As Americans watch their government leaders spend more and more, the average citizen is struggling to pay for food and gas. It seems that the Biden administration is more concerned with placating a base of radical leftists than crafting a federal budget designed to help everyday Americans.
To Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., the government needs to focus on balancing its budget, especially as it continues to spend exorbitant amounts of money. As chairman of the Republican Study Committee’s Budget and Spending Task Force, Hern is in a position to advance that priority.
“The only place in America without a balanced budget has been the federal government, and we're seeing the ramifications of that with high inflation, skyrocketing fuel prices, skyrocketing food prices,” Hern says. “The list goes on and on.”
Hern says the out-of-control government spending under President Joe Biden has dire consequences for the safety of the nation.
“I think if we don't start now, we're never going to get our federal spending under control,” the Oklahoma Republican says. “Interest on our debt is going to be higher than our defense budget in just five years. Much of that interest is going to go to China, where they're going to use their money to build a defense to come after us.”
Hern joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss House Republicans' budget proposal and what the consequences of Biden's budget would be.
We also cover these stories:
- An armed man from California is arrested near Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house in Maryland and says that he came to murder the justice.
- Fourth grader Miah Cerrillo speaks about her experience surviving the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
- Biden admits that voters have sent a clear message that politicians need to be tougher on crime, after the successful recall election for San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
Listen to the podcast or read the lightly edited transcript below.
Doug Blair: My guest today is Congressman Kevin Hern, who represents Oklahoma's 1st Congressional District. Congressman, welcome back to the show.
Rep. Kevin Hern: Doug, always good to be with you.
Blair: Of course. You are proposing a new budget, and we would love to know, what are the highlights of this new budget?
Hern: Well, first, it's the second year we've done the only budget that will be done in Congress, the RSC, the Republican Study Committee, the largest caucus in all of Congress. Last year, 10 people on the committee; this year, 16 on the budget committee.
First and foremost, it balances, just like all Americans, yours, mine, everybody in America. Most all of the states, I think, with the exception of one, has to have a balanced budget. Businesses have to have a balanced budget.
The only place in America without a balanced budget has been the federal government, and we're seeing the ramifications of that with high inflation, skyrocketing fuel prices, skyrocketing food prices, we're out of baby formula. The list goes on and on.
And this budget spends less so Americans have more.
Blair: Now, one of the things that I think is kind of interesting is that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, recently said that, “Our federal budget must be a statement of our national values.” Do you think that your budget, the one that you've proposed, is a statement of maybe Republicans values?
Hern: Well, actually, I would tell you it's a budget for the American people, not Republicans or Democrats.
I spent 35 years in business prior to coming up here, writing budgets, doing budgets for large organizations like McDonald's Corp. and my businesses I have back home. I didn't ask whether it was a Republican or a Democrat. I said, “Do these revenues really work out? Do these expenses work? And do we balance at the end of the day?” And that's what these budgets do, last year and this year.
And I think that's what's important. We need to not politicize this. … We're seeing the ramifications of that. Because not only did she say that, so did [President] Joe Biden when he put his budget out in March and we saw what he gave us: another $20 trillion.
Even with his increased taxes that he's proposing, it's still a $20 trillion increase to the national debt in the next 10 years. It's just an atrocity to see the president of the United States put—it never balances. Ever.
Blair: Now, you have a series of goals with this new budget, and those include preventing a debt crisis, ensuring the survival of critical entitlement programs, and fulfilling a constitutional obligation to defend the country. Let's break those down. Why did you pick those goals in particular for this budget?
Hern: Well, one of the reasons I came to Congress was to restore some kind of order. I mean, I spent my entire life in the private sector. I never ran for any office until I ran for Congress in 2018. And I'm here, and I think if you're going to say you're going to do something, you should do that.
And so I've worked to restore the constitutional principles and responsibility of the federal government, which is to protect us from bad actors around the world and protect us from one another. Those are our two primary functions, but not to do things like the things we're seeing right now.
