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CBS "60 Minutes" - Transcript

Interview

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Tom Coburn: It's leadership. It's pure leadership. When the goal is always to win the next election, rather than to put the country on the right course, whether it's a Republican leading it or the-- a Democrat leading it, the Senate is not going to work.

We wanted to know what Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had to say about all this.

Both have been in the Senate for 25 years, but this was the first time they had ever sat down for a joint television interview. They call each other good friends, and showed up in the same uniform, but they were clearly playing for opposing teams.

Steve Kroft: A lot of people, serious people, think that this institution is broken. Is it broken?

Harry Reid: Our country is in a deep, deep economic problem. We should be doing a lot more than what we've done to address those problems.

Mitch McConnell: Before this Congress is over we will have passed 20 major pieces of legislation on a bipartisan basis. So, clearly-- it is possible to come together. What it's not possible to do any longer is to pass trillion dollar stimulus bills, Obama care, massive debts and deficit. The American people took a look at that, Steve, after two years and said, "Please, stop. We don't want any more of that. We want you to work together."

Steve Kroft: But you haven't worked together. You have lots of important things to consider. Why can't you get together and agree on what to do about these major issues? Why can't you come up with a compromise?

Harry Reid: We've run into a situation here where compromise is not part of what we do around here anymore. Now on your program, 60 Minutes, Speaker of the House Representatives John Boehner said, "I reject the word compromise." That's exactly what he said, my friend Sen. McConnell, 'the single-most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.' And that's what's happened this last year and a half.

Mitch McConnell: Compromise is sometimes very difficult. My 47 members of the Senate have very different views from Harry and his colleagues about how much government we ought to have, how much taxation we ought to have, how much regulation we ought to have. It is not easy to reach agreement when you have very different views, Steve, of the direction the country ought to take.

Truth be told, neither party's done much to resolve their differences and have used every parliamentary trick in the book to obstruct each other's agenda. As minority party in the Senate, the Republican's favorite tool is the filibuster; a tactic older than this Frank Capra movie from the 1930s.

By holding forth on the Senate floor for days on end, the minority can delay or block bills that have support of the majority.

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Harry Reid: The Senate, in my opinion, Steve, has been buried in procedural-- a procedural morass.

Steve Kroft: Senator Reid, you are the majority leader in the Senate. You set the agenda for the Senate. You bear a responsibility, just as much of a responsibility as Senator McConnell, to make the system work and to do some things.

Harry Reid: I believe that if you look at what Lyndon Johnson had to do when he was the leader, as I am, it was a different world. Why? You know how many filibusters he had to try to override? One. Me? 248.

Steve Kroft: One of the complaints, and it has been directed at both of you, and both of your parties, is that it's all become about political gamesmanship. It's all become about winning. It's all become about embarrassing the other party and blaming them for the failures of the institution.

Mitch McConnell: The American people are not as interested in the procedural nuances of the Senate as they are the results for the country. And when you step back from this and look at the results over the last four years, the American people give us a failing grade. They don't like what we did.

Steve Kroft: You don't think that people are upset about the fact that both of you can't get together and accomplish things?

Mitch McConnell: I think they're upset about--

Steve Kroft: I think that's one of the reasons right now why your ratings are so low. You disagree with?

Mitch McConnell: I think they don't like the results and I don't blame them. I don't like it either.

All of this is just a reflection of the political deadlock gripping the country and if you are having trouble figuring out who is responsible for the broken Senate, you're not alone.

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