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Republican Lawmaker Talks About Obama Meeting

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Well, now one of the Republicans who was at the meeting with President Obama today, Representative David Camp of Michigan, who is the ranking minority member that is the most senior Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee. Welcome to the program, Congressman Camp.

Representative DAVID CAMP (Republican, Michigan): Robert, it's great to be with you.

SIEGEL: We've heard that House Republicans asked the president if there might be some common ground on tax relief. Did President Obama suggest that he was at all flexible on that square?

Representative CAMP: Well, actually, that was a question I was able to ask the president directly. And let me just say, it was very impressive that he came to the Congress and met with us. He was certainly very forthright. He's clearly, you know, very straightforward, very likable. I think that meeting today actually could pay off long term for him. But we had - we really got his attention, I think, in terms of talking about the need to really stimulate the economy. And economic experts of all political stripes really think that tax relief really gets into the economy more quickly and has a greater effect.

And really the signature piece of their tax program really refunds more to seven million more Americans than they pay in taxes. Now it's a trend that has started a few years ago to actually refund more than people pay in, in payroll and income. But we think it's a trend that shouldn't be accelerated, and this proposal does that.

SIEGEL: Now, we should just say here that there are liberal economists who, by the way, say that tax cuts tend to be saved rather than spent. So there are arguments on either side. But you're saying the problem is not only with the size of the tax cuts but with who is benefiting from the tax cuts.

Representative CAMP: Absolutely, because I don't think that it's right for people to receive more than they pay in. Now, unfortunately, this is not a bill President Obama negotiated. This is Nancy Pelosi's bill. No input from Republicans, no meetings, no amendments accepted in committee, and we vote tomorrow in the House on this legislation.

SIEGEL: But what I hear you saying is there could be, as you say, long-term payouts for the president in dealing with House Republicans. But I'm not hearing any short-term payoff here.

Representative CAMP: I do think in the long term, I think it really means a lot that he would come and speak with us. And in fairness, the president wasn't even in office when much of this was put together.

SIEGEL: Well, how many Republican votes do you think it'll get in the House?

Representative CAMP: You know, I think it will get a few. But I think two things. Really, the mix between spending and tax cuts could be better from our standpoint of view - from our standpoint, I mean. And then the overall size of the package - it's really a $1.2 trillion package. And I think many of us have a concern that that will really put too large a burden on our children and grandchildren.

SIEGEL: Representative Camp, in the Senate it's conceivable that the stimulus package will actually require Republican votes. At least if there's a cloture vote, there might have to be some Republican support for it to be passed. But in the House, it could pass without any Republican votes. How important is it to you that the stimulus bill have some kind of bipartisan support to it? Or are you perfectly happy being completely outside the tent on this one?

Representative CAMP: Well, I think going forward, large bills like this do better if they have bipartisan support. I don't think in the House you're going to see a lot of Republican support for this, simply because we've not been able to have input on the priorities.

SIEGEL: Just one last point about tax cuts for people who in effect would be getting back more taxes than they pay. Aren't those precisely the people who instantly spend the money and put it into the economy because frankly they are in no position to save? And they'll go spend it on the store which might be owned by somebody who pays taxes at a higher rate, or they might spend it and buy a car from a car dealer who pays taxes at higher rate. That's part of the argument for...

Representative CAMP: Well, the analysis shows that it really doesn't create the kind of long-term growth and economic effect we need right now that we need quickly.

SIEGEL: Well, Congressman Camp, thanks a lot for talking with us.

Representative CAMP: Thanks a lot, Robert. Take care.

SIEGEL: That's Representative David Camp, Republican of Michigan, who is the ranking minority member on the House Ways and Means Committee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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