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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" Transcript: The Fiscal CLiff

Interview

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CROWLEY: Joining me now is Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. Let's start with what the president -- you heard what he just said. And he, look, he argues we had an election, I won. He did campaign quite heavily on raising taxes for those making over $250,000. And he says, I went to John Boehner, I offered him a trillion dollars in cuts, so we're talking 2:1 cuts to income rates. Why didn't you just take it?

CORKER: Well, Candy, that's interesting. I was -- I watched the interview. I don't think any American has ever seen those trillion dollars in cuts that he offered.

CROWLEY: Well, he --

CORKER: And there's never been any specifics. And if I were a president, I certainly would lay those out before the American people.

I've been as involved with this as any senator in the United States Senate, other than Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid. I have never seen those cuts. So I'd love to take those up on the Senate floor.

But let me just say this. Like every American, I'm disgusted with where we are. I know people are irritated at the president, they're irritated at Congress, as they should be. There's no question that in the next few days or the next few weeks, we're going to rescue most of the American people from a tax increase. We're going to do it. It will be better to do it over the next day or two.

But what hasn't happened in this debate is any discussion about real reductions, reforms in Medicare and Social Security, to save those. And I think that is totally irresponsible.

CROWLEY: But there's -- look, here's where we are. There is not time for you to reform entitlements between now and midnight on the 31st.

CORKER: No, and more than that (inaudible) during the debt ceiling debate (ph).

CROWLEY: So here is your choice. You either allow tax rates to go up on everyone --

CORKER: We're going to deal with that.

CROWLEY: Or you try to protect some people.

CORKER: I would bet my life that over the next very short period of time, 98 to 99 percent of the people in the country are going to be rescued.

What's been missing in this debate, Candy, is this has been building for two years now. The president had the Simpson-Bowles committee 25 months ago, give a report. If I were president, again, I would lay out a very specific plan as to how to solve this. The president keeps talking about the $1 trillion that he offered Speaker Boehner. I've never seen it. Have you ever seen it? I was surprised that David Gregory today didn't pursue that in the interview, because he's really good at those kind of things.

So I think if we can get that on the Senate floor also, to deal with this next debt ceiling debate, I've laid out a specific plan, I've given it to the president. I've given it to Senator Reid, but that's what's missing, and what's happening, unfortunately -- we're going to move -- you know, we created this fiscal cliff, and we're going to deal with it over the next few days or few weeks.

But unfortunately, for our country, every American's quality of life is going to be lesser than it should be because now this is going to drag on to the debt ceiling. We're going to have the same kind of thing play out--

CROWLEY: The president says he's not going to play games with -- not going to play politics. He just wants it raised.

CORKER: I think he should go ahead then and lay out the reductions. You know, we set the precedent on a dollar for a dollar, a dollar increase in debt ceiling for a dollar in reductions. I actually laid out a bill to do that this week, with Lamar Alexander.

But I think what's been missing here, Candy, is it appears to me that the president either lacks the courage or the will to lay out those specific things that need to happen. Because I assure you, if he would lay those out, the House would take it up, the Senate would take it up, and we could move this behind us, and we could start this next year with the wind at our back and this fiscal issue behind us, like most of us would like to do.

CROWLEY: You know and I know that's not going to happen in the short time we have.

CORKER: I just wonder why it hasn't. And we will deal with it--

CROWLEY: Well us too -- I mean, you're part of it, right?

CORKER: No, I've offered a very specific bill.

CROWLEY: All of America kind of looks and goes why -- everybody is complaining about the other person, not --

CORKER: No, no. Wait a minute. I actually laid out a very specific bill five weeks ago. Gave it to the White House. Not many people are willing to lay the cards on the table, but it's the president's responsibility, when we have a situation like this, to be very specific about what needs to happen and let Congress take it up.

So look, I think everybody should be disgusted at where we are. We're going to deal with this tax issue, we're going to deal with it either before midnight tomorrow or in the next couple of weeks, but nobody in the country, 99, 98 percent of the people in the country should not be worried about revenues. But what they should be worried about is we still haven't tackled the issue of fiscal solvency.

CROWLEY: It's likely to come up during the debt ceiling. Where is your bottom line in terms of taxes?

CORKER: You know, I'm -- I feel so certain, Candy, that something's going to happen on the Senate floor over the next day and a half. I don't even want to -- Mitch McConnell --

CROWLEY: Would you -- if Mitch McConnell says, look, $250,000, everybody above that is going to get a tax hike, are you there, aye?

CORKER: Say again?

CROWLEY: If Mitch McConnell comes out and says, look, here is the best we can do, $250,000 and above, it's going to get --

CORKER: But he's not going to do that.

CROWLEY: -- a tax rate hike?

CORKER: Because -- he's not going to do that. Let me tell you why. Senator Schumer doesn't want to see that happen. Kirsten Gillibrand doesn't want to see that happen. Dianne Feinstein doesn't want to see that happen. So it's not going to be at 250. But some number. There's going to be -- I don't know what it's going to be. We know it's probably -- the floor is at least 400, because that's already out there. So my guess is, we're going to be in -- I don't even want to say it, at least 500, and my guess is it's going to happen and it's going to pass.

But here's the thing. You're talking about eight days of funding for the United States government.

CROWLEY: Right.

CORKER: We have a Medicare --

CROWLEY: When the (ph) spending (ph) comes in.

CORKER: We have a Medicare program where people are paying one third of the cost, and 20 million more Americans are going to be on it over the next ten years, and we have yet to deal with that.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about one other thing that the president said during this interview. He was asked about Chuck Hagel, used to be a Republican senator. His name has surfaced as a possible secretary of defense. There have been complaints about him, about some votes that he made, vis-a-vis Iran, also some comments that he made about gays and some other things he said about Israel, and here was the question from David Gregory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: Anything disqualifies him?

OBAMA: Not that I see. I've served with Chuck Hagel. I know him. He's a patriot. He is somebody who has done extraordinary work both in the United States Senate, somebody who served this country with valor in Vietnam. And is somebody who's currently serving on my Intelligence Advisory Board and doing an outstanding job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Do you have any problems with Senator Hagel?

CORKER: Well, I never thought Susan Rice was going to be nominated after her name came forth, and she wasn't. I don't think Chuck Hagel is going to be nominated.

CROWLEY: You don't? Why?

CORKER: I don't. I just -- look, I always start out and give people a fair hearing. I served with Chuck for two years, but I just heard too many very, very strong opinions both on the Republican side and the Democratic side about his positions, and I don't think he's going to be nominated. So if it comes up forth, certainly I look forward to knowing more about his background and having a real hearing, but I would be very, very surprised if Chuck Hagel is nominated.

CROWLEY: Senator Corker, thank you for your time this morning.

CORKER: Thank you, thank you so much.

CROWLEY: Have a busy day ahead--

(CROSSTALK)

CORKER: We do, and I -- I -- the American people should know that this is not going to linger, and we're going to deal with this issue. We should have done it a long time ago.

CROWLEY: Or linger any further probably is--

CORKER: That's right. Thank you.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much, Senator Corker, appreciate it.

CORKER: Thank you, thank you.


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