Four new Republicans on the House Budget Committee are enthusiastic they can find the key to enacting more fiscal restraint on Washington.
As the White House and congressional Republicans bicker over whether and how to replace $85 billion in spending cuts looming on March 1, the four new members of Rep. Paul Ryan’s committee argue their lack of cynicism will help them make progress in the budget fights.
Ryan tapped freshmen Reps. Luke Messer (Ind.), Jackie Walorksi (Ind.), Roger Williams (Texas) and Tom Rice (S.C.) to join his committee.
In interviews with the Hill, the four said they are eager to get to work.
The House Budget Committee will hold its first hearing of the new Congress on Wednesday when Congressional Budget Office director Doug Elmendorf testifies on the current debt path. Ryan is aiming to mark up a budget in mid-March in order to pass it on the House floor before the April 1 legal deadline.
Here’s a look at the four newest players in the budget fight.
Rep. Luke Messer
Messer says his experiences working in the Indiana House of Representatives with Gov. Mitch Daniels gives him a roadmap to success at the federal level.
Daniels made difficult choices in balancing the Indiana budget, including closed a motor vehicles bureau in Messer’s district.
Messer said there were “pitchforks and torches” out at the time, but Daniels ended up with a 65 percent approval rating.
“Back in my district the number one concern that is raised when I talk to people is that they believe the government has got to stop spending money that it doesn’t have,” he said.
Messer comes to Congress as the former executive director of Hoosiers for Economic Growth (HEG), a privately funded not-for-profit advocacy group. He previously served as the executive director of the Indiana Republican Party and is close to Daniels.
He doesn’t think Ryan’s budget from last year, which cut $5 trillion in spending and partially privatized Medicare, was bold enough.
“I often said as ballyhooed as the Ryan budget was, and it deserved accolades, it was not been anywhere near as aggressive as I think is necessary,” Messer said. “I hoped we would drive for something that balance in ten years.”
Rep. Jackie Walorski
Greg Nash | The Hill
Walorksi also cites Daniels as a model and also comes from the Indiana House. She was more circumspect than Messer on whether she supports the details of the last Ryan budget.
Democrats have criticized Ryan’s proposals on Medicare, arguing offering support for seniors to buy private insurance would saddle them with costly premiums.
“I am anxious to sit down and start looking at the numbers,” said Walorski, who added a key will be getting Senate Democrats to come to the table and hash out a compromise.
Walorski is a co-sponsor of a House bill to reverse a 0.5 percent pay hike for federal employees, and was a strong supporter of the No Budget, No Pay bill that will force senators to go without pay if they fail to produce a budget by April 15.
Walorski has worked as a television reporter said that the fact the Senate has agreed to do a budget is the first step toward enacting much-needed spending cuts.
“I’m hopeful that we can have a budget debate this year. This is going to be the first year in a long time where you finally have transparency,” she said.
Rep. Tom Rice
Tom Rice | Facebook
Rice said his background as an accountant and tax lawyer leads him to believe entitlements have to be put on the table in an aggressive way.
“Everybody recognizes we are going to have to get entitlement spending under control,” he said.
Rice said Ryan’s Medicare plan is a “starting point” for reform, and says his proposal should also include reforms to Social Security.
“I don’t think any of this is going to be necessarily easy. It is going to be a tough pill to swallow,” he said.
Prior to his election, Rice was a lawyer at Rice, MacDonald, & Hicks where he was a specialist in tax law, and he served as the Chairman of the Horry County Council.
He argues Democratic lawmakers will come to accept painful decisions, such as raising the eligibility age for Social Security or Medicare, if the U.S. credit rating is at risk.
“Perhaps being a freshmen I’m naïve, but I am very optimistic,” he said. “A downgrade from AAA would be a real game changer.”
Rep. Roger Williams
Greg Nash | The Hill
Williams, who owns an automobile dealership and previously served as the secretary of state of Texas under Gov. Rick Perry, said he is keen to get the government out of the healthcare business.
He supports partially privatizing Medicare, and argues that most recipients would opt out of the traditional system if they are given a choice.
“For 41 years I have been giving a budget to my banker,” he said. “We need more business people with real world experience in Congress.”
Like Messer, Williams is pleased that Ryan has agreed to write a more conservative budget that will balance in a decade.
“The quicker we can balance it without burdening the tax payers, the better,” he said. “I would much rather 10 years than 25 years.”
Williams said that if the GOP can better explain the need to reform entitlements, their budget ideas can be enacted even with divided government.
“I wouldn’t be involved if I didn’t think we could we could move the ball down the field,” he said.