'This Week' Transcript: Stephanie Cutter and Kevin Madden

TOOMEY: That's what we said. We were united on that. They came back and said, OK. We have a plan. Give us a $1 trillion tax increase, we'll do $1 trillion in spending cuts. None of them structural in the design of the program, on the health care side. It was ratcheting down reimbursement to health care providers. It would not have solved the problem. We certainly weren't going to do that.

I put a different framework on the table late in the discussions when we nearly out of time and said, OK. How about we meet you halfway on the revenue side? They thought about it a little bit and said, nah, we need that trillion-dollar tax cut.


TAPPER: Speaking of running out of time, we have to take a quick break, but we'll back in just 60 seconds with the answers to the two big questions, is there the political will in Washington to actually get anything done? And if not, is this nation headed for bankruptcy?


Corrected Roundtable Two Transcript

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must face a time of national austerity, hard choices are necessary.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES For decades, we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children's future. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political and economic upheavals.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our funds are low. We have a deficit to bring down.

We have more will than wallet, but will is what we need.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we don't act now, you and I might not even recognize this government 10 years from now.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unrestrained government spending is a dangerous road to deficits. So we must take a different path.


TAPPER: And as you heard right there, presidents have been warning for decades of the dangers of this country's debt and deficits. So in some senses, this debate we're having today is nothing new. But the big question, is this time different? Is this the year we finally start to get our nation's finances in order?

Kim, is there the political will in Washington to get something done this year? And if not, are we headed for bankruptcy?

STRASSEL: I don't know if there is with this current president, and you know, with all respect to our two members of Congress here, in the history of Congress, has there ever been an example of Congress coming to ever (ph), make this some gigantic decision without a president leading them along the way and pushing them to do it?

And for whatever reason, this is not Barack Obama's style. We have seen the last few years, instead he waits until we're at crisis period; we saw it when the tax cuts were about to expire the first time.

We saw it again with the debt ceiling debate last year. And finally, swoops in at the very end, when there's no more time any more. Maybe when we get through this election and this fiscal cliff is upon us, maybe at that point, he will engage and do something. But I don't see anything happening before them.

TAPPER: Austan, I suspect that you have a different take.

GOOLSBEE: Yes, I don't think that's a particular fair characterization. I think you've seen a lot of hostage-taking by the other side. I would say, yes, I'm somewhat pessimistic before the election or even in the lame duck that Congress will be able to do something.

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