We're seeing this president, this vice president, the secretary of homeland security have a border that has 250,000 people a month crossing it. So 3 million people a year are crossing the border illegally. …
I mean, I voted against the $40 billion Ukraine bill. I felt like, if we could take part of that money we're willing to go protect another country—which, by the way, that was $54 billion at that time—why couldn't we take a portion of that and secure our southern border?
For four years, President [Donald] Trump was criticized for securing our southern border and did so much to do so. And this president has unwound everything that the Trump administration did, and the American people should be concerned about that.
In this budget, President Biden doesn't even put enough money in there for the national defense to meet his inflationary economy that he's caused, he's created. And so we've had to increase the budget.
You remember, we have a huge defense budget. Everybody criticizes us for that, but we have people around the world that are wanting to conquer us, like Russia and China. And they're spending money on building brand new navies in China, and so we have to be concerned about that. We have to maintain the status quo of what we have, plus build new technologies.
Blair: You've definitely done some comparisons between your proposed budget and the Biden budget. Do you think that the Biden budget is more focused on leftist wish list items than actually helping American people, and that's maybe where the biggest difference between your budgets is?
Hern: Well, I think the president's budget, in all honesty, I think if you were to sit him down in a closed room, he would tell you it's focused on socialist democrat issues, like destroying the fossil field industry; it's about appeasement to our foreign adversaries and what we're seeing; it's about getting rid of oil and gas as we know it in our country and returning to placating Iran and Venezuela, two dictator-ran countries.
It's very problematic. I mean, we're returning to where we're dependent on people around the globe instead of being independent of a lot of those pressures.
The president, and so many others, have talked about China. You can't just talk about China and pushing back on China if you're not going to talk about removing dependency on China, like bringing manufacturing back to this country, not running companies out of our country with incredibly poor tax policy that we're seeing right now from the Treasury Department.
So there's so many things that we can be working on, not only in the budget. I sit on Ways and Means, on the tax subcommittee, and I also work as the subcommittee chairman on health care affordability.
There are so many things that we need to be working on right now to take the financial burdens off the American people that we're creating from a bloated federal government.
The interest on our debt in the next five years will be larger. And that obligation, which is a mandatory spend, will be a larger obligation than the spending of our military. So we don't have a choice to continue to wait. The time is now.
And people ask, “Have we ever balanced our budget?” We did it for four years back in '97 through 2001 with then-President [Bill] Clinton and [then-House Speaker] Newt Gingrich and [then-Senate Majority Leader] Trent Lott. So it can be done, and in a bipartisan way, but we have to start today, and it starts with a budget. And we did one last year and we did one this year.
Blair: One of the things that Americans are really suffering with right now is hugely spiked prices for everyday essentials like gas and food. Does the budget that you've proposed have any contingencies to maybe help Americans who are suffering from that?
Hern: Well, you could fix that by just using our free market principles, turning back on the idea that we can drill in the United States of America. That's what President Trump did. That's why you saw prices at the pump get down to $1.69, $1.79 a gallon.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I'm from, which historically has the lowest prices in the country, we're now at $4.29 and growing quickly. And the reason for that is the oil and gas folks are saying, “We're not going to turn on any more wells when we have a government that wants to destroy us. They're pushing production around the world, as opposed to here in the United States.”
So that's the first thing, is turn back on our safe pipelines. It's insane to think that trucking stuff across the water—if you think about this, we're bringing the oil and gas that we need on tankers across the oceans, but we can't put them in our pipelines here in the United States. It's just insane, the thinking that's going on with this administration and the Pelosi-led Democrats.
Blair: On a separate note from the budget, you are running to lead the Republican Study Committee. For our listeners who might not be aware of exactly what that is, can you explain to them what it is and why it matters to them?
Hern: Yeah. There are a lot of caucuses up here with similar ideas, whether it's the airplane caucus or the Small Business Caucus.
The Republican Study Committee was formed—next year, it'll be its 50th anniversary. And it was formed back in the day when then-Republican President Richard Nixon started moving away from conservative principles to a more liberal posture.
And so there were some Republicans, in the minority, obviously, that started this idea of having a, it was called something different then, but moving forward the conservative ideas and principles of the Republican Party.
