Transcript: Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick and Josh Gottheimer on “Face the Nation,” May 21, 2023

Fitzpatrick on debt default date

The following is the transcript of an interview with Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Josh Gottheimer, Democrat of New Jersey, that aired on “Face the Nation” on May 21, 2023.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Joining us now are two congressmen trying to find some common ground, Pennsylvania Republican Brian Fitzpatrick and New Jersey Democrat Josh Gottheimer. They are the co-chairman of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, which represents the moderates within each party. And, gentlemen, I know a lot of people hope you can solve these problems. I want to start with you, Congressman Fitzpatrick. This was supposed to be the weekend when a deal was struck so you could vote in the coming days. Are we at the point where we need to talk about buying time with just a short term lift of the debt ceiling so we avoid default?

REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN FITZPATRICK: Hi, Margaret. Thanks for having us. The president and the speaker are going to speak shortly, probably in about within the next hour or two when the president is returning from Japan. I think it’s really important that they sit down in person. It’s really hard when you have emissaries acting on your behalf with the president not here to actually fix this. So we weren’t incredibly surprised that they hit an impasse. This is going to take time. We knew it was going to take time. But you’ve heard both the speaker and the president still remain- remain optimistic that they’re going to figure this out. I do believe that they will. Margaret, you know, we passed a bill in the House. Obviously, it’s not something that the Senate’s been willing to take up, but the Senate should take up something because they need to indicate to us what they can rally 60 senators around to get across the finish line, because the only way we get across the finish line, the president cannot take unilateral action here. The House and the Senate both have to pass their individual bills. We have to go to conference and send that conference report to the president.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the president talked about that unilateral action and even he said that would have legal consequences he’s not confident in. But on the question of the short term, it sounds like you think there is still time for a broader deal on the budget and the debt ceiling.

REP. FITZPATRICK: I do, Margaret. The June 1st date was probably, according to Secretary Yellen, the earliest possible date. There’s something called a non-technical default that basically means, I’m sorry, a technical default would mean that we don’t have enough cash flow to pay the interest on our debt. We do have enough cash flow to do that. We’re going to start to see the state tax revenues come in about the second week of June. So I think we are okay on that. We will have time. And I really do think that we should allow leeway and flexibility for the speaker and the president, who both understand the gravity of the situation to work this out. I think they will.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sounds like you think there is more negotiating room here than what the Treasury Secretary says. Congressman Gottheimer, question for you, when you hear that, what do you believe here? Is June 1st not really a hard deadline or do you actually think we need to have a short term lift of the debt ceiling to avoid default?

REPRESENTATIVE JOSH GOTTHEIMER: I mean, I think we have to presume June 1st as the date, if that’s what the treasury secretary is saying. Also, regardless if we have a few more days, the bottom line is we can’t continue to play chicken–


REP. GOTTHEIMER: –with the full faith and credit of the United States of America. Right. The risks are just too significant, as we all know, both to to paying our debts and what that would mean with our reputation in the world. And obviously, the government of China would love us to default. And then, of course, people’s savings their 401ks and the risk, which is clearly real, of sending us into a recession if we default, that has to not even be an option. But as Brian said, it’s going to take all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to get this done. And that’s the only way–


REP. GOTTHEIMER: –I think it’s going to actually ever pass, is if Democrats or Republicans, because you’re going to lose people on the far left and far right. It’s going to take people like me and Brian and others like us who are willing to get this done. And so I’m very glad the president and the speaker are obviously connecting, and momentarily, but we have to do this, keep talking every single day, every single hour until we get this across the finish line.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, borrowing costs are already going up, Wall Street is already–


MARGARET BRENNAN: –making contingency plans. So even short of default, there is risk. I think you both have to acknowledge that. Congressman Fitzpatrick, why do you think that there’s time to play with here then?

