President Obama on 'Common Sense Caucus' in GOP

The president talks with George Stephanopoulos about budget battle, North Korea and more.
6:19 | 03/13/13

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Transcript for President Obama on 'Common Sense Caucus' in GOP
interview with president obama. We sat down yesterday afternoon. A packed day filled with news on the pope, north korea and cyberattacks and with the president just back from a budget m capitol hill i began by asking how he would overcome republican opposition to the new taxes by going around gop leaders or rolling right over them. I don't think it's to break or go around them. I think it is to identify what i call the commonsense ca, which says we can do sensible deficit reduction with a combination of entitlement reform, some judicious spending cuts, closing some tax loopholes that nobody ry defends on their own and t what I've been talking about for the last two years. That commonsense caucus on the republican side, lindsey graham, kly ayotte, other senate republicans say you see a lot more entitlement reform from you before they can sign on to any new revenues like putting -- raising the medicare eligibility age back on the table. Is that back on the table? Well, one of the things, you know, that I've discovered in some of these dinners, which is useful, people don't actually know what I proposed and it's a lot easier to have a conversation when there's something specific. Even those who have seen your plans say they need to s more. I understand which at some point I take myself out of this. What I'm trying to do is create an atmosphere where democrats and republicans can go ahead, get together and try to get something done but ultimately it may be that the differences are just too wide. If their position is we can't do any revenue, or we can only do revenue if we got medicare or got social security or got medicaid, if that's the position, then we're probably not going to be able to get a deal. Paul ryan today put forward his budget and he says he's challenging you to come forward with a budget that reaches balance. Are you going to do that. No, we're not going to budget t -- balance the budget in ten years because if you look at what he does is you have to voucherize medicare, you have to slash deeply into programs like medicaid. My goal is not to chase a balanced budget just for the sake of balance. My goal is how do we grow the economy, put people back to work and if we do that, we're going to be bringing in more revenue. If we've controlled spending and we've got a smart entitlement manager, then potentially what you have is balance but it's not balance on the backs of, you know, the poor, the elderly, students who need student loan, family who've got disabled kids. You've been taking a lot of heat for the cancellation of the white house tours. The secret service says it costs $74,000 a week. Was canceling them really necessary? I have to say this was not a decision that went up to the white house but what the secret service explained to us was that they're going to have to furlough some folks, what furloughs mean is people lose a day of work and a day of pay, and, you know, the question for them is, you know, how deeply do they have to furlough their staff and is it worth it to make sure that we got white house tours if it means you got a whole bunch of families depending on a paycheck who are seeing a 5% or 10% reduction in their pay. Well, what I'm asking them is are there ways, for example, for us to accommodate school groups, you know, who may have traveled here withome bake sales, can we make sure that kids potentially can still come to tour? Your director of national intelligence james clapper told capitol hill today for the first time that north korea nuclear weapons and missiles pose a serious threat to the united states so can north korea now make good on its threat to hit the united states? They probably can't but we don't like margin of error, right, when it comes to -- it's that close. Well, it's nott close. Now, what we've done is we've made sure we have defensive measures to prevent any attacks on the homeland and we're not anticipating any of that. Let me stay in the region because james clapper also talked about cyberattacks, put that at the top of his list of threats to the united states. A couple of weeks ago the chairman of the house intelligence committee mike rogers said we're at war with china because of their cyberespionage. They're winning that war and their government and military is behind it. Do you believe that? Well, I think, you know, always have to be careful about war analogies, what it is absolutely true is that we have seen a steady ramping up of cybersecurity threats, some are state sponsored. Some are just sponsored by criminals. But some are state sponsored. Absolutely, and this is why I've taken some very aggressive executive actions but we need congress to act. We made very clear to china and some other state actors that, you know, we expect them to follow international norms and abide by international rules and we'll have some pretty tough talk with them. One more question. While we're here a lot of eyes on rome as the cardinals prepare to pick a new pope and for the first time some american cardinals on the list. What I wanted to ask you about there seems to be some concern among catholics there shouldn't be an american pope because that pope would be too tied to the united states government. What do think of that. It seems to me an american pope would preside just as effectively as a polish pope or an italian pope or a guatemalan pope. And not take orders from you. I don't know if you have checked lately but they don't seem to be taking orders from me. My hope is based on what I know about the catholic church and the terrific work that they've done around the world and certainly in this country, you know, helping those would are less fortunate is that you have a pope who sustains and maintains what I consider the central message of the gospel and we treat everybody as children of god and that we love them the way jesus christ taught us to love them. We'll all be watching for the white smoke. Absolutely. Thank you. Thank you. And you can see more of my interview with president obama tonight on "nightline." Very direct. He was and maybe those white house tours coming back at least for kids. That would -- with spring break coming up. Something you did talk with the

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