And it's grown. We have four current members that were past chairs. It's a two-year term only. There are no reelects or anything like that. [Minority Whip Steve] Scalise was the chair of RSC. Obviously, our current chair, [Rep.] Jim Banks. [Rep.] Mike Johnson. And then when you look at that, you know, [Rep.] Jim Jordan was also the chair.
So prominent people in Congress that have had the intestinal fortitude to stand up for the core principles of the Republican Party as the guidelines and the guidepost of what we do as a conference.
Blair: Now, if you were to be elected to this position, where would the budget fall in your priorities list about what you should be focusing on?
Hern: Yeah. I think, typically, historically what's happened is the Budget and Spending Task Force chairman has got a one-year deal. And Jim Banks asked me to do it again this year. So two years in a row.
I have a really good idea of the intricacies of the federal budget. It's not like any old mom and pop budget, for sure. There's no other budget like it in the world.
Blair: A little bigger.
Hern: Yeah, a little bigger. A lot of zeros on the end. It's hard to say trillions until you start seeing how many zeros—it's like a bunch of zeros.
Blair: Right, right.
Hern: I'm not going to write it. It's just a bunch of zeros.
But it'll be, first and foremost, to what we do.
I think if we don't start now, we're never going to get our federal spending under control. Like I said, interest on our debt is going to be higher than our defense budget in just five years. Much of that interest is going to go to China, where they're going to use their money to build a defense to come after us.
And when you look at these things, all things in America start with the budget. Just like in your household, if you don't have the money, you don't spend it, and you figure out how to grow revenue.
Well, here's the thing that nobody's telling America: After President Trump's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, revenues have been on the rise. And the Biden administration and [Treasury Secretary] Janet Yellen and others will say that it destroyed America.
We're going to have $4.5 trillion of revenue this year, but another trillion dollars in deficit. No matter how much we make, we're spending about a trillion dollars more than we make. We have to stop that. And most Americans can't even get their money. If you can't run this country on $4.5 trillion, please get some new leaders. So the budget's got to be first and foremost of what we do.
Blair: When we've spoken previously, you've mentioned that you have experience as a business leader. Where does your experience in that field relate to how you would run the budget and how you would lead the Republican Study Committee if you were elected?
Hern: Well, I think the first thing is that, you know, no one learns how to lead in six months or a year in office. It really is a lifetime. If you really want to make a difference, go get a lifetime of experience and come up here.
That's what our Founders did. They set aside their farms, their businesses to come spend a moment in time in this country. And we've lost that. We have so many career politicians that have never balanced anything.
I didn't come up here for another paycheck or a job. I came up here really to get something done. I didn't run for Senate when the Senate seat opened because I think we're in a good spot here to make some things happen.
But if we don't do something now, we're going to be a real problem.
Blair: Now, one of the things that I think is interesting about what you've just said is that there is this really important priority that you're placing on our finances. It's not necessarily a topic that a lot of people think about as the federal budget. They think about their own personal budgets, like inflation, how that affects things like that.
But if Republicans are to take back the house in November, do you view the budget as the first thing that they should do once they're enacted into office?
Hern: Listen, we did the budget last year. It was a statement that, “You can't do this.” And we did the budget this year because we knew Nancy Pelosi wouldn't put it on the floor. She didn't want to see anybody balance anything because it impacted what she was trying to do.
This year, the budget's going to come out tomorrow or this week, and we're going to be sending a message of what the Republicans can do and the bills that need to be done to associate that.
One of the things in this budget—we used 140 member bills last year to balance the budget; this year, another 150 or so. So just right at 300 bills; legislation that's already been written that we've incorporated into this budget, that if enacted would balance the budget.
This budget will be, as we come into the majority next year, it will set the goal post of where we need to go with policies in legislation to balance the budget.
The American people are demanding it. It's the only way we're going to get our inflation under control without borrowing tons of money.
Blair: Now, to a lot of younger Americans who will be saddled with the debt that is being enacted right now by the government—it's very unlikely that people who are sort of an older generation will have to deal with the consequences of this—what is the messaging that Republicans will put out to them to say, “This is why this matters to you”?
