Republican Congressman Michael Lawler Fends off CNN Bulldozing

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CNN This Morning’s anchor Poppy Harlow pressed New York Republican Congressman Michael Lawler on Wednesday for saying that the proposed budget would reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the 2023-2033 period. Harlow hyper focused on one specific aspect of the bill which would supposedly cost $2.1 billion more over the next ten years and repeatedly chided Lawler for not mentioning this component every time he cited the bill’s net savings.

Harlow bluntly asked Lawler why he planned on voting for the bill. “I had three parameters throughout this; that the President and the Speaker must negotiate in good faith, we must cut spending, and we cannot default. A default was never an option, and it’s not an option going forward. So, the objective was to get a bipartisan compromise, which the Speaker has secured, and it meets my objectives to bend the curve here,” Lawler explained, referring to the Congressional Budget Office’s report which predicted a $1.5 trillion reduction in the budget deficit.

Harlow refuted his statement that the bill would cut spending. She cited the specific example of SNAP funding, which the CBO predicted would rise by $2.1 billion. “Yes, this would reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next ten years,” Harlow admitted. “But, and this is a big asterisk, changing those work requirements on the cash, TANF assistance, and food stamp, SNAP, actually increases federal spending by $2.1 billion over ten years.”

Lawler added that he thought even the $2.1 billion increase would become a decrease once enacted due to changes in work requirements and how the budget limited state-level exemptions. “They are now capped at eight percent. Some states were giving 100 percent exemptions on work requirements. So, this is a significant change and significant savings over the long haul on SNAP,” he said.

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During his explanation, Harlow repeatedly interrupted the Congressman and inserted her opinions as fact. “Respectfully, Congressman, that’s not what the nonpartisan CBO says, because the increase in benefits for homeless and veterans basically undoes the savings you guys got elsewhere.” She insisted, contradicting the conclusion of the very CBO report she esteemed so highly, which confirms the bill will reduce the deficit.

She continued to note that the CBO was “non-partisan,” as if non-partisan meant the office was incapable of being wrong, which they’re known for:

What you just laid out is a hope and a lot of assumption on what some of these other aspects of the bill will do. What I am telling our viewers and you, is that the Congressional Budget Office, which was, by the way, set up by Congress to do exactly this, to oversee the budget process. It’s nonpartisan, as you know, it relies on economists, think tanks. It looks at historical trends. What they’re saying is, no, in fact, this increases spending when it comes to TANF and SNAP.

Lawler refused to be bulldozed. He responded to Harlow’s attempts to discredit him by quoting the CBO’s report back to her (Click “expand”):

LAWLER: This reduces the deficit by $1.5 trillion, according to CBO’s own scoring. It caps spending at one percent going forward, which has never happened. So, at the end of the day, look, is it a perfect deal? No. We have a divided government. And I think people need to get a dose of reality. This idea that you’re going to get everything you want out of life, welcome to government, welcome to adulthood. You have to negotiate. This was a negotiation. It was a hard fought negotiation.

Remember, the President and Chuck Schumer had a plan that would not allow for any of this and would just be a clean debt ceiling. They thought House Republicans would not be able to pass a bill. We did. They lost on their bet. And so now, we’re in a situation where spending will be coming down, and at the end of the day, this is about moving our economy in a better direction. And that’s what we’ve accomplished here.

HARLOW: I just — I want to move on, but I want to level with the American people. Every time you say that CBO says that it will reduce deficit by $1.5 trillion, you’re leaving out the latter part of their analysis that says those increase in benefits to veterans and homeless will increase it by $2.1 billion.

Unable to let Lawler have the last word, Harlow concluded their discussion by again attempting to discredit Lawler by accusing him of intentionally leaving out specific details (details that were already included in the number he quoted). Clearly, it is tremendously important to Harlow that Americans know the large bill includes one section that may increase in cost, even as the bill in its entirety reduces the deficit by $1.5 trillion.

CNN’s anti-Republican reporting was made possible by Subway.

The Transcript is below, click “expand” to read.

CNN This Morning
5/31/2023
7:15 a.m. Eastern

(…)

POPPY HARLOW: Joining us now is Congressman Mike Lawler, Republican from New York. He sits on the Foreign Affairs and the Financial Services Committee, and he’s gone on the record that he plans to vote yes for this bill. So, good morning, Congressman.

REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): Good morning. How are you?

HARLOW: I’m fine. Why are you a yes?

LAWLER: Well, look, I had three parameters throughout this; that the President and the Speaker must negotiate in good faith, we must cut spending, and we cannot default. A default was never an option, and it’s not an option going forward. So, the objective was to get a bipartisan compromise, which the Speaker has secured, and it meets my objectives to bend the curve here.

