Recently I reached out to Rick May, the Staff Director of the U.S. House Budget Committee from 1993-1997, to ask him about his experience with then Chairman John Kasich as they worked to formulate a balanced budget.
His first-hand accounts are a fantastic read and it’s my pleasure to share with you the results of this interview in a series running this week.
And now, part 4…
3BP: During negotiations, what was Kasich’s reputation from those across the aisle?
Rick May: John was respected very much by the Democrats in Congress and he had many personal/professional friendships on that side of the aisle. When John was Chairman of the House Budget Committee, John also had a well-earned reputation for treating the minority party very fair and he worked to keep the partisanship during House Budget Committee hearings to a minimum. He also had a successful track record in working with Democrats on coming up with solid public policy ideas that could generate bipartisan support.
For example, John teamed with Rep. Tim Penny (D-Minnesota) on the Penny-Kasich budget alternative in late 1993 or early 1994 that provided a realistic proposal to cut spending and also achieve nearly as much deficit reduction as the tax increases the Clinton White House had forced Congress to enact in 1993 — those tax increases in 1993 were at the time one of the largest tax increases in our nation’s history. John and Tim Penny then recruited other Republican and Democratic members from the House. Together, this group put together an outstanding proposal that provided real spending cuts and significant deficit reduction. The salient point, however, of the Penny-Kasich effort was that it showed that both Republicans and Democrats could work together and agree upon a real plan to cut spending and that tax increases were not necessary. While this plan was ultimately defeated in the House by a very close vote, it took all of the political muscle and power of both the House Democratic leadership (Speaker Tom Foley (D-WA), Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO), and others) and the Clinton White House to muster the votes to defeat it.
But the end result was also that John Kasich not only had the budget expertise to come up with a realistic budget plan (he had done something similar several times during his House career), but more important, it showed that John could work with Democrats to achieve a common goal.
There were also cases where John worked very well with House Democrats as he and Tim Penny teamed up with Rep. Charlie Stenholm (D-TX) (one of the original Blue Dogs) on proposing numerous budget process reforms (including a line-item veto or enhanced rescission authority) and many of these bipartisan proposals did pass the House.
John showed time and time again that he could work with both political parties and many House Democratic members took notice whenever he made a budget proposal or made a budget speech on the House floor. The House members on both sides of aisle knew that John spoke from the heart and they knew that John was knowledgeable about all aspects of the federal budget. This gained him respectability and credibility from both sides.