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Public Statements

NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript

Interview

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MR. GREGORY: Joining me now, a member of the Senate Finance Committee and the so-called Gang of Six negotiator, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Senator, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R-OK): Good morning. How are you?

MR. GREGORY: I'm fine. I want to get your reaction to what you heard from Bill Daley here from the White House this morning, which is the president will not sign a deal that results in only a temporary increase of the debt limit. He wants to see something that gets us through 2013.

SEN. COBURN: Well, first of all I think that's a ridiculous position because that's what he's going to get presented with. That's the compromise way through that's going to build the compromise. David, everybody's talking about the, the symptoms of our problem instead of the real disease. The government's twice the size it was 10 years ago. It's 30 percent bigger than it was when President Obama became president. The problem is that we're spending way too much money, and, and it's not hard to cut it without hurting entitlement benefits. But we don't have anybody that wants to do that without getting a tax increase.

MR. GREGORY: Well, all right, well, I want to get to taxes in just a minute. But I want to talk about the here and now, which is a failed political system at the moment, and what you heard from Mr. Daley, very difficult days in the financial markets and a lack of confidence around the world at the United States' credit worthiness and its ability to reach some kind of consensus. Does that not have to create a breakthrough along the lines of what the president is talking about? Cuts that are large enough and an extension of the debt ceiling that's long enough to say to the markets, you know, "You can count on the United States."

SEN. COBURN: I don't agree with that because, if you give an extension of $2.4 trillion to this president and this administration, which is--has policies that have actually hurt our recovery, I think you actually hurt the possibility of keeping our AAA rating without making the fundamental changes that have to come to this government. Unless you reform entitlements and unless you get rid of the waste and duplication--there's, there's $2 trillion over 10 years in duplication and fraud in the federal government before you even talk about entitlement programs. You mentioned the FAA program with Mr. Daley. You know what's holding up the FAA program? Is essential air services where the American people are paying $1,000 a ticket in subsidy to people that are riding from airports with six passengers on a plane when they could drive an hour and a half and get an airplane, and we wouldn't be paying the $1,000. So it's continued waste and duplication in the federal government and they won't approve the FAA because they continue to want to subsidize irresponsible and wasteful behavior.

MR. GREGORY: Is it responsible to get to a point where we pass the August 2 deadline and risk default?

SEN. COBURN: I don't think so. I think we'll get there, and I think the president--I understand why they're saying they won't sign a short term, but I think they won't have any choice, and I think that's the only answer right now. I would make the other point, the deficit commission put out a pretty good plan. It was dead-panned by this administration. Had they come alongside, started supporting that long time ago, we wouldn't be where we are today. And that was the president's commission. He had 11 members out of the 18--60 percent--that supported that and it got absolute cold shoulder from the administration.

MR. GREGORY: I want to ask...

SEN. COBURN: So for them to come back now and to say, to use that, when they rejected it out of hand, did not embrace their own commission. So it's not intellectually honest to say that that was one of the steps, because they didn't want it because it had entitlement reform in it.

MR. GREGORY: Let, let me get to the heart of the matter, you have been outspoken on the issue of taxes. You believe in lower taxes, certainly as a matter of principle as a conservative, but you've also talked about the need for compromise. That is not something that's happened among conservatives on Capitol Hill and among the leadership. This is how The New York Times editorialized about it on Saturday morning. "The Party That Can't Say Yes," it writes, "In the end, it was Mr. Boehner who torpedoed the talks. He said Friday evening that he and the president had come close to agreeing on $800 billion of tax--of revenue increases"--tax hikes--"but could not stomach another $400 billion the White House wanted to raise through extending tax loopholes and deductions. So on the eve of economic calamity, the Republicans killed an overly generous deal largely over a paltry $400 billion in deductions. Mr. Obama was willing to take considerable heat from his liberal critics over the deal, and the Republicans were not willing to do a thing to anger their Tea Party base." What do you say to that?

SEN. COBURN: Well, I'd say a couple of things. Number one is nobody in America has actually seen a plan from this administration put on paper for us to visualize and to actually look at what they were willing to give up. So we don't know what that, what that is. There's no question there's waste in the tax credits that are in the code. There's no question there's favors for individuals in the code that ought to be eliminated. And we can do that, but you ought to do that as you lower the rates because our biggest problem isn't that taxes are too low, it's that the government interference and the oppressive nature of our government on our economy is lessening the economy's response. So I, I would vote for a compromise, as I did in the deficit commission, as I worked with the guys in the Gang of Six, provided you get significant changes to the real problems that is facing us, which is waste and the duplication and the fraud in the federal government programs; and number two, reforming the entitlements. Mr. Daley also said that they were going to oppose anything that would fundamentally change Medicare. Well, Medicare is belly-up. Anybody that's on Medicare today, I want to tell you, in five years, it's going to have to change.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

SEN. COBURN: We cannot borrow the money to keep it going the way it is today.

MR. GREGORY: All right. Senator, final...

SEN. COBURN: So people need to know that, rather than to take a false assumption that you won't change something.

MR. GREGORY: Final question, what is your message to those in the tea party caucus in the House about tax increases and what needs to be done to get a deal?

SEN. COBURN: Well, ideally, we would not have tax increases. But to get a deal, if we eliminated ethanol blending tax credits, wind energy tax credits, tons of other tax credits, then we could get a deal and what that would not do is impact the average American, would not raise rates. We should use that money to lower rates and--but with that, get significant fundamental entitlement reform and discretionary spending reform.

MR. GREGORY: All right. We're going to leave it there. Senator Coburn, thank you very much.

SEN. COBURN: Glad to be with you.

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