'This Week' Transcript: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me bring that to Congressman Ellison, because we started to see the beginnings of a counteroffer this weekend from Senator Mitch McConnell and Republicans. He told the Wall Street Journal, he offered three things, he said we need to see higher Medicare premiums paid by the wealthier, number one. He said a gradual increase in the eligibility age for Medicare and some adjustment to Social Security COLA. I believe those are all nonstarters to you and the progressive caucus.

ELLISON: Right, those would be a problem because raising rates and increasing eligibility age is going to hurt people across income scales, particularly low income senior and people like that. So that wouldn't work for us.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president has been open to some of that before.

ELLISON; Here's the deal, the people of the United States believe that Medicare is an important program. They don't want to see beneficiaries cut. Now if we see cuts that don't results to cut to beneficiaries that's one thing, but we're not going to go after seeing the president win this election, we won the White House, turn right around and undermine the people who helped put us there.

ROBERTS: You know it is interesting. The older voters did vote Republican and Medicare was out there. I mean, Paul Ryan budget was there. And the older voters went for Governor Romney.

COLE: Let's not overstate the President's mandate here either. Remember, he won but he won with fewer voters and a lower percentage than he got last time. And Republican performance was better than it was four years ago. And the reality is, nobody can look at this budget and think if you don't reform entitlements you can balance it. You can give the president every tax increase he's asked for, you'd still be in the hole.

ELLISON: But it's a matter of where do you balance it? Do you balance it on the backs on the people that can least afford it or people who have been doing pretty well over the last...


RATTNER: ...but to get a deal, we have a divided government. The president won. We can argue about whether it's a mandate. The Republicans control the House. They have a blocking position in the Senate. There's going to have to be compromise. We're at $16 trillion of debt. We have a trillion a year deficit. You're not going to solve all that with tax increases, you're not going to solve all that with cutting discretionary programs. We have to fix the entitlement programs. There is no real choice about that.

We can talk about how we do it.

ELLISON: Well, you have got to be specific, though, Steve, because when you start talking about fixing the entitlement program, I mean, we're clear, Social Security is off the table. What do you mean?

RATTNER: No, we're not clear. No, no -- what Secretary Geithner said is on a separate process, but it's going to have to get.


ELLISON: We're talking about between now and 30 days from now.

COLE: But you're talking a presidential responsibility -- look, if only Nixon can go to China, only Obama can fix entitlements. I mean, this is preeminently where a president has to lead and be specific. You can't expect the Republicans to lead on an area that he's dominated in politically.

ELLISON: Here's an entitlement idea, here's a way to help support Medicare, let Medicare Part D negotiate drug prices. That would save...

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