our budgets not once but twice. We have tried-- and we did this-- in the first two weeks we were here. We're-- our-- our--

DIANE SAWYER: Congressional salaries?

GUINTA: --our-- our salaries are frozen and-- many of us have already offered up our salaries-- through legislative initiatives if we don't pay our veterans. So we-- we've put ourselves on the table. This is about putting the country first.

DIANE SAWYER: Some of you were willing to-- I'm not sure Congressman, it may have been you-- to-- to renounced the government subsidized, taxpayer subsidized insurance.

MALE SPEAKER: Didn't take it.

DIANE SAWYER: Didn't take it? Didn't take it. What about the rest of you? If everybody's cutting--

MALE SPEAKER: I didn't take it--

DIANE SAWYER: --hard-- you didn't take it.

TIPTON: My primary insurance is still through my business. So.

MALE SPEAKER: But this is-- the larger issue here is the $3.7 trillion in spending and the $2.2 trillion in revenue. I mean, we're all happy to-- to-- to make our fair share.

DIANE SAWYER: Everybody-- everybody's prepared to cut your salaries?

MALE SPEAKER: Absolutely.

MALE SPEAKER: That's what--

HUELSKAMP: But one thing I think is getting lost on the American people is somehow this is a-- real cut. They're still going to grow the government at $10 trillion of new debt. We're just reducing the $10 trillion to $9 trillion or nine to eight. We're still going to add onto that debt and we're still going to make it very difficult for our children to pursue the American dream.

I mean, so, there are a lot of folks out there think we're reducing the spending. Spending next year will be bigger than it is-- next-- and every year for the next decade. It's still going to be going up. We're not cutting that. We're simply cutting the growth in certain areas. That's why it's so miniscule in my book. 14:06:17:00 (OFF-MIC CONVERSATION)

DIANE SAWYER: Okay. So just so that we-- so that I have it clear, how many of you are voting yes on the compromise? Can I see a hand? Two. How many are voting no? Undecided?

MALE SPEAKER: Undecided.

DIANE SAWYER: The question I asked you last time. How many of you know you want to be here two years from now? That you want to come back?

MALE SPEAKER: Too much work still to be done.

MALE SPEAKER: Yeah.

DIANE SAWYER: And ten years from now?

MO BROOKS: Please just let us get through this year.

DIANE SAWYER: (LAUGHTER) So, just again, in human terms, the biggest surprise-- the biggest lesson. You said dysfunctionality (SIC). The broken system. Is that really it for everybody? Coming here new?

GUINTA: Well there's partisanship and gamesmanship that the country sees. And that frustrates the country. It's not as bad as it appears. But the obstacle it presents is trying to find that common ground on forging good effective legislation. And that's--

DIANE SAWYER: Any-- excuse me. Were there any other big surprises? Any other human surprises? If we all came here-- brand new?

MO BROOKS: The big-- the big surprise to me is that the gulf between these two belief systems of the parties is bigger than I ever anticipated. I never would've thought in Homeland Security that you would see someone saying that we needed to have hearings on radicalization of Christianity because it's a purported threat to America as much as radicalization of Islam. Or that someone would get on the House floor and state that the fifth and 14th amendments of the United States Constitution guarantee everybody free health care. Yet that's what I've heard from some of the folks across the aisle. And that-- I don't know what constitution they're referring to 'cause it's not in ours. And I don't know why Christianity as a religion they're referring it to but that's not what I understand it to be.

DIANE SAWYER: I just got back from-- I just got back from Indiana. And I was talking to a group of people at the ballpark, and I was talking to people in the diner. And-- and several of 'em said they think the damage has already been done. That the wrangling alone up here has already sent the message to the world that we're simply not a-- functioning government. That this is not a-- functioning system of government. And that they are mortified. When other governments of the world say what is going on.

