Transcript: 'This Week' Economic Debate

With regard to budgeting, I think Claire's right. At least -- remember Vice President Cheney, George, said deficits didn't matter? And they pretty quickly took the largest budget surplus in history and turned it into the largest deficit. Now we have a president who wants to get the deficit down.

I think we need to go through a progression on health care, first, look for ways to -- to economize within the health care system. By just looking at the way we practice medicine in different parts of the country, there's a lot of money to be saved. That's number one.

Secondly, maybe there are some other parts of the budget that we can economize to help pay for some of this. That's why I'm opposing the omnibus, $250 billion over 10 years? That's real money by just tightening our belts for one year.

And then, finally, the issue of revenues may have to be addressed, but I think you have to do that last, not first. And the question is, do we extend with additional tax cuts to the most affluent among us? Perhaps that's something that has to be...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you said do it last, not first. If you don't have the reserve fund in there, can you really make the upfront investments you need to make in health care, for example, building on what the president did in the stimulus package on information technology?

BAYH: By that, George, I mean, the president was right to put that issue on the table, but I think we as Congress first have to see what else can be done to get the revenue and then only raise the issue of whether you raise taxes last, not first.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What can you and your Republicans colleagues sign on to here?

SHELBY: Well, I -- I think that what we've got to do is straighten up the economy first. We've got to go to banking. That will help. If we take on all these programs, this country is going to be in one heck of an economic mess.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So put off any discussion of health care this year?

(CROSSTALK)

SHELBY: Well, I think we can discuss it, but how are we going to fund it?

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're for no -- no revenue increase? The president says he's not going to have the revenue increases until 2011, but you're saying not even debate it now?

SHELBY: Well, I think we're going to debate it. We debate it every day. But we should be careful in what we're doing. Let's do not push this economy and the jobs losses even further down.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How -- how do you address this question, Senator McCaskill, of scale -- and both Mr. Donohue and Senator Shelby have talked about -- and -- and priorities? You say the president didn't choose to put himself in this position, but is it -- is it appropriate at this point to scale back and say, "First things first. Let's focus on the banks. Let's focus on this job situation"?

MCCASKILL: I think the American people fundamentally understand that he's focusing on the economy first and foremost. I think there is some confusion. You know, things happen quickly. Obviously, the TARP situation was an emergency and it was everyone -- frankly, it was a remarkable moment when I saw the candidates for both parties come together on that, realizing we had a crisis of liquidity that -- and, you know, I think he's going to continue to focus on the economy.

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