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Public Statements

CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript

Interview

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BOB SCHIEFFER: And good morning, again. Senator Durbin is in Springfield, Illinois, this morning. Senator Coburn is in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Senator Rubio will be along later in the broadcast. Gentlemen, welcome to all of you. Well, the administration says unless something gets done by August 2nd, the nation will slide into default and the term backed by the full, faith
and credit of the United States, the best guarantee the world has ever known won't mean what it used to mean. And who knows what impact that will have on not just our economy, but economies around the world. So we'll stipulate everyone hopes that it won't happen. But Senator Durbin, have you seen any hope that a deal can be made to avert that? The President
said he was giving everybody thirty-six hours to come up with something, I think the thirty-six hours is up.

SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN (D-Illinois; Majority Whip): Listen, the President has done his job, he called us together. We had six separate meetings. He put about twelve hours of his time in this week, listening patiently to both sides discuss this. And he told us when we left, it's time to roll up your sleeves and work this out between you. The good news is that Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Mitch McConnell are sitting down and working out an approach that we are going to try to tackle this week in the United States Senate. There'll be a debate on the balanced budget amendment, but no one believes there sixty-seven votes for any version of that. And secondly, we're going to be working toward a way to escape the crisis that would come, if we default on America's national debt. These are all good things, but they don't get the big job done. The President said he's committed to a big deal, four trillion over ten years. I am committed to it.

Harry Reid is committed to it. We need some bipartisan buy in here and I think we can do it.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you, Senator Durbin. That begs the question. You said you're going to spend this week debating a balanced budget amendment that everybody knows has no chance of passing. So why are you wasting time debating that?

SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: Because Republicans are insisting that this debate takes place before anything else will happen. And we live in a divided Congress--the House of Representatives, of course, under Republican control and the Senate fifty-three Democrats, a nominal majority but not the sixty you need for big decisions. So we have to check the boxes. One of them is to engage in this debate. It's interesting to me if you look back in history, Bob,
and you'll remember this when we had the biggest run up in America's debt during the Reagan administration that tripled during that eight-year period of time that was the hottest debate on--about a balanced budget constitutional amendment. We don't need an amendment. We basically need to accept the responsibility to do this job and to lead.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Senator Coburn let me turn to you. The President said this week that if Congress does-- and Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary said on this broadcast last week, if you didn't begin to put the-- the components in place to get something done on a big deal, this week, there wouldn't be time to get it done by August 2nd, when he
says the government is going to run out of money. Is there time? Do you see any hope that anything will get done this week?

SENATOR TOM COBURN: Well, I think-- first of all, I think there is time, without a doubt, to any agreement, even if we come to an agreement next week there is still time to get it done. That's not an excuse for not having the rigorous debate that we should have. Two-- two points I'd make, Bob, is number one, the pr-- President has said he's for four trillion but he won't lay out in detail what he thinks we ought to do. That is number one. Number two is, why in the world isn't there the votes for a balanced budget amendment in the U.S. Senate. That's the question Americans ought to be asking, sixty-seven votes to say we ought to live within our means when
we are borrowing forty-three cents out of every dollar that we are spending today? I think the American people are-- would like to see us do that. That didn't mean we have to make those decisions. Dick Durbin has worked real hard to try to build a consensus around four-- aroundfour trillion dollars and we have to have something at least at four or four and a half trillion
dollars if, in fact, we're going to send a signal that we understand our problems and that we are going to continue to-- to-- to reward those who invest in us by paying the bills. But we has to--have to do it in a way that will allow us to continue to borrow the money until we get out of this problem.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well-- well, Senator Coburn, whether or not we ought to have the votes in the-- in the Senate for a balanced budget amendment when you talk about a constitutional amendment, you're talking about something that could take years to get passed, because it also has to be ratified by the states and all of that.

SENATOR TOM COBURN: Sure.

BOB SCHIEFFER: The problem that we have now is right now, the government is on the verge of running out of money here, and-- and being unable to pay its bills. So why, why shouldn't that part of it be put aside for a while and concentrate on-- on-- on doing something to get this debt
ceiling either raised and the-- and the deficit down now?

SENATOR TOM COBURN: Well, I think the-- the reason why that ought to be concentrated on is we have a terrible track record, Republicans and Democrats alike, of promising to do something to get our spending under control, but yet never doing it. And-- and that's a bipartisan problem. We spend money we don't have on things we don't need. And we continue to do that, because that is in the benefit of the politicians not to, not the benefit of the country.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let me go back to this plan that Senator McConnell is working on, you talked about Senator Durbin. Basically, what this is, it gives-- it would give the President the authority to raise the debt ceiling and then give Congress the right to disapprove it. And it would then be passed over a presidential veto, because we-- the-- the thinking is, that there are not enough votes in the Senate--Republican votes, to override a veto. Isn't that really just a way of raising the debt ceiling by giving the people that don't want to take responsibility for that, just giving them a way out, a cover story? And why is Congress concentrating on-- on cover stories for people? Why don't-- that seems to be kind of a-- the height of hypocrisy to me.

SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: Bob, that's exactly what it is. Let's get it straight. The-- the fact is, what we are voting for in a debt ceiling is to borrow the money to pay for what we have already spent. So those who have voted time and again for us to go to war or stay at war or stay
longer at war have to pay the bills for the men and women in uniform to keep them safe, that's one example. What we need to do is accept responsibility. The President sat us down at the first meeting and said-- went around the table to the eight congressional leaders and said how many
of you are committed to a big deal. I'm talking about four trillion dollars. I am prepared to put on the table things that Democrats hold sacred--Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. Let's look at them honestly. Keep the programs alive. Make sure they have a good strong future. But let's talk about them in honest terms. He went around the table and with only one notable dissent people said we are ready to do the big deal. That's what I think we should be doing right now. Tom and I have been involved in this in the Bowles-Simpson Commission. I have been involved in another group of bipartisan group of senators. We know what we need to do. The
President doesn't need to spell it out; we need to have political will to do it.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator Coburn, you yourself have said and we quoted you at the top of the broadcast that what's missing here is the political courage to take responsibility for these votes. How-- how does the Congress get itself out of the mode that it is in now?