Hern: Well, the prosperity that you need to have is this generation. I mean, the prosperity of seeing and having more disposable income so that you can afford college without going with the idea that you can go spend money and just be forgiven.
This president has set the terrible example of responsibility and accountability. This is what you learn at a young age to make you a more responsible father or mother. Grandfather, grandmother, teach your kids. As a teacher, teach your students about what it means to respect this country, the country that our warfighters went and protected around the world. That's so important, to set that message out there.
You know, there's a lot of ambiguity of what we really stand for as a federal government anymore. It's like, “Go spend all you want, and we'll just forgive it.” What about the people who've actually worked hard and paid their bills?
And so this budget describes what it's going to take to have solvency in Social Security, solvency in Medicare; start returning our deficits to neutral to start having extra money to start paying back our debt.
Blair: One of the things I spoke with some of your staff about is going to be included in your budget is that there is a subsection on critical race theory.
Two points to that one. One, what does the federal budget have to do with critical race theory? And then two, what is the budget going to do to deal with critical race theory in our schools?
Hern: Well, two things; one, it has nothing to do with critical race theory. You know, our budget is a financial budget. It does talk about things that we should be doing and shouldn't be doing, as we spoke about earlier, and the last thing we need to be teaching our children is the moment they're born that they're racist.
What happened to teaching math and reading and science in our schools? We're falling so far behind the rest of the world in education because we're trying to create this “woke environment” that somehow America's an evil place.
My argument would be to all of these folks that want to say that, can you give us an example around the world that we should be like? Because you don't see people scurrying out of the United States to go there. You see people coming here, on our southern border, alone, 250,000 a month, trying to get into this place that the Democrats think is a horrible place to live.
So it's incredible to see what they're saying about our great nation and they're trying to make it worse.
And I think, when you ultimately look at it, what it is, it's a power struggle. It's what our Founders warned us about; that when there's too much power centralized in Washington, D.C., there's a lot of civil unrest. And I think it's what we're seeing.
You know, the Founding Fathers talked about a limited government because they knew that that was the only way the people who authorized us to even exist in the federal government would be able to have their voices heard.
And so, as we go forward here, we need to understand what limited government means. We're not going to ever be a small government. … When you're $4.5 trillion revenue, that is not small, but we can be limited in our scope.
And I think that's exactly what the Supreme Court justices' document said. The scope in that draft was that nowhere in the Constitution did they see that the federal government had oversight over this, the states did.
So we'll see where this goes and what other things might be attributed to that same thoughtfulness.
Blair: As we begin to wrap-up, I do want to relate something to that idea of this great nation of ours, that there's something that exists here that doesn't exist in other places.
You have talked about previously that you grew up in poverty, and obviously, you're here, you're sitting with us now, you're a politician. You are possibly going to be one of the leaders of the biggest Republican caucuses in the house.
How does that play into your worldview, and how does that play into your budget?
Hern: I think it's always important to note where you came from. … There's no other nation in the world, and I've looked at this, that can allow somebody like me, where I came from, to be where I'm at today.
And not that being in Congress or being a public servant, a political person, is something to aspire to, but it's the place where you can make this opportunity remain for others that come after me. And I think that's really important.
It's really something. It's the only reason I keep doing this, honestly. I mean, I don't need to be here. And I don't mean that braggadociously; I mean, … we got a lot of great staff that we work with. I just want to make sure that they have the opportunity that I did. Not anything given to them. I worked hard. I had student loans I paid off, I built my first truck. I mean, you heard the story.
I just think this is a special place, that we think everybody should be equal regardless of how hard they work. Hard work does matter. Honesty does matter. Integrity does matter. Being a good member of society does matter. And we can't allow anybody—Republican, Democrat, or anybody—to take that away from this great nation.
Blair: That was Congressman Kevin Hern, who represents Oklahoma's 1st Congressional District. Congressman, thank you so much for your time.
Hern: Doug, always great to be with you.
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