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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript

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MR. GREGORY: Joining me now, the chair of the Democratic National Committee and congresswoman of Florida, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Congresswoman, welcome back.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): Thank you, David, great to be with you.

MR. GREGORY: As we talk about the Republican debates, and the president said this week that he effectively could campaign by just showing these debates, and that he thinks he comes out in favor. Whatever people think about the Republican field, the way they feel about the economy is incredibly pessimistic. Here were the personal views of folks, according to our latest poll, in terms of their own economic situation. And you have 84 percent who think their personal economic situation has either gotten worse or stayed the same. Americans are simply not better off after President Obama's leadership.

REP. SCHULTZ: Well, David, I think also reflective in your poll is a recognition by the American people that President Obama is focused on trying to make sure that the middle class and working families get a fair shake, and that he's fighting really hard to get the economy turned around and has made progress, taking us from bleeding hundreds of thousands of jobs a month to now having 20 straight months of growth in the private sector. And that's why your poll shows that President Obama would defeat any of the candidates in the Republican field right now simply because they understand that he is fighting for the average middle class American to ensure that there's some prosperity for them. And the entire Republican field is focused on helping keep the wind at the backs of the wealthiest, most fortunate Americans.

MR. GREGORY: But, but, Congresswoman, he's, he's had the job. They have been his policies. You concede Americans are not better off after his leadership?

REP. SCHULTZ: Well, what I concede is that we do have a long way to go, but we absolutely have begun to turn things around, and we have made steady, but not quick, enough progress. I mean, before President Obama took office, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month, David. And now we've had 20 straight months of growth in the private sector. We've added 2.8 million jobs in the private sector alone, begun to add, you know, millions of jobs in private--in, in manufacturing. We're starting to focus on making things in America again. That's what we--it needs to be all hands on deck. We need to--President Obama knows and believes that we need to put the partisanship aside, we need Republicans and Democrats to work together. That's what he's pushing so hard for. That's why he proposed and is pushing for the American Jobs Act. And he--and it's why, because he knows we can't wait, that he's signing executive orders to move the economy...

MR. GREGORY: Well...

REP. SCHULTZ: ...forward on his own, since the Republicans won't work with him.

MR. GREGORY: And yet, the--folks are overwhelmingly pessimistic about dealing with the debt situation in this country. This is an exclusive political poll, the full results will be out, will be out tomorrow on politico.com. Sixty-nine percent do not believe that the super committee will reach its goal. If he's so committed to bringing down the nation's debt, why is he not in there driving toward a solution? My own reporting tells me from people involved in those talks that the White House has had much more of a hands off approach to dealing with what the super committee will agree to on reducing the debt.

REP. SCHULTZ: Well, David, the president, as you probably know, called both of the co-chairs, Patty Murray and Jeb Hensarling the other day and made it unequivocally clear that he thinks that they need to come together and, and put forward a solution and do everything they can to make sure that those triggers don't kick in. And he also has proposed his own detailed plan. He's laid out, for the super committee, how he believes that we can reduce our debt, do it in a balanced way, make sure that we ask more from millionaires and billionaires, and balance that with cuts that we know are painful, but that are absolutely essential in, in these tough times. President Obama has absolutely been engaged. But, you know, this is a congressional committee, and the, the, the members of Congress on that committee need to come together, and we need Republicans to step up to the plate and agree to come to a, come to a compromise and not engage in the "my way or the highway" politics that they've consistently engaged in.

MR. GREGORY: Well, let's--they did, they did agree for tax increases that Democrats have not accepted this week. But I want to ask you about, specifically, about the debt.

REP. SCHULTZ: Well, no, no, no. Because that wasn't a serious--come on, David, that was not a serious proposal. What they proposed was, you know, reducing the number of itemized deductions in exchange for a passage, an extension of all the Bush tax cuts, which actually would've resulted in less revenue and brought the overall tax rate, top tax rate down to 28 percent. So that was not a serious proposal. We need a serious proposal that balances the revenue of the super committee generates and the cuts.

MR. GREGORY: All right. Well, there, there was new revenue, there was new revenue that was proposed, but I realize that's still a subject of debate. But let me, let me focus...

REP. SCHULTZ: That would result in less revenue overall.

MR. GREGORY: Let me--well, again, that's in dispute, according to my reporting on that. On the debt, how irresponsible is it that this president has allowed America's national debt to increase by 41 percent over his term of office?

REP. SCHULTZ: Well, President Obama inherited a, a significant, significant debt, one that President Bush handed him after receiving a record surplus from President Clinton. So, I mean, we're, we're talking about a president who inherited the results of two wars that were unpaid for, a prescription drug program unpaid for, and 2001 and 2003 tax cuts that went to the wealthiest, most fortunate Americans unpaid for, and had the most significant economic problems that the Republicans had driven us to the brink of economic collapse of any president probably since FDR. So making sure that we could make investments to get this economy to begin to turn around was incredibly important. And this president did that, and that's why we've had 20 straight months of growth in the private sector.

MR. GREGORY: Well...

REP. SCHULTZ: And he stopped the decline.

MR. GREGORY: But let me...

REP. SCHULTZ: That was, that was critical, and began to turn things around.

MR. GREGORY: Well, but he certainly didn't stop the decline when it came to the debt if the debt has gone up. And this was candidate Obama in July of 2008. Watch.

(Videotape, July 3, 2008)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first 42 presidents, number 43 added $4 trillion by his lonesome. That's irresponsible. It's unpatriotic.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: That's his rhetoric. Should it not be turned on him now?

REP. SCHULTZ: No. What should be turned--well, what we should be turning on is that Mitt Romney, for example, who purports to be the alternative to President Obama, would've allowed Detroit to go bankrupt, would've allowed more than a million jobs in the pipeline to just, just evaporate. We wouldn't have had an American automobile industry. He's also said that housing is something that we shouldn't address. We should just let investors come in and buy up all the properties and leave people who are struggling to remain in their homes out in the cold.

I mean, so in the alternatives, in the field of Republican candidates, they continue to focus on making sure that millionaires and billionaires continue to have it good. And President Obama has focused on trying to make sure that the middle class gets 17 different tax cuts for small business owners. Ninety-five percent of Americans got a tax break at the outset of President Obama's administration. We are focused under his leadership on getting things turned around, and we've made 20 straight months of progress. So while, yes, we have increased our debt, we have done so in a way that has made sure that the economy can start to turn around. So we've made progress, and we've moved forward. We would make even more if the Republicans just stopped rooting for the economy to fail and join us in trying to focus on all of America's jobs, not just on the one job they care about, which is Barack Obama's.

MR. GREGORY: We're going to leave it there. The debate will continue. Congresswoman, thank you.

REP. SCHULTZ: Thank you.

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