SENATOR TOM COBURN: Well, I think a-- a couple of things. Number one, Senator Durbin talked about. We funded wars, but we've borrowed the money instead of cut spending here. I mean, we have to change that behavior. That is why the balanced budget amendment is so important. We rationalize that we can borrow the money to fund wars rather than make the hard decisions when and we should have, now we're going to make the hard decisions and if we don't make the hard decisions, you know, a two-trillion-dollar package will do nothing to reassure the world economic community that we get it. It has to be, whatever we do. And Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are planning on putting 1.5 trillion dollars worth of spending cuts with it. It doesn't do it. It doesn't send-- it doesn't fix the problem. The problem is, and Dick Durbin is right, unless we get to a level of about four trillion to buy us some time for the second half of this decade, we're-- we're going to have significant interest rates that are going to markedly impact
us. And for every one percent rise in interest rates, it is a hundred and fifty billion dollars that we're going to spend. So unless you do four trillion or five, if you have a one or two percent rise in interest rates, we are actually worse off than had we done nothing.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator, does that mean that you would not support the McConnell plan yourself?

SENATOR TOM COBURN: We rationalize that we can borrow the money to fund wars rather than make the hard decisions when and we should have, now we are going to make the hard decisions and if we don't make the hard decisions, you know, a two trillion-dollar package will do nothing to reassure the world economic community that we get it. It has to be, whatever we do,
and Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are planning on putting I think, 1.5 trillion dollars worth of spending cuts with it, it doesn't do it. It doesn't send-- It doesn't fix the problem. The problem is and Dick Durbin is right, unless we get to a level of about four trillion to buy us some time for the
second half of this decade, we're-- we're going to have significant interest rates that are going to markedly impact us and for every one percent rise in interest rates it is a hundred and fifty billion dollars that we are going to spend. So unless you do four trillion or five, if you have a one or two
percent rise in interest rates, we are actually worse off than had we done nothing.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator, does that mean that you would not support the McConnell plan yourself?

SENATOR TOM COBURN: I-- I think the McConnell plan is-- is more of Washington not taking responsibility, for-- it is a great political plan, it-- it takes the pressure off all of the politicians and-- but allows us to pass a debt limit without making the hard choices that this country has to make. You know, Bob five years from now--

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): So you want-- let me just interrupt.

SENATOR TOM COBURN: --there's not-- okay.

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): So does that mean you won't support it yourself?

SENATOR TOM COBURN: I don't have--I haven't firmly decided, but I am unlikely to support it at this time. I am only going to support something that actually solves the problem. And if we don't solve the problem-- and not the political problem, I don't care about the politics anymore. If it doesn't solve the policy problem for this country, I'm not going to support it.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. You are going to unveil a plan I think tomorrow that you say could save nine trillion dollars over-- over the next ten years. How could there be any hope of something like that passing when so far they're not willing to support plans that call for cutting much less, senator?

SENATOR TOM COBURN: Oh, I-- I wouldn't expect it to-- to-- to pass, but I would expect people to look at it. We've spent thousands of hours going through every program in the federal government. We-- we have nine trillion dollars worth of savings that are achievable over the next ten years. Pick half of them. Half of them solve our problem.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Okay. Well, give me a couple of--

SENATOR TOM COBURN (overlapping): We-- we have--

BOB SCHIEFFER: --give me a couple of points--

SENATOR TOM COBURN (overlapping): Okay.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --that you're going to make. What's the big news in your plan?

SENATOR TOM COBURN: Okay. Okay. Well, we can-- we can save a trillion dollars at the Pentagon over the next ten years, not hard. It's-- it's difficult, but it is not super hard. It-- it's common sense. We-- discretionary spending, we can say over a trillion dollars, other government agencies we can save five hundred billion. We-- we can increase revenues by adjusting the tax code and lowering it. Dick Durbin is very familiar with this. We can and save
over a trillion dollars doing that. We-- we can fix Medicare, we can fix Medicaid. We can fix Social Security, where they are viable and still provide what seniors need and save trillions of dollars. So, we can do-- and if we do all that we'll save a trillion dollars in interest just in the next
nine years.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Okay. Let me ask Senator Durbin.

SENATOR TOM COBURN: So, all I am saying is people just choose, choose what you want.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Senator Durbin let me ask you quickly, do you think they're going to be able to meet this deadline and get something in place by August 2nd?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN (D-Illinois, Senate Majority Whip): Let me tell you when the door is closed and the cameras are off, every leader sitting down with the President said we cannot default on America's debt. If we call into question the full faith and credit of the United States for the first time in our history, interest rates will go up and this recession will get worse. We'll lose
jobs and businesses will fail. Now when you open the room, people, you know, make all kind of statements before the cameras. But I'll tell you this. The bottom line is we can do it. We need to do it on a bipartisan basis. Tom and I are committed to a long-term solution. There are some hard choices here. But let us not default on America's debt for the first time in history and cause this economy to go further downhill.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, gentlemen, thanks both of you for bringing some insight from your respective point of views. We're going to talk to Marco Rubio and get an entirely different take, I suspect, when we come back.

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