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CBS "Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer" Transcript: Budget Cuts

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SCHIEFFER: And we go now to the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell. He is in Louisville this morning. Mr. Leader, thank you for joining us. You just heard Leader Pelosi, she says tax revenues are still on the table. If I understood you last week, you were saying we're done with that. Now it's time to talk about cutting spending. What did you think of what Ms. Pelosi had to say?

MCCONNELL: Well, it certainly underscores the voracious appetite for more taxes on the other side. The tax issue is over. We resolved that a few days ago. Everybody's taxes were going to go up because that's the way the law was written, eight few days ago, 90 percent -- 95 percent of Senate Republicans worked -- voted for a permanent tax relief for 99 percent of the American taxpayers and 500,000 small businesses, not a single Republican senator voted to raise anybody's taxes. The tax issue is over. And now it's time to pivot to the single biggest threat to our country, both in the short term and the long term. We now have a debt of $16.4 trillion. That's as big as our economy. That alone makes us look a lot like Greece. We have an incredible spending addiction. This administration has driven spending as a percentage of our economy from 21 percent up to almost 25 percent. It's time for the president to pivot and lead us in a discussion about saving this country for our children and our grandchildren.

SCHIEFFER: Well, it does not too.

MCCONNELL: This is simply unsustainable.

SCHIEFFER: It does not sound from what we just heard from Ms. Pelosi that she doesn't seem to be pivoting. I mean -- and she speaks for the president's party here. It sounds like from her point of view, that finding more revenue is still on the table. When you're saying no more taxes here, are you also saying no more tax reform, that there are not going to be some deduction eliminated? Aren't revenues still on the table? She says they have to be.

MCCONNELL: I think tax reform is a good idea, but now that we have resolved the revenue issue, tax reform ought to be revenue neutral, as it was back during the Reagan administration. They did the last comprehensive tax reform. It was revenue neutral. The government didn't benefit by getting any more revenue out of that reform. In fact, Bob, I think it would be a bipartisan majority in the Senate will have the view the tax issue is behind us. So the question is we all know that we have this massive debt and deficit not because we tax too little but because we spend too much. The question is will the president now pivot and address the single biggest issue confront our country and its future? And that's reducing spending. And we have a few opportunities here in the next few months, presented to us by his request to raise the debt ceiling, by the sequester kicking in, two months from now, by the continuing resolution to operate the government, plenty of opportunities to generate that discussion. But what's really disappointing to me is that the president isn't generating the discussion on his own, that he has to sort of be dragged kicking and scream, to the table when we have these other big issues like the debt ceiling to get him to talk about it. I wish he'd lead.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you, some of your colleagues in the senate, John Cornyn of Texas, part of the leadership in an op-ed piece in one of the Houston papers yesterday said that Republicans have to be prepared basically to shut down parts of the government if they can't get the kind of spending cuts that are going to be needed here. Are you ready to go that far, Senator McConnell?

MCCONNELL: Well, look, what I'm ready to do is to discuss the biggest issue confronting the country. As I said, it's a shame you have to kind of drag the president to the table to talk about if the single biggest problem we have in our country -- excuse me -- it shouldn't require doing any of these things. It shouldn't require having a discussion about the debt ceiling or the sequester or the continuing resolution. Why isn't he saying let's get this problem fixed? And we know we can't fix it. You were talking to leader Pelosi about entitlements. All the Democrats are willing to do is to hit health care providers who take care of seniors. What they're unwilling to do for future generations is to make the eligibility for our popular entitlement programs fit the demographics of America. You know, when Social Security was passed in the 1930s, the average person lived to be 61. This year, the average male will live to be 79, the average female 81. For future generations, these programs have to fit the demographics of our country. The trustees of the Medicare and Social Security system say we have about 10 years to go before Medicare is completely broke. When do we intend to fix this problem?

SCHIEFFER: Let me...

MCCONNELL: And my view is the time to fix it is now.

SCHIEFFER: Let me also ask you this. John Boehner says that before he agrees to raise the debt ceiling here, which is going to be the next big vote that we're all talking about, he wants at least $1 in spending cuts for every $1 that the debt limit is raised. Are you willing to go that far?

MCCONNELL: Well, what I'm willing to say is if the president won't lead us here in the direction of reducing this massive spending addiction that we have, then we have to use whatever leverage we have. And there are some examples of leverage coming along, the debt ceiling is one of them, that hopefully would get the president engaged, even though he seems unwilling to do it on his own.

SCHIEFFER: Well, are you willing to say this morning, Mr. President, you're going to have to do that, you're going to have to cut -- for every dollar we raise that debt ceiling, you're going to have to cut a dollar in spending?

MCCONNELL: What I'm saying is I want the president to lead us in the direction of solving the single biggest problem confronting the country. The American people elected divided government. They didn't give either side total control. They don't expect us to sit here and do nothing for the next two years. I would love for Mitt Romney to have been elected president, but he was not. And so this means we have to work together. And it's clear -- it's clear that the biggest problem, Bob, is the massive federal spending.

SCHIEFFER: All right. I'm going to say with respect, I don't believe you really answered my question, but we'll go on to something else. The Washington Post reports this morning that the administration is talking about a very extensive program to control weapons, going beyond just re-instituting the ban on assault weapons. They're talking about databases. They're talking about setting up data on you can tell when you have a background check on people, stronger -- more information on people of the mentally impaired people getting guns. Are you ready to seriously consider those things? Are Republicans ready to do something on this issue?

MCCONNELL: Well, I think, first, we want to wait and see what Vice President Biden recommends with his task force. Clearly, we will not be addressing that issue early because spending and debt are going to dominate the first three months. And when the vice president comes up with some recommendations, I'm sure the House and Senate will take a look at them.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Senator, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

MCCONNELL: Thank you.


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