MIKE LEE: Well-- I think what ought to be more concerning to people would be if there were not disagreement. The fact that there is disagreement, the fact that voters speak, that elections have consequences, that ought to be comforting to people because that means the people are still in control of their government.

GOSAR: But you know, it's-- it's-- I'm not so much worried about the rest of the world. I'm-- I'm worried about what we do in this country. About we-- how we fix our problem. It-- it has ramifications but it's about home.

DIANE SAWYER: But 77-- percent of the poll says that the Republicans are the problem. It's Republican refusal to compromise--

MALE SPEAKER: But that would make sense--

DIANE SAWYER: --more.

GRIMM: --that would make sense because change is never easy. Whenever you come into-- with different ideas, new ideas, it's-- automatically rejected at first 'cause that's human nature. Human nature is to shy away from what you don't know. You-- what we're doing here is historic. The idea of reigning in government spending is-- is--

DIANE SAWYER: So do the people who--

MALE SPEAKER: --novel.

DIANE SAWYER: --say enough is enough, we're fed up. We're fed up. And that person, you say--

MO BROOKS: May I address that 70 percent figure. The Republicans I know or the conservatives I know, they disagree with what the Republicans are doing in Washington because we are compromising too much. We should've had-- as our first priority doing what is necessary to right this financial ship of the United States of America. And we're not doing it with this compromise.

DIANE SAWYER: One woman said-- and my last question. She said, "You know, there was a time when we had a dinner table in America. And that we showed families and children in Congress. We showed everybody how you come together around a table and you get things done for the family. We the people."

GRIMM: But that involves leadership and that starts at the top. And if you asked me what my biggest disappointment has been since I've been here is that the President of the United States has been the one dividing our country. And the amount of-- of-- of rhetoric coming from the very top. It's-- it's class warfare. And that's the type of thing that will continue to divide us. And we need to overcome that. We need to get past that. And that's why I think 2012 is-- is really the key to-- to bringing this country together.

GUINTA: You know, there's another poll that says 70 percent of the country also supports-- the cut, cap and balance. So they may not like the argument but they also do like some of the legislative initiatives. But we all have a responsibility to reduce the rhetoric and focus on solutions and make America first. And we all have that responsibility. I try to bring it. All of my colleagues try to bring it. It doesn't-- it's not always what you see on TV. But we recognize that the country is frustrated and we're trying to make some improvements.

GOSAR: You know, I'm from a family of-- ten. And there are five Democrats there are four Republicans who went independent. I know what bipartisanship is and it's not what I saw here.

DIANE SAWYER: Because?

GOSAR: There-- we-- we demagogued everybody. We put vile aspects to pictures of-- of legislation. And that's not how you do it. I was raised with politics over-- over a cup of coffee sitting at the dinner table, and I saw a governor or I saw a U.S. Senator come and talk to my dad. That's the kind of-- the-- the aura that I think we need to get back to. It starts with the family. It starts with the community that comes from this country.

TIPTON: I mean, the bottom line is if-- if you had a group of Republicans and Democrats and you were to pose the question do you not want to pay-- our men and women in the military-- not one person would say do not pay the military. Does anyone want to take away Medicare from our senior citizens right now. Not one person would raise their hand.

And so a lot of the discussion that's going on I think just in the major core debate-- it brings out a lot of posturing, and-- maybe we can all do a little bit better job of lowering our temperature to be able to create some of the dialogue. But going to back-- to-- original point of view, when we looked back to cut, cap, and balance-- I think it was 66 percent of the people said that they liked that idea.

So we do have common ground-- with the President, with the Senate, with our Democrat colleagues. We've got to be able to reduce spending. Everybody understands that. We've got to be able to restrain that spending. And I think you see unanimity of opinion at least-- with this group of people right now. The best way to be able to do that is to bring responsibility, do what our states do, do what our families do, and pass a balanced budget.

DIANE SAWYER: We thank you all. I know you have to go. Thank you. Thank you so much.

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