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CNN "Erin Burnett Outfront" - Transcript

Interview

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Location: Unknown

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SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: Good to see you.

BURNETT: OK, so am I being fair here? You guys are trying to stall this six months because you don't think you can get it done this year.

CONRAD: No. You know, I think this all flows from a story that really mixed two different initiatives. One that Senator McCain and Senator Levin are working on to delay the sequester. Another effort, separate and apart from that, that is the group of eight, four Democrats, four Republicans, that were asked about a year-and-a-half ago by 30 of our colleagues to see if we couldn't come up with a plan that would be the grand bargain, that would follow pretty closely what the Bowles/Simpson Commission came up with. So I think there's some confusion here as to what the group of eight is trying to do and what McCain/Levin are trying to accomplish.

BURNETT: OK, so if you --

CONRAD: The group of eight --

BURNETT: If you succeed then --

CONRAD: Yes.

BURNETT: -- are we going to get a grand bargain that prevents the sequester and we're going to get the grand bargain now, not six months from now.

CONRAD: Yes. Look, I can't say what the group of eight will conclude, because we're still negotiating. I can tell you -- I would be happy to tell you what I am pushing for, which is to in the lame duck session, after the election, reach the grand bargain, and that that would be a framework that the committees of jurisdiction would then have six months to meet. In other words, they would be given instructions, how much to cut, from what programs, how to reform the entitlements, how to reform the tax system, how much money to raise. All of that would be agreed upon right after the election. The committees of jurisdiction would fill in the details, how those goals were to be met, and there would also be a down payment that is hundreds of billions of dollars of cuts and revenue agreed to in the lame duck that would take immediate effect. And on top of the framework there would be penalties if the committees of jurisdiction did not meet their assignments. So that's what we're working on.

BURNETT: OK, now I think that makes sense, although here's the thing. These penalties, right, we're supposed to be facing these penalties with the sequester now, but nobody likes the sequester, so if you all get what you want, the sequester gets put off or whatever you're going to call if then for another six months in case they fail and we still don't have anything happen.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: I mean it just is a frustration. I'm sure you share it, right --

CONRAD: Yes.

BURNETT: -- that we can't actually get something done, signed and it's going to happen.

CONRAD: Well that wouldn't be my intention. I'm really not interested in anymore kicking the can down the road. Look, I started on this effort five years ago with Judd Gregg, the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, first of all to have a commission that would be totally enforceable in law and we got 53 votes in the Senate for that proposition. Seven of our original Republican co-sponsors, original co-sponsors, voted no against their own proposal. So then we had no choice but to go to a presidentially (ph) ordered commission that did not have the force and effect of law. That put us in a weaker negotiating position with less leverage. But, look, we still have an opportunity here to do what needs to be done for the country --

BURNETT: Right.

CONRAD: -- which is to agree on a plan that will save at least $4 trillion off deficits and debt over the next 10 years. I'm actually pushing for five trillion, because I'd like to actually balance the budget.

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