REP. FITZPATRICK: Well, I want to say I do agree with Josh, we should assume the date is- is June the 1st. But I think the math tells us that there is a little bit of wiggle room. That being said, Margaret, to your point, it’s not just the date we’ve got to worry about. If you go back to 2011, about nine days before the “X” date was when our credit rating–


REP. FITZPATRICK: –got downgraded–


REP. FITZPATRICK: –and that caused the markets to spiral. So exactly. It’s not just the date, it’s the risk of the downgrade that we’ve got to worry about, which is why it’s incredibly time sensitive. There’s no question about it. The conversations can’t come soon enough. I do think it’s very, very important, though, Margaret, because I do believe that the president and the speaker legitimately respect each other. I believe they legitimately do want to come to a conclusion here. And I think it’s important that they physically be in the same room together to make that happen. And I’m glad the president’s coming back home.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman Gottheimer, President Biden said he cannot guarantee that some extreme Republicans won’t force a default by doing something outrageous. There’s- it’s not clear what he was talking about there, but there was some reporting in Politico that there were Democrats on the Problem Solvers Caucus who were privately discussing ways to help protect Speaker McCarthy from being ousted from power by other Republicans. Is that true? And if so, how far along are those talks?

REP. GOTTHEIMER: I haven’t been directly part of any of those. And obviously- but I’ll say this, we need to focus on now and I think–

MARGARET BRENNAN: But they’re happening?  

REP. GOTTHEIMER: I- II don’t know if those are happening–


REP. GOTTHEIMER: –but I think if we get a deal done, we’ll be able to get enough Democrats and Republicans to get this done. And I’ll obviously talk to and defer to Brian on on his Republican caucus politics. But- but what’s most important for right now is making sure we get a deal that’s reasonable enough that you can get Democrats and Republicans a big enough swath to agree in the House. And of course, as Brian pointed out in the Senate, that’s the only way this happens. So it’s got whatever we come up with has to be reasonable. And- and let me say this just from a big picture perspective, right? Whether or not we default or not should not be a partisan issue. Right?


REP. GOTTHEIMER: It should not be a Democrat or Republican issue. Not defaulting is a win for the country. So that’s not a give from anybody. Right. That should just be table stakes of what we all agree upon to protect our country and protect the full faith and credit of the United States of America.


REP. GOTTHEIMER:  There are longer term fiscal issues we have to deal with, and I’d say we should be dealing with those as well, which is what Brian and I have proposed..

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman, I want to ask you, though, on that, one of the things the president said he was willing to do last week was some tightening on work requirements for government aid. And that angered some progressives within your part of- within your party. Can you support that as a moderate Democrat?

REP. GOTTHEIMER: I think there are work requirements already.


REP. GOTTHEIMER: I think work and work requirements and some of the stuff that’s been proposed on Medicaid, like taking away health care of hard pressed families, is not something that I believe could ever get enough Democratic votes to be able to get this across the finish line. And that’s what we’re talking about here, right? What can we put together, enough Democrat and Republican votes, because it’s going to take both and a divided government to get this across the finish line. So I think whatever we come up with has to be practical and reasonable. And the give can’t be from Republicans and Democrats, oh we’re not going to- we’re going to let you not default on- on–


REP. GOTTHEIMER: –our debts and pay our bills. Right. So that’s kind of the challenge.


REP. GOTTHEIMER: I think there are reasonable things we can do. And those are the kind of conversations that we’re all having.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So a little bit of give potentially on- on work requirements. But on Congressman Fitzpatrick, the president repeatedly said this morning he doesn’t just want cuts, he wants to look at tax revenues. What tax increases, Congressman Fitzpatrick, would Republicans consider? What has been put on the table?

REP. FITZPATRICK: Well, we have to bifurcate between the discretionary and the non-discretionary. So the revenue piece pertains much more to the non-discretionary the mandatory spending that’s 75% of our budget, and that’s where the financial solvency needs to be addressed by both revenue and expenses. Now, the matter before the speaker and the president now only deals with discretionary spending to some extent, non-defense discretionary spending. That’s not where the revenues are being discussed. And that’s, quite frankly, not where they’re needed. They’re needed on the mandatory side. Medicare will run out of money in 2028. Social Security will run out of money in 2034. So we have to- and what one of the things that Josh and I and our problem solvers have proposed, one of the things we hope are injected into these negotiations is a bipartisan, independent commission–


REP. FITZPATRICK: –much like Simpson-Bowles, that requires us and we can write this into the law forces us to vote up or down on their findings within a year because until we tackle the mandatory spending and get a get get a handle on our long term sustainability of our debt and deficit, we’re just playing around the margins.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman will stay tuned to the work you can get done in the coming days. Thank you both for your time.

Thanks for reading CBS NEWS.
Create your free account or log in
for more features.

Leave a Comment