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CROWLEY: Joining me now, Senator Dick Durbin and Congressman Tom Price.
Gentlemen, thank you so much. I want to start out by playing two bits of sound from both Speaker Boehner and President Obama on staking out what they would like to see in a deal to get rid of this fiscal cliff.
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BOEHNER: Raising tax rates will slow down our ability to create the jobs that everyone says they want.
OBAMA: What I'm not going to do is to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent that we can't afford.
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CROWLEY: Gosh, that doesn't sound like you all are anywhere closer to a deal now than you were prior to the election.
Congressman Price, where is there room for compromise here?
PRICE: Well, there certainly is room for negotiation on a real solution, and a real solution includes both revenue increases and spending reductions.
The reason we have concern about what the president has talked about and what my friends on the other side of the aisle have talked about is that it doesn't solve the problem. If we take the president's deal that he has brought to the table, you know how many days that pays for the federal government? Eight days. Not eight months. Not eight weeks. Eight days.
So we need to look at increasing revenue through pro-growth policies as well as tax revenues.
CROWLEY: But not through tax hikes, correct?
PRICE: Tax revenue, which means broadening the base, lowering the rates, closing the loopholes, limiting the deductions, limiting the credits, and making certain that we identify the appropriate spending reductions so that we have, indeed, a balanced approach.
CROWLEY: OK, but we're still at the place where everything gets hung up. No increases in tax rates. That is still the position of House Republicans, correct?
PRICE: Well, again, we would be happy to look at that if it solved the problem. The problem is, it doesn't solve the problem. We want a real solution, which means increasing tax revenue through pro- growth policies.
CROWLEY: OK. Let me just try to get the senator in here.
So the answer is no, they don't want to look at tax rate increases. And, yet, we kind of have the president saying he would veto something that didn't have tax rate increases for the wealthy. Where do we go from here?
DURBIN: Candy, you have got to listen closely, and I have been listening for a long time since I was on the Simpson-Bowles Commission. And what I hear is a perceptible change in rhetoric from the other side, and what it is is an invitation for our side to basically sit down and say, what can we do for this country?
Push the special interest groups to the side for the moment, and what I hear the president saying is, we're not going to solve this by asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share, but it will be part of the solution.
And what I hear from the Republican side is, well, what is the rest of the solution? That is the beginning of a negotiation. It's an indication that the election had an impact on all of us. The American people are sick and tired of all the obstruction and all the rhetoric on both sides. And I can tell you that the fiscal cliff is focusing the mind.
We are really trying our best now to at least come up with an understanding of an agreement before the end of the year.
CROWLEY: OK. So we have had -- Senator, let me just stick with you for a second. We've had the president meeting with the top leadership. What is going on now? I mean, we have 40-plus days left before this happens. Who is doing what where?
DURBIN: I think the negotiation is continuing at various levels, but it's between the White House and the congressional leadership. They are sitting down now to try to map out a way to avoid sequestration, the automatic spending cuts that were going to take place over the next 10 years. They're also now going to sit down and talk about the revenue side.
The president has made his position clear. He has called on the House Republicans to pass what we passed in the Senate to protect middle income families. All of those making less than $250,000 a year, take them off the hook and tell them, no, your taxes are not going up. Let's get that done before we leave.
CROWLEY: So, Congressman, are you going to get that done...
DURBIN: So we are moving toward at least I think an agreement.
CROWLEY: Are you going to get that done before you leave?
PRICE: Well, again, if that would solve the problem, we would be happy to look at it. It doesn't make any sense. When I talk to my constituents and folks across this country...
CROWLEY: Can I just -- I'm sorry to interrupt you, but can I just get -- just sort of directly, is that something that you all would do? And it sounds to me like your answer is no, because you don't think it will work. Is that a correct translation of what you are saying?
PRICE: Tax increases to chase ever higher spending is a fool's errand. What we need to do is have that balanced approach that we've all been talking about, which, again, is increasing revenues through a process of tax reform, and then spending reductions.
We've had four straight years of trillion dollar-plus deficits. You can't continue this and have economic vitality, which is what we actually need, Pro-growth policies to get this economy rolling, get jobs created again.
CROWLEY: Senator, again, you're hopeful because you think people have listened to what the American people said. And, yet, I'm not sure I'm hearing it here. Are you hearing it elsewhere in the halls of Congress that, in fact, Republicans will look at specifically the tax -- raising taxes on those making $250,000 or more?
