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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript

Interview

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CROWLEY: Joining me now from New York is Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner. Congressman, thank you as well for joining us.

Let me just pick up on this debt question, because it does sound to me as though there will be some Republicans who are going to say we want either more spending cuts or a balanced budget amendment in order to agree to raising the debt ceiling.

Let me turn this around to you and say, are there spending cuts? Would you agree to some number of spending cuts in order to get this debt ceiling raised?

WEINER: Of course. I think that we need to have conversations about how we reduce spending. We also need to have a conversation about how we get some equality into our tax code again. You know, Warren Buffett pays only 16 percent in taxes when the top 1 percent makes as much now as the bottom 50 percent. We have a huge sense of income inequality that has been reinforced by the tax code. But I think everything should be on the table.

The difference is that when the president and I say let's put everything on the table, we really mean it. When people like Senator Paul say it, they just mean the narrow slice of our budget which is nondefense and some defense discretionary funding.

CROWLEY: Well, he just said he thinks there ought to be big cuts in the Defense Department. That's something you could agree with, I would assume.

WEINER: Yeah. But I think we need to look at the entire totality of the money coming in, the money going out. If we really care about debt, we have to be concerned about the idea that frankly over the last 10 years or so, we've given enormous tax cuts that have cost the Treasury a lot of money, close to $1 trillion. And I think that that's cause for concern.

CROWLEY: The truth is when the president had two houses of Congress that he controlled -- Democrats controlled -- which was last year, he couldn't get those tax rollbacks on the rich. He had to go ahead and continue those tax cuts on the rich.

CROWLEY: So the chances, it seems to me, that you're going to get any kind of tax roll-back on the wealthy, $250,000 or above, are pretty slim. Would you agree with that?

WEINER: No. The president said in his speech this week that he's not going to continue them any further. I frankly...

CROWLEY: But he said that before.

WEINER: I frankly think it was a mistake, and I've said on your show that I think it was a mistake that we extended them. But now going forward he said very clearly in a speech that I think laid out for the first time the two sides in this debate here that he's not going to continue with those. And I don't think we should.

I don't think very many Americans can justify at this point a situation where people who average $340 million wind up only paying 15 or 16 percent in taxes. That has to be changed.

CROWLEY: I want to play you something that David Plouffe, as you know, senior White House adviser, he used to be campaign manager for President Obama, I had read to him one of your tweets last week in which you worried that the 2011 budget felt a lot like the tax deal that you're talking about and that you just -- you worried about it.

And I asked him to say something reassuring to you about the 2011 budget. And here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID PLOUFFE, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I don't really have any interesting in reassuring Anthony Weiner. I think what I want to do is reassure the American people. I think the American people think that tax agreement was the absolute right thing to do and it has been a huge contributor to the economic growth we've had.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Does that sound like a White House to you that regrets keeping those tax cuts in place for the rich?

WEINER: Listen, I like David Plouffe and I hope that he's successful. He and I are going to work together to make sure that President Obama has a second term. This isn't about me or about him. The president of the United States today said that -- or this week said it was wrong and unconscionable to continue those tax cuts. I take him at his word.

I think the speech he gave this week laid out a pretty good foundation for us getting our economy back on track. Look, I would like there to be no taxes. I would like none of my constituents to have to pay taxes either. But for the middle class and those struggling to make it, their incomes have been flat, their burden has been going up by the very well-to-do who, frankly, had a very good run here.

In all, it is a matter of fairness. But as far as what David Plouffe thinks or what I think, the most important thing is what the president said this week, which is those tax cuts won't be continued.

CROWLEY: You sound to me -- you know, one of the things that was said about the president's speech this week, which was very, very tough on the Republican budget proposal and long-term debt reduction plan, that so much of that speech was aimed precisely as lawmakers like you, constituents like you considered left of center, because the president believes that -- and the White House political operation knows that the left has been very unhappy with some of the things the president has done.

You sound to me reassured. Are you now feeling that the president -- the criticism has been that he gives up too much, too soon, and you think that president is gone now, that he's a tough dealer?

WEINER: So in the last question you said David Plouffe doesn't want to reassure me and now the president was trying to reassure me? Look, this wasn't about me. And I've got to tell you something, I can test the idea the president's speech was that tough. You know, there used to be an expression that Harry Truman -- "give 'em hell, Harry." And he used to say, I'm not giving them hell, I'm just telling the truth and it sounds like hell.

The president laid out a real good critique about the Ryan plan and what we Democrats believe. We believe in Medicare. We believe in Social Security. We believe in equality and standing up for the middle class. The president gave a spot-on speech not just to me or to any element of our party, but to the nation. He showed that he's going to be a national leader in this discussion. And if they want to have a contest of ideas, they can't expect that the president's going to roll over to their bad ones.

CROWLEY: Let me read you something that President Obama told the Associated Press on Friday, talking about the debt ceiling in the upcoming battle for that. "I think he," meaning Speaker Boehner, "is absolutely right that increasing the debt ceiling is not going to happen without some spending cuts."

Now the White House kind of walked that back a little and seemed to suggest that he didn't mean exactly that there would be spending cuts attached to the debt ceiling. How do you see this playing out? What are you willing to give up? What is your understanding what the White House is willing to do to get this thing passed? WEINER: Well, I think the debt ceiling should be passed as clean as possible. Let's remember when we talk about the debt that the government holds, a lot of it is to United States citizens, most of it.

Frankly, we borrow from the Social Security trust fund. They get T-bills. If we're going to say to people that own bonds we're not going to pay interest on them, that would be devastating, and frankly the whole notion of full faith and credit. So it would be very bad. The Republicans really have to stop playing politics with this.

All that being said, is we have to have a reasonable conversation. I know debt limits frequently have things attached. I understand that. But I have to tell you, if they wind up holding up things like Medicare, Social Security, these bedrock programs that help people in need, help form the safety net in our country, it is a non-starter, Democrats won't vote for it.

CROWLEY: Congressman Anthony Weiner, thank you so much for joining us today.

WEINER: Thank you, Candy.

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