The following is a transcript of an interview with Representative Garret Graves, Republican of Louisiana, which aired on “Face the Nation” on June 4, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Hello and welcome to Face The Nation. We have a lot to cover this morning and we start with Republican Congressman Garret Graves who led Republican negotiators during the debate on raising the debt ceiling. He joins us from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It’s good to talk to you.
REPRESENTING. GARRET GRAVES: Nice to be with you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden said you were all respectful, honest and in good faith. Do you see any sign in the aftermath that Republican leaders can work with the White House on big issues like immigration reform and border security? Is there momentum?
REPRESENTING. GRAVES: Look, the negotiations were certainly in good faith, but they also included a lot of candor. We had tense moments throughout. But I would like to tell you that we could build on that. We certainly have a crisis in the energy space, we continue to have a financial crisis. And as you indicated, immigration is a huge issue that we should be able to work on together.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, more Democrats and Republicans actually voted for the deal you brokered and it leaves much of the president’s economic agenda untouched. How can you claim, as you told my colleague from CBS the other day, that the White House was instructed?
REPRESENTING. GRAVES: Because the White House has established about seven red lines, including that they wouldn’t negotiate, that they wouldn’t allow anything to be done on work requirements, that they wouldn’t allow any changes to environmental laws, that they wouldn’t allow us to take funds from IRS agents and so on and yet every red line they drew we crossed in the negotiations which resulted in the largest savings of any legislation in the history of Congress. It was a huge accomplishment. Huge legislative victories. And finally, Margaret, I think when you look at the president’s statements, all he could do was talk about things that didn’t happen versus everything that happened that was positive for his diary.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, a trillion to a trillion and a half in savings over 10 years, but you said there was an erosion of trust within your own party between you and some of those tougher members of the Freedom Caucus, who said it was a bad deal that you negotiated and this morning Congressman Ken Buck from Colorado said President McCarthy had credibility issues. And even if a motion to vote to nullify won’t happen right away, he should fear being removed from office. How big of a problem is this right wing in your party?
REPRESENTING. GRAVES: There was an erosion of trust issues, because people came out and started trying to define or interpret an agreement while we were still in negotiations, there wasn’t even an agreement concluded. And of course their interpretation or definition of the deal, as you can imagine, was wrong. Regarding President McCarthy. Let’s be clear. This speaker was one of the best strategies we’ve ever had to deliver transformative immigration, energy, the parents’ bill of rights, and other legislation that, looking at past conventions, not even one of those things haven’t been done let alone, we’re about 10 huge wins this year.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But 71 members of the House Republican caucus voted against it. I know you had 67%. I mean, you had the majority of your caucus, but 71 is a lot. I mean, can you rule out a fall government shutdown? Will these extremist members grow bolder because of this?
REPRESENTING. GRAVES: Well, Margaret, let’s talk about their goals. Their goals are to try to change the trajectory of spending, to transform Washington in a more responsive way, thinking long-term about the next generation and the fiscal crisis we’re approaching. I don’t think this should be a partisan issue. We should all agree with these goals. In this case, I think we were trying to exert leverage that really threatened the economy to a large extent. We’ve seen it before under this administration, the stock market has lost an estimated $9 trillion in value, hurting retirement accounts and families across the country. We cannot continue to see these kinds of challenges. And so I think in the appropriations process, we’re going to work hard to build on the momentum that we’ve gained through this negotiation, saving trillions of dollars
MARGARET BRENNAN: Can you rule out a government shutdown?
REPRESENTING. GRAVES: I’m not ruling anything out. It depends on the degree of reasonableness of each party, obviously, in negotiations, it is very difficult to predict. But I want to be clear, Republicans are going to demand to continue to build on the success we were able to achieve in the debt ceiling negotiations, by changing the way Washington spends.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But I know you’re one of President McCarthy’s lieutenants here, but when you hear an MP come on CNN television and say he should be worried about his job, he doesn’t have not caucus faith. This should be concerning and affect your tactics to a minimum.
REPRESENTING. GRAVES: Look, I’ve known Ken Buck for years and I certainly respect him. It is not a dominant position. I’ll tell you right now, President McCarthy’s position is absolutely safe. He will continue to deliver victories for the country, change the direction of Washington and be more representative of the – of the priorities of Americans across the country, I have no doubt that his position is secure, and we will continue to move forward. build on the historic victories he was able to achieve this year.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So to get what you call these historic victories, the Democrats would say that the Republicans hijacked the economy. It was a big chicken game here to threaten to default. I mean, Fitch Ratings is now saying that even with this deal, they could still downgrade America’s credit outlook here because of the political standoffs around the debt limit and last minute suspensions before date X, it diminishes trust in America. Why was it worth hurting America as the benchmark of the financial system and its credibility?
REPRESENTING. GRAVES: You know, yeah, Margaret, that’s a great question. I think this is a question you need to ask the White House considering that they refuse to negotiate for 100 days, despite indicating otherwise, they are the ones who brought us to the brink. If we had started negotiations in February, when the president and the president had their… their first meeting…
MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s true, but that was a leverage point that Republicans use.
REPRESENTING. GRAVES: So we would never – we wouldn’t be in this situation today, we would have finished negotiations months ago.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So would you say some Democrats are talking about removing the debt ceiling altogether? I know you suspended him for two years. But what about a vote to get rid of it?
REPRESENTING. GRAVES: No, I don’t think that’s appropriate…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you need leverage?
REPRESENTING. GRAVES: I think that’s really important, just like if you had a kid brand that hit their credit card limit and were unable to pay their credit card bill that month, you would probably step in and l would help. I know I would. But I would also have a frank conversation about spending reform. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has calculated that every child or grandchild born in America today will end up paying about four and a half million dollars, because of irresponsible spending in Washington. Four and a half million in their lifetime. It is absolutely inexcusable. And we cannot continue on this trajectory.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, one of the things that other Republicans are critical of is the fact that you passed Biden’s defense budget and the 3.5% increase, which doesn’t keep up with inflation. How do you justify that it does not harm the defense? Because that’s what Republicans like Lindsey, Lindsey Graham say.
REPRESENTING. GRAVES: Yeah, yeah, that’s a great question. Keep in mind that we’re actually increasing defense by about $20 billion to $886 billion, when you take all the other functions of government for about $704 billion. There is no doubt in my mind that we can improve the efficiency of the Department of Defense, large-scale acquisition programs, whether it is weapons systems, aircraft and others. We all know the toilet seats and hammer stories from the past where the Department of Defense paid exorbitant prices. We will therefore continue to ensure that our fighters have the upper hand while also ensuring that the Ministry of Defense improves its effectiveness.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we’ll have to get you Garret Graves back. We will leave it there for today.
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