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Cover Story: John Spratt - Power Broker

Published: Dec. 5, 2008 at 11:54 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 12, 2008 at 11:48 PM EST
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ROCK HILL, SC (WBTV) - A lot of energy is being put into getting the country back on its feet.  In our Cover Story, a man certain to play a big role in any deals in Congress and he's from our area.  PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson reports.

Last week when he rolled out his economic team called "Team Obama" one absent but sure to have a big influence on whether Obama's economic policies go forward is a humble 13-term congressman from our area.

The chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, South Carolina Representative John Spratt.

"I'm happy that I was spared an agonizing decision. I'm content to be doing what I'm doing."

For weeks it was rumored that Spatt would be Obama's pick as White House Budget Director, taking advantage of Spratt's expertise as a former banker and long-time budget-man in the House of Representatives.

Obama instead went with Peter Orszag, a man whom Spratt ironically helped hire as director of the Congressional Budget Office.

Says Rep. Spratt, "I think the Obama team is going to be a bit like the New Deal again. He's bringing lots of different people into government. He's going to have as he put it-- a team of rivals like Lincoln and I think that's going to be an exciting thing to watch."

But concerning to him-- the huge amount of spending Obama's proposing.. to shock the economy back to life.

Infrastructure spending.. on things like roads and bridges.. putting people to work.. but getting America deeper in debt.

Spratt's for the stimulus packages, but acknowledges they could effectively run up the federal deficit.. to a record 700 billion dollars maybe higher.

"I think the bottom line of it's going to shock all of us," he says.

It was just ten years ago-- in 1998.. Spratt won the Deficit Hawk Award.. for helping balance the federal budget.. the first time in 30 years.. an accomplishment Spratt's most proud of.

"We as Democrats want to see him.. we want to see the country succeed. If he succeeds and we'll be supporting him.. unless he gets too far out.. in which case we'll have to reign him in."

Spratt says voters in his Fifth Congressional District.. which covers 14 counties in the northern tier of South Carolina.. have concerns about the federal government bailing out Wall Street, the banks and maybe Detroit.. but he believes the cost of doing nothing would be far greater.

He says, "I think we cannot turn out backs on this situation.. even if we don't know for certain. We simply cannot walk away from it because the consequences would be catastrophic."

He says that's what the Fed did in the 1930s.. held onto money.  It led to the Great Depression, which lasted a decade.