After 30 years representing New Hampshire in Congress, retiring Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, a famed deficit hawk, is offering a bleak view of the chances that Washington will address its staggering debt in order to avert the “inevitable fiscal meltdown” he fears is imminent.
“After the threat of a terrorist using a weapon of mass destruction it’s the biggest threat we have – the impending and inevitable fiscal meltdown of our nation if we don’t take action to correct our financial health,” Gregg said in an interview with The Daily Caller.
Though working behind the scenes to craft deficit-reducing legislation as the final capstone to his career, Gregg appeared pessimistic about the ability of Congress to deal with debt and a looming entitlement crisis, conceding that “regular order” is insufficient to grapple with the issue.
“Right now we’re in a situation where it’s totally predictable what’s gonna happen. I can’t pick the date, but I guarantee you that three to seven years from now we will see a financial crisis of inordinate proportions if we don’t take actions to reduce the rate of growth of our debt,” Gregg said. “Unfortunately American politics and governance usually reacts best in crisis and isn’t very good in anticipation of problems. We’re good at the next election but we’re not very good at the next generation.”
He continued: “The result of a financial meltdown as a result of people losing confidence in our fiscal structure will be a significant reduction in the standard of living for most Americans and a very dramatic change in our relationship internationally in the area of national security.”
Looking back on his career, Gregg kept a reticent demeanor, declining to discuss details on some of its more momentous episodes.
Regarding his brief nomination as Obama’s Commerce Secretary, Gregg said he was not able to defend Obama’s economic policies, declining to go into details besides mentioning the nearly $800 billion stimulus bill Obama signed into law shortly into his presidency.
“I’ve always tried to avoid getting specific about what the conversations were. I just don’t think it’s fair to him,” Gregg said.
But Gregg did outline his view of the Senate as paramount institution of the constitutional order, defending its sometimes glacial pace.
“It’s critical to our constitutional structure [as] conceived by Madison and Randolph to have a check and balance government, and the ultimate check is the Senate. It’s where both the legislative and the executive branch must deal with an open process where the minority is protected and has the right to get their two-cents in,” Gregg said.
“Yes it’s messy, but that’s the way it was supposed to be structured,” Gregg said.
He blasted Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for cutting out the Republican minority over the last two years.
“When you start to see the majority leader fill the tree as often as Harry Reid has it really puts us in the same operating status as the House of Representatives where the majority has the right with the Rules committee to shut up the minority,” Gregg said, referring to a procedural tactic by which the majority leader can prevent the minority party from offering amendments on the Senate floor.
“If you take [amendments] out of the system then you undermine fundamentally the checks and balance process which is at the core of our form of constitutional government.
“And you move us down the road as a parliamentary form of government. And parliamentary governments do not function well. They lurch. They go left for ten years and they go right for ten years. And they lurch. And you don’t get consistency of governance and you don’t get, in my opinion, good governance over the long haul,” Gregg said.
Gregg also defended the “secret” outside money that poured in from independent groups to help Republicans in the last election.
“I think that’s so duplicitous and demagogic that the left could be concerned about money when for years they’ve had their unions and in the last six years they’ve had their interest groups like MoveOn.org that have no accountability,” Gregg said.
“So now they’re complaining that suddenly people who have a different philosophy have access to resources that weren’t available before because the Supreme Court has correctly has ruled that without resources you defend your constitutional right to speech,” he continued.
“It’s just so duplicitous that it’s almost, it’s obscene to be making those arguments considering what they’ve done,” he added
Gregg said it’s “ridiculous” to think there is more partisanship than other points in our nation’s history.
“I came in on Tip O’Neill. A squirrel on the front lawn had more status than a Republican in the House. There was no acknowledgement that there was a Republican party in the House of Representatives when Tip O’Neill was the Speaker,” he said.
But he did allow that the current media environment has created a new political landscape.
“The fringe, people who in the past didn’t have a megaphone and now have a massive megaphone called the blogosphere. So you have this shouting going on that’s dominating everything. Just trying to out shout each other. And it gets amplified by the 24/7 news cycle and the blogosphere,” Gregg said.