You think about this, Poppy, when I was a freshman in college back in 2006, our national debt was about $9 trillion. Today, it’s almost $32 trillion. This is unsustainable for the long run. And so, what we are doing is bending the curve and starting to put the American economy back on the right trajectory. And the speaker negotiated a very good deal given the fact that we only control one half of one third of the government. And the fact that he was able to get a deal that included spending cuts, non-defense and non-veteran discretionary spending is below fiscal year ’22 levels. That is a significant win, and something that, you know, conservatives and Republicans have fought for.

In addition, we’re getting permitting reform, NEPA reform, which hasn’t been done in over 40 years, and putting constraints on executive spending and overreach. And so, I think as we move forward, you know, Republicans need to recognize that the Speaker did a phenomenal job negotiating and got us a very good package that, that really advances the ball forward and sets us up through the appropriations process to really work to constrain spending more.

HARLOW: The second prong of the three things you wanted that you said you got doesn’t square with what the Congressional Budget Office says in terms of reduction in spending. The CBO last night, as you know, came out with their analysis, and they say, yes, this would reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next ten years. But, and this is a big asterisk, changing those work requirements on the cash, TANF assistance, and food stamp, SNAP, actually increases federal spending by $2.1 billion over ten years. How is that a win for Republicans and the win you say it is on spending?

LAWLER: Well, if you look at the changes to SNAP and TANF work requirements going forward, states were – were basically rolling over exemptions. They were allowed 12 percent exemptions and they were rolling it over. Some states were implementing 100 percent exemptions on work requirements. They are now capped at eight percent –

HARLOW: Eight.

LAWLER: — going forward. So, this is going to be significant savings over the long-term –

HARLOW: But that’s congressman –

LAWLER: — When it comes to SNAP and TANF, and so I –

HARLOW: But, respectfully, Congressman, that’s not what the non-partisan CBO says, because the increase in benefits for homeless and veterans basically undoes the savings you guys got elsewhere.

LAWLER: I, I respectfully disagree with the analysis by the CBO on this, and –

HARLOW: Why?

LAWLER: Because it’s just not accurate when you look at the fact that we’re changing the – what the states are allowed to do with respect to giving exemptions. They are now capped at eight percent. Some states were giving 100 percent exemptions on work requirements. So, this is a significant change and significant savings over the long haul on SNAP. The objective is to get people back working. And I think –

HARLOW: You disagree with what – You, you –

LAWLER: Look, when these analyses are done, when these analyses are done by CBO, they look at it in a snapshot, okay? They’re not looking at things that will happen tomorrow, that will happen the next day. They’re not looking at the potential growth in the economy.

Look at what we’re doing with permitting reform and, and NEPA reform. This is going to significantly shorten the lifespan of a project from potentially 11 years down to two years. That — that will boost the economy tremendously and give us more revenues and more potential. So, I think —

HARLOW: That –

LAWLER: — at the end of the day, when all is said and done here, Poppy, we need to recognize that this is changing the trajectory in Washington. President Biden put forward a budget that would have spent significantly more than the top line number that was just negotiated.

HARLOW: Congressman –

LAWLER: This is a win for the American people.

HARLOW: What you just laid out is a hope and a lot of assumption on what some of these other aspects of the bill will do. What I am telling our viewers and you, is that the Congressional Budget Office, which was, by the way, set up by Congress to do exactly this, to oversee the budget process. It’s nonpartisan, as you know, it relies on economists, think tanks. It looks at historical trends. What they’re saying is, no, in fact, this increases spending when it comes to TANF and SNAP.

And I’m not just pointing to the CBO. Listen to Nancy Mace, your fellow Republican in the House. Here’s how she sees it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): I don’t think it’s been an honest display of what the bill does, and it doesn’t cut spending, does very little for the deficit, and, really, it’s D.C. math for two years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Is it not?

LAWLER: Respectfully, again, I just disagree with my colleague there. She’s entitled to her opinion. This reduces the deficit by $1.5 trillion, according to CBO’s own scoring. It caps spending at one percent going forward, which has never happened. So, at the end of the day, look, is it a perfect deal? No. We have a divided government. And I think people need to get a dose of reality. This idea that you’re going to get everything you want out of life, welcome to government, welcome to adulthood. You have to negotiate. This was a negotiation. It was a hard fought negotiation.

Remember, the President and Chuck Schumer had a plan that would not allow for any of this and would just be a clean debt ceiling. They thought House Republicans would not be able to pass a bill. We did. They lost on their bet. And so now, we’re in a situation where spending will be coming down, and at the end of the day, this is about moving our economy in a better direction. And that’s what we’ve accomplished here.

HARLOW: I just — I want to move on, but I want to level with the American people. Every time you say that CBO says that it will reduce deficit by $1.5 trillion, you’re leaving out the latter part of their analysis that says those increase in benefits to veterans and homeless will increase it by $2.1 billion.

(…)

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