Transcript for Roundtable I: Fiscal Cliff Fallout
roundtable time now. George will is off. Glad to have cokie roberts here. Also dan senor. Steve rattner and two congressmen, congressman tom cole of oklahoma, also a member of the republican leadership, and keith ellison, chair of the progressive caucus. Cokie, tim geithner said they're making progress. Congressman cole does, too. I want to hear that. But it hasn't been a very encouraging week for people who think that the fiscal cliff is not something that we want to go over and I think that the president's proposal that was put on the table was something that republicans were not going to accept, even close to accept, so it had the air of bizarre. You know, bargaining. But put a really high price out there so that when you start the negotiating -- when will the real negotiating begin? Congressman cole? I want to thank the president and secretary geithner for reuniting and re-energizing the republican caucus. Because that offer -- they must think that john boehner is santa claus, because it was a christmas wish list, it wasn't a real proposal. At the end of the day, do i think we'll arrive at a deal? I do. But you heard secretary geithner right there, and I want to get congressman ellison in this as well. They're not going to come forward with anything new right now? I don't know -- there's a little bit of chicken going on here in terms of gamesmanship. We'll have a lot of discussion. I don't think we need to put a formal proposal out on the table. Speaker's already said that revenue is on the table. He has an idea about how to get there in terms of not raising rates but finding it in other ways in terms of tax code reforms. That's a adorable thing. Beyond that, you know, we'll wait and see how the negotiations go. We heard from secretary geithner, congressman ellison, social security for now is off the table in these negotiations but talking about significance cuts in medicare, can your caucus accept those? I was meeting with seniors in my district just yesterday, they're very worried. We have seniors already paying more than they can afford for medications. Already worried about that. I'm not going to tell them they're going to do less. While we're not going to raise taxes on the top 2 .. That's just ridiculous. You know, I think -- I think tom's right. We'll probably end up with some kind of a deal. But not on the backs of the most vulnerable people. Dan senor, that conflicts with a lot of the reporting that I had on capitol hill. You saw significant numbers of republicans and democrats more willing to accept the idea of going over the cliff at least for a few days? Yeah, I think, as one republican house member said to me, good lesson in negotiating is not make your opening offer one of humiliation. I think there's a sense now, republicans I have spoken to, particularly in the leadership, have said, look, if we go over the cliff, we're going to get blamed. "The view" is shifting a little bit now, where there's a sense that, if president obama goes into his second term and poisons the environment so much that he can't get a deal and we go over the cliff it's going to be so toxic for year two, year three and year four. The president has to worry about his legacy. Even though republicans might get blamed, this whole idea of the president bringing this country together, democrats have to be wary of. Isn't it? I don't see it that way at all. Look, the president has made a proposal. It may not be what everyone likes. I don't think it was an outrageous proposal. It's consistent with everything he said before. It's a proposal, a real proposal. The republicans have put nothing on the table. If we go over the cliff, it's not at all clear to the american people are going to blame the president as opposed to a party. The blame is real dispiriting because the idea of who's going to get the blame instead of figuring out how to keep it from happening is exactly what drives voters nuts. They might have to be aware of who's going to get the blame before they come to a deal. One proposal came, from your congressman cole, you're saying accept part of president's proposal, pass right now, an extension of the tax cuts for 98% for americans and then fight over the rest later. What speaker boehner said about that. I told tom earlier in our conference meeting, you're not going to grow the economy if you raise tax rates on the top two rates. It will hurt small businesses it will hurt your economy, that's why this is not the right approach. I saw he disagreed. Other republicans coming forward including bill kristol -- but, look, I actually do believe that we should take things where we agree with the president and we do agree on this and take them off the table one at a time. This will actually strengthen our position in the course of negotiations. The president hasn't been very specific. Entitlement reforms and it leaves us free to still fight to keep rates constant. Try to reach revenue in another way. At the end of the day, again, these rates hit every single american at the end of the month. Not as if congress has to do something to keep that from happening. I mean -- politically smart move. Dan would say that. 98% of americans then know that their taxes aren't going to go up in january. Their payroll taxes might. Their income taxes are not. And that is huge. And the truth is, hat I'm hearing, the top 2% better start making financial plans. There's no question about that. What's wrong with this proposal? Look, there are parts of this proposals are reasonable. The bigger problem here is, if the president is sticking to this position, at least for the time being that he outlined last week, would be the equivalent of the republicans saying we want the ryan budget, we want marginal tax rates cut across the board 20%. I'll tell you, steve, I think he has dug in, he spent more time on the phone this week from what I understand with steve israel, chairman of the democrat chair than he did with john boehner. Tell me what he's telling those hard left groups about his position and how he can walk back to something more reasonable like something that tom's for. Given what he's saying with these hard left groups. He's trying to do something different than he's done before. Which is take his message outside the beltway, outside of capitol hill, and try to bring it to the people. I'm totally in favor of that. Look, in the negotiations, speaker boehner was reportedly offered revenue. The presidents asked for $1.6 trillion in revenue. There's a bid. There's an ask. Let me bring that to congressman ellison, we started to see the beginnings of a counteroffer from mitch McCONNELL. He offered three things. He said that he's gradual increase in the eligibility age for medicare. Some adjustments to social security cola. I believe those are all nonstarters to you and the progressive caucus. Those would be a problem because raising rates and increasing eligibility age is going to hurt people across income scales. Particularly low income seniors and people like that. That wouldn't work for us. The president has been open to some of that before. 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. If we find cuts that don't result in cuts 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. 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. Remember,, he won with fewer voters. The republican performance was better than it was four years ago. The reality is, nobody can look at this budget and think that if you don't reform entitlements you can balance it. But it's a matter of where do you balance it? Do you balance it on the backs on the people who can least afford it? But to get a deal, we have a divided government. The president won. We can argue about whether it's a mandate. There will have to be compromise. 16 trillion debt. Trillion a year deficit. You're not going to solve all that with tax increases and cutting discretionary programs. We have to fix the intitlement programs. We can talk about how we do it. You have to be specific, steve. Because when you talk about fixing the entitlement programs, we're clear, social security is off the table. What do you mean? What secretary geithner said is on a separate process. We're talking about between now and 30 days from now. 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. Here's an entitlement idea, a way to help support medicare, let them dictate price -- drug prices. Steve, this, to me, is a much more interesting debate than tom and dan. Because I think the president has done exactly what he's done in the past in this negotiating. He's not grinding it out with speaker boehner. He's out giving speeches, rallying his base. Meeting with groups like moveon.Org. How will he be able to walk back from the position he's taken? With the base of your conference feel like he caved. The president just won this historic re-election, how can he walk back now after he won re-election from this position? You know, I think that he's got the wind at his back. The american people want him to stand up for these essential programs. Now, look, american people do want to see cost containment. We can do that in ways that doesn't result in cuts to beneficiaries. We'll have to take a break. Right now, lot more roundtable ahead. What's ahead for susan rice? Mitt romney's team takes on the
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