NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF "YOUR WORLD": Well, the president today calling it a mistake to borrow $700 billion bucks to make the tax cuts permanent for the wealthy. He says we simply can't afford it.
Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn wonders why affording anything has suddenly become an issue for the big guy.
Senator, good to have you. The deficit a newfound religion, I guess, for a lot of Democrats, leading with the president. What do you make of that?
SEN. TOM COBURN R-OKLA.: Well, I am -- you know, I am not going to comment on whether they're a Johnny-come-lately or not.
But facts are that in front of our country is a tremendous problem that we have to make very difficult decisions about. And it is about time we start making them.
CAVUTO: What they are saying, I think, reading in between the lines, Senator, is that if we don't force this issue of raising the taxes on the upper income now, we'll never be able to, because even a two-year extension means we will be at another election period. Republicans will be rolling the dice on getting a Republican elected president, and they don't mean what they say, forcing the issue.
So, even though we're seeing these -- Manchin coming in, along with Coons, to be sworn in as Senate colleagues of yours today, and they agree with you that now is not the time to be raising taxes on anyone, what do you think comes of this?
COBURN: Well, first of all, I don't think that there is a time that we should be raising taxes on anybody over the next 10 or 15 years, until we have downsized the federal government and eliminated all the waste, fraud, abuse, inefficiency, and duplication.
Neil, it is just unbelievable the amount of stupid programs that are not effective that are duplicative of one another, the amount of things that we are doing that we have no business doing. If, in fact, we looked at it like the average American family would look at it, there wouldn't be any need for tax increases, and we would eliminate the spending that is not effective and not cost-effective and also not constitutional.
CAVUTO: Senator, we're just watching two new colleagues of yours who have been sworn in just now. They're filling vacated positions by, of course, Vice President Joe Biden in Delaware. Chris Coons gets that job. West Virginia Governor, former Governor Manchin becomes the new senator from the state of Delaware[sic].
Both, as I said, sir, are with you on this not raising taxes on anyone just yet, although they do believe that, eventually, the rich should pay more in taxes.
Where do you think this goes, whether it's two years or not, that, eventually, taxes are going up, at the very least, on the rich?
COBURN: Well, I think it depends on what the American people want from their government.
If you want us consuming 25 percent of the GDP at the federal level, then we're going to raise taxes. But historically we have been at 17 percent to 19 percent. And we ought to get back to that. And we ought to do it by cutting programs and cutting benefits that we -- that were not earned by a lot of people.
For example, we have one in 19 people in this country presently collecting disability insurance. Well, one in 19 people in this country aren't disabled. But we have got a program that is designed to be defrauded. So, we have tons of people getting a check from all the rest of us that refuse to carry their own load.
So, it is just a matter of what people want. I think the people have spoken in this last election. They want a slimmed-down role of the federal government. They want us to live within our means. And the last thing on their minds is tax increases. And I am not willing to say we ought to get taxed, until we get the grand bargain that's going to put government back in the proper role, as envisioned by our founders.
CAVUTO: Senator, I had your Oklahoma colleague Inhofe on this very show last week, Friday, and he was supporting the fairness of earmarks, and that they are sort of in our constitutional past, they're a long and storied part of our history, and that they do have a place.
Nevertheless, Mitch McConnell, your Republican leader in the Senate, is saying that he is open to a moratorium. I don't know how long they would last on this, but what do you make of that and whether the sands are shifting here?
COBURN: Well, I think the American people want the sands to shift; a vast majority of Americans know that earmarks are the things that grease things to get things done that are not necessarily constitutional or not necessarily a priority.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to help your state. But when your focus is on the parochial, rather than the national, you get in the kind of trouble that we're in. This country worked really well for 200 years without earmarks, Neil. We didn't have earmarks.
And what happened -- and every time somebody tried to do something about it, they got shouted down from the rafters by members of -- other members of the Congress, saying, you are thinking about your state, not our country.
And I think -- you know, I -- I -- my senior senator is a wonderful senator, and he represents Oklahoma fantastically. We just have a disagreement on this, because I think we can make sure the money is spent right by doing the proper oversight and...
CAVUTO: Then why isn't anyone saying, Senator, permanently get rid of them? I hear these moratoriums, which is like a temporary deal. Why not permanent?
COBURN: Listen, I'm happy to get a moratorium. I've been fighting this for six years. I've been fighting it all the time I was in the Congress, in the House.
COBURN: I'm happy to get a moratorium. The American people are way ahead of Congress and Washington, as usual. They know this is not something they want having done, even if it affects them individually.
Remember, most earmarks are not competitively bid. So, there's a lot of problems with earmarks, besides the fact that we focus on the parochial benefit.
CAVUTO: You're right.
And, by the way, you were way ahead of this in your party and outside your party.
Senator Coburn, thank you very much.
COBURN: Neil, good to be with you.
CAVUTO: Same here.