NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF "YOUR WORLD": Well, new signs the economy is struggling. So, what are lawmakers doing? Holding two symbolic votes on the Bush tax cuts. Now, Democrats want to extend them for couples making less than $250,000. And Republicans want them extended for everyone. But critics are calling it a big waste of time. Is it? We're on it.
Welcome, everybody. I'm Neil Cavuto.
And you are looking live at the floor of the United States Senate, where votes are about to begin any moment now.
Independent Senator Joe Lieberman will be among those voting.
Senator, on this measure, more to the point about everyone sees the Bush rate extended except the very rich. How do you feel about that? How will you vote on that?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, I-CONN.: I'm going to vote against both of these proposals; because, to me, they are exactly what you said at the beginning, symbolic votes that are a waste of time.
They are either partial political nitpicking or posturing or they're kicking the can down the road. What the economy really needs from Congress is a long-term bipartisan debt reduction plan that will give the business community the confidence to invest the trillions of dollars we need invested to create jobs. And only that will do it. So I'm voting no on both.
I can tell you in more detail why I'm voting no on both, if you'd like.
CAVUTO: OK. I do want to get into the details. First, the big picture part; do you feel now is the time to be raising taxes on anyone?
LIEBERMAN: No. And that's one reason why I'm voting against the Democratic proposal, which would effectively raise taxes on people making over $250,000.
And that includes a lot of small businesses. It's also a very partial answer to a much bigger problem. And, frankly, when we get to solving that problem, we're probably going to have to raise some taxes on people who make less than $250,000. But none of that should happen until this economy is growing again.
CAVUTO: You'll confuse a lot of folks, Senator, who will say, well, boy, that Lieberman guy just wants have his cake and eat it too.
CAVUTO: It's a stupid expression to me, because I feel if the cake's there, Senator, you might as well eat it. But I digress.
CAVUTO: I think what's going on here is that they're saying, well, he doesn't want to tick off his Democratic friends, he doesn't want to tick off his Republican friends, so he'll kind of let both of his friends down.
What do you say?
LIEBERMAN: I think the prospect is I may tick off my friends in both parties. But I'm an independent. And this is not what our country needs.
Look, I think we've got a chance after the election to adopt the kind of balanced budget long-term program that would cut spending and adopt tax reform and deal with entitlement reform. That's what we really need. If we're not getting that done by the end of the year, then I'll vote for something to avoid the fiscal cliff on January 1, because again, I repeat, with this economy stumbling as it is right now, really, it's not the time to raise anybody's taxes.
CAVUTO: Senator, if the president is reelected, and it's that lame-duck session -- because I agree with you, I doubt we will see much action on the part of either party ahead of the election.
CAVUTO: But let's say that the president is reelected, and it's up to a lame-duck section to decide what happens on those rates. Does the president then have purview enough to say, well, I've been reelected, we will do what I want and what I advocated, extend the Bush rates for everyone but the upper-income?
LIEBERMAN: I suppose he might do that.
But, remember, the House Republicans will still be there.
CAVUTO: That's right.
LIEBERMAN: And they're not going to vote for that. So...
CAVUTO: So what, in your gut, happens? What do you think happens?
LIEBERMAN: And I won't vote for that.
CAVUTO: What do you think happens?
LIEBERMAN: Well, hopefully, everyone wakes up and says the country is heading for a fiscal cliff. Let's get this done. We've just finished an election. Before we start campaigning for the next election, let's do what's right for the country.
And, yes, it will involve some political risk. But the reward is going to be what's great for our country.
CAVUTO: Well, what is do what is right?
In other words, is it your view, then, Senator, extend all the rates another year, address serious reform, if that's what we want to call it, next year? Could you just spell it out?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I'd rather have us adopt something like the Simpson-Bowles plan, which is entitlement reform, means Medicare, Medicaid, you don't cut them, but they can't go up as fast as they were otherwise will.
You cut spending. And you adopt the kind of tax reform that cuts rates, but closes loopholes and some deductions. Yes, you could put a package together to raise enough money to get our government on the road back to balance. It's not going to happen overnight. And you cannot raise taxes overnight. But you adopt a 10-year plan, you can make it work.
And that would ignite our economy again, I'm convinced. You know that businesses in our country are sitting on more liquid assets than they have ever been before in our history because they're uncertain. They do not have confidence about what's going to come, what their tax rates are.
If we give them that confidence and frankly show that our government still has the capacity to solve a problem, I think you'll see investment that will send the markets soaring and create millions of new jobs over the coming years.
CAVUTO: Senator Lieberman, always good seeing you. Thank you very much.
LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Neil. Be well.
CAVUTO: Senator Joe Lieberman.