DURBIN: Candy, you have to be careful. If you talk about taxes they run for the hills. But if you talk about revenue and tax reform, they'll sit still for that conversation. I would say to my friend the congressman, he said that sparing the middle income families doesn't solve the problem. Well, it solves the problem for middle income families in America.
What it does say is that when it comes to tax increases, let's go to those who can afford to pay. They should pay a little more. They've been blessed with success. They live in the greatest nation on Earth. Paying a little bit more to solve this national problem, part of the solution, is not unreasonable.
But we do have to cut spending. We do have to look at entitlement reform that doesn't threaten the existence of important programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
CROWLEY: Congressman, let me...
PRICE: I'm pleased to hear that...
CROWLEY: Go ahead.
PRICE: If I may, I'm pleased hear the senator talk about spending reductions, because there haven't been specifics put on the table by the other side. And that's exactly where this negotiation process is right now.
The two sides have identified the tax revenue that we're willing to discuss, and now it's time to talk about the spending reductions, and that's the prescription for moving forward. Because, again, if we pass something that doesn't solve the problem, then the American people are going to be as irritated in the future as they are right now.
CROWLEY: Congressman, let me ask you, have you sensed within the new caucus -- now, it's the old Congress that's going to deal with this between now and the 31st of December, but you have had a chance to see and meet what your new caucus will look like, the majority on the House side.
Do you sense a difference in that group hand than in the group prior to that, which was seen as unwilling to make a deal, sort of more hard-line conservative? Is this new caucus different?
PRICE: Well, I think the difference is that every member of our caucus appreciates that this fiscal crisis, this challenge that we have, is ever closer. And that's why we need to negotiate through this process and make certain we come up with a solution, a real solution, that will actually solve the problem.
Kicking the can further down the road, which is one of the things that we hear out of Washington all the time, will no longer be acceptable to either the American people or to the challenges that we have to get this economy rolling again and get jobs created.
CROWLEY: Senator, there has been some thought on your side as well that perhaps $250,000, that if you could get the House to go along with something, that perhaps $250,000 is too low to be raising taxes, that maybe you could make it a genuine millionaires tax that would be more palatable. What about something like that?
DURBIN: Candy, we're carping on a trifle here. If we want to protect the middle income families, $250,000 income for a family is a reasonable number. To go up to a million, I'm not sure what we're proving with that. There has to be revenue on the table.
And those 2 percent or 1 percent of highest wage earners in America who are doing well should pay a little bit more. And I think most of them that I speak to are willing to do it if they know it's part of an agreement that will generally reduce the deficit.
Keep in mind, our goal here is not just to reduce the deficit and debt, but to spring this economy so that it moves forward creating jobs and expanding businesses. I think that's going to happen if we have this bipartisan agreement.
CROWLEY: Congressman Price...
PRICE: Candy, the...
CROWLEY: Go ahead.
PRICE: Yes. The increased tax rate that the senator just referred to doesn't only hit individuals, it hits nearly a million small businesses, and if we're increasing taxes on small businesses, guess what won't be created? Jobs.
And small businesses are always the linchpin to getting jobs created when we come out of a recession. And so why would we adopt a policy that punishes job creators? Ernst & Young said it would end up in about 700,000 jobs being lost. That doesn't seem like a wise idea.
So, again, we want to solve the problem with real solutions, not just political rhetoric that we have tended to hear on the campaign trail. It's time to get down to work.
CROWLEY: Senator Durbin, the last word is yours. I take it you're going to disagree, this sounds a lot like the arguments I heard before the election...
DURBIN: Candy, it sounds like the...
CROWLEY: ... from you both.
DURBIN: ... debate that you moderated between Governor Romney and President Obama. Ninety-seven percent of small businesses are spared with a $250,000 limit in terms of tax increases.
What we're talking about are people who are making a lot of money, lawyers and investment bankers and those who are in subchapter S corporations on who can pay a little more for goodness sakes, if it means moving the economy forward.
It's time to take these old arguments and set them over here and talk about a new day, a new approach. That's what the election was all about.
CROWLEY: Senator Durbin, Congressman Price, thank you both so much for joining us this morning. Appreciate it.
PRICE: Thanks, Candy.
DURBIN: Thank you.
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