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MSNBC "The Ed Show" - Transcript

Interview

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HOYER: Always good to be with you, Ed. Thanks.

SCHULTZ: You got some folks nervous talking about entitlements. When you say entitlement cuts are on the table, what does that mean and how far are you willing to go?

HOYER: Well, when I say everything needs to be on the table, Ed, I want everybody to put their cards on the table and tell me what they want to do. I want not only to see that myself, I want to see what others want to do, including my Republican colleagues, in terms of entitlements. Now, there are some things we are absolutely not going to do, as you well know. I made it very clear during the election. We`re not going to voucherize Medicare. We`re not going to privatize security. We believe very strongly that we need additional revenues if we`re going to get our country on a fiscally sound basis.

SCHULTZ: And that would take us to benefits. Are you willing to put benefits on the table to get a deal?

HOYER: Everything needs to be on the table. When you say, am I willing -- I want to see what the outlines are. I think even Paul Ryan, in the short-term, said benefits should not be on the table. I agree with that, certainly. And it depends upon what you`re talking about. Certainly, I think we need to make sure that the guarantee of Social Security and Medicare is secure. And one litmus test I will have, Ed, personally, is the vulnerable in America.

Those who are least able to participate in helping to get us out of this debt should not be asked to pay anything. Very frankly, the most able among us ought to be asked to pay a greater contribution so we can get our country on a sound footing.

SCHULTZ: Well, I think the Democrats have made it very clear, you`ve got to have a rate increase from the wealthiest Americans.

HOYER: Absolutely.

SCHULTZ: But where does the debt ceiling come into this conversation? How does that come into play?

HOYER: Ed, in my opinion, the debt ceiling should not come into this conversation. The debt ceiling is a phony vote, very frankly. And very frankly, from time to time, Democrats have made it an item that they demagogued on and the Republicans have demagogued on it as well. The fact is, the debt limit is simply a recognition of what we have already spent, what we have already decided to do. And it`s irresponsible for us to say that the most credit-worthy nation on earth is not going to pay its bills.

So I would hope Speaker Boehner would take this off the table.

SCHULTZ: Yes.

HOYER: I think the president`s offer of taking the minority leader, Senator McConnell`s suggestion, of, OK, put the burden on the president of the United States. Whether it`s a Republican or Democrat, saying we need to raise the debt limit. And if two-thirds of the Congress, one House or the other, and both houses would have to by two-thirds disagree, it would happen.

And it would happen as a result of votes by the Congress of the United States to spend money and to borrow money. Not to set a debt limit at an arbitrary rate that puts our credit at risk.

So I would hope that Speaker Boehner would not make this an item of leverage, because it --

SCHULTZ: Is that a deal killer?

HOYER: I think it would be a deal killer, if that becomes a leverage point. Of course, we won`t know that until probably some time late next month or early February.

SCHULTZ: Sure.

HOYER: But I would hope that the speaker would not pursue his intention to make that a leverage point.

SCHULTZ: OK. Congressman, when Eric Cantor says he needs to hear specifics from Democrats, what do you say to that?

HOYER: I said on the floor today, the president of the United States has put a long list of specifics on the table. Have put it on his budget, has put it on other proposals that he`s made.

The Republicans, on the other hand, sent a letter to the president with five items, conclusions only, no specifics. No specifics in terms of how you raise revenue. No specifics in terms of cutting funding. And very frankly, I think they made a political judgment, they would much prefer to have the president choose those alternatives. That`s not a way to negotiate. They only come up with their alternatives. The president comes up with their alternatives.

Put it on the table, that`s my point. Put everything on the table, and let`s get to a place where the math works. This ought not to be an ideological problem. This is a math problem, as to whether or not we can get our country on a sound fiscal footing.

SCHULTZ: Quickly, do you think Speaker Boehner is worried about his job?

HOYER: Well, I think that he`s got a lot of people in his caucus who have got their head in the sand, very frankly.

SCHULTZ: OK.

HOYER: And who don`t understand the realities that confront us. I think Speaker Boehner is trying to do -- I think he`s trying to do the right thing. He may not agree with me on how to do it, but I think he thinks we need to make a deal.

SCHULTZ: OK. Congressman Steny Hoyer, great to have you with us tonight. Thanks so much.

HOYER: Always good to be with you, Ed. Thanks.

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