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Fox News "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace" - Transcript


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Congressman, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."


WALLACE: Well, you just heard Congressman Hensarling. It sounds like the thing is dead.

BECERRA: I think we are deep in the fourth quarter, but there's time on the clock. We are trying everything possible to get there.

WALLACE: You say, you know, fourth quarter comeback. Are the Democrats preparing a last minute offer?

BECERRA: As Jeb said, the conversations continue. I think they're going to continue until Wednesday if they have to.

WALLACE: Well, you only have until Monday because you have to submit something to the CBO by Monday.

BECERRA: Well, Chris, the reality is that the Congressional Budget Office, which has to score this plan, has essentially seen all of the different elements of --

WALLACE: It doesn't have to be made public 48 hours in advance?

BECERRA: If it would have to be made public in advance, I suspect we could put forth out there what essentially would be the outlines of the plan. I don't think we're going to try to give up on an opportunity to get this done. But it's better than letting automatic triggers decide where we're going to make the cuts. It's better to have a smart plan than not a plan that you can't live with.

WALLACE: But to be honest, it sounds more to me from what you and Congressman Hensarling are saying, that you just don't want to admit failure because you would just have it be blamed on the Republicans, not Democrats. But it's going to be failure.

BECERRA: Well, think about this way. It's not an issue between a deal or no deal. It's a matter of getting a better deal.

We have a deal that was struck in August. It's whether we do something or not, there will be $1.2 trillion additional savings after the $1 trillion of savings in August. But it's better to do it the smart way than have some sequestration process decide to automatic triggers how you'll get this done. Do it smart.

WALLACE: Now, in the interest of being fair and balanced, Congressman Hensarling pretty much made the blame on Democrats, said that you are unwilling to come up with changes to entitlements. Is that why this thing failed?

BECERRA: I don't think that's the reason. I don't there's failure yet. I believe that the elements of a deal probably not as big as some of us would like. It's still -- they are still there.

WALLACE: But assuming there is failure, why do you think?

BECERRA: I'm not going to assume failure, Chris. You give me -- unless you discount the hours and days that we still have left? We can try and get there. We can figure out a way to do $1.2 in savings, better than letting the bland act edge of a guillotine do it for us.

WALLACE: Let's talk about Congressman Hensarling's criticism. Isn't a big part of the deadlock, the fact that Democrats refuse to do anything serious about structural reform on entitlements?

BECERRA: No, that's not the case. Everything has been on the table, including reform of our entitlement programs. But at the same time, let's eliminate the programs that don't work before we start to talk about taking away programs that people have paid for and services that they have to live with, whether it's Social Security or Medicare.

There are a lot of programs where we can look and see waste. Well, we should go after those before we tell people, you pay for this program, but we're still going to cut it to balance the budget.

WALLACE: Well, let's talk about that ask specifically. Let me ask you a couple of specific questions.


WALLACE: Have you collectively, and I say collectively, the Democrats, rejected any increase in the eligibility age for Medicare?

BECERRA: The increase on eligibility has been on the table, and depending on what's in the package, it might have been, or could be something that's in a package. But it all depends on whether it's a balanced package. Why do you want to balance the budget on the backs of seniors by telling them they won't get to receive their Medicare that they have been paying for all of these years until two years later than they expected?

It has to be a balanced approach where everyone understands that if we're going to get this economy moving and Americans back to work, it's because everyone chipped in.

WALLACE: But let me ask you one other direct question. Have you rejected any reduction in the cost of living adjustment for Social Security?

BECERRA: That's on the table. Now, once again, Social Security is never once contributed a single penny to these deficits, to the $15 trillion in national debt. Not one single penny has come from Social Security.

But many of us have said, it should stay on the table. I'm going to fight like the Dickens to take it off. But we should be prepared to go in with everything.

The moment we walk in with these protections of these special interest pledges, we get ourselves all in trouble. And so, everything should be on the table. But a good package need not take away benefits away from seniors.

WALLACE: Here's the thing that I trust -- what frustrates a lot of Americans, frankly frustrates me. We know of the arguments. We know the argument. You know, we heard it to debt, we heard it during the debt ceiling. We heard it, you know, during the continuing resolution to keep the budget going and to keep the government going and the budget.

You guys want to protect entitlements. They want to protect their tax cuts, the Bush tax cuts.

You have had three months and you have a $44 trillion that's going to be spent over the next decade. We have a $15 trillion debt.

Why couldn't you make a deal?

BECERRA: Chris, every plan that Democrats put forward has included cuts to entitlement programs. Some deeper, the bigger deal. Some smaller. But all --


WALLACE: Why couldn't you make a deal?

BECERRA: Well, I think for Democrats, we would say that there's still a deal possible, but it's got to be balanced. You can't say you're going to take benefits away from services that people have paid for, like Social Security and Medicare, and not ask wealthiest Americans. Remember, we have 1,400 multimillionaires who didn't pay a single bit of income tax since 2009. Why should they escape participation when we are asking seniors to help cover the costs of the deficits that in the case of Social Security, they didn't cause?

WALLACE: I understand that's what Republicans are worried about. You're worried about what you're worried about. Why couldn't you make a deal?

BECERRA: Well, there are -- I believe there's a deal out there. I believe there is a better deal than letting automatic cuts decide for us. Chris, that's why I don't that we should call the game over deep in the fourth quarter. We still have an opportunity to go somewhere. Both sides I think have honestly tried to put what they believe would be a good solution on the table.

WALLACE: You keep saying, you know, we want to have smart deficit reduction, not stupid deficit reduction. Would you vote to change the triggers, the $1.2 trillion trigger, if there's no deal, and specifically to roll back on some of the defense cuts?

BECERRA: You are asking one of the 12 who's asked to do something so we can avoid the triggers. I would want to change the triggers. I got to tell that whether you're one of the 12 on the super committee, or if you are someone who voted for this legislation that created the triggers and the super committee, I think it's a wimpy way out to say we're going to change the triggers because I don't like the result out of the super committee is what I wanted.

We should be prepared --

WALLACE: Even if you think that that the triggers are dumb?

BECERRA: We've got to move forward. The triggers give us $1.2 trillion in savings. I think there's a smarter ways to do it than with triggers. But you start shaving away the responsibility to actually some of those cuts and savings, and guess what? You are in a worse hole than a year from today.

You have to have some discipline and I believe that the super committee was set up to try to avoid the harsh results of automatic triggers.

WALLACE: Congressman Becerra, thank you. Thanks for joining us.

BECERRA: Thanks, Chris.

WALLACE: And we'll stay on top of this story for the next hours or days. I hope your optimism is justified, sir.

BECERRA: You got to be optimistic, pragmatically so.

WALLACE: Consciously optimistic.


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