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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" Transcript: Sequester

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CROWLEY: Joining me now, Congressman Steve Israel, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Congressman Greg Walden. He chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Thank you both for being here on your debut here for us and together, as I understand.

(CROSSTALK)

WALDEN: Great to be with you.

CROWLEY: So it's very nice to have you.

So we, sort of, laid out mathematically how the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats in the House were elected by big margins in -- at least in today's terms, 55 percent or more.

So realistically speaking, you all are never going to be able to find big legislation that you can agree on in a bipartisan manner. Republicans can shove it through, but you're never going to be able to agree, are you?

WALDEN: I don't think so. I don't think that's true. Look, we'll have competitive races, but when the race is over, we should get together and try and solve America's problems.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: From your lips to God's ears, but it doesn't happen, does it?

WALDEN: But it's a bicameral process. So when we pass something in the House, it doesn't mean the Senate has to take it up exactly the way we passed it. Have them pass something back; we'll get together and see if we can't work it out. But at least we've got to have the volleying back and forth so we can come to common ground or at least try.

CROWLEY: Have you seen common ground? Name me one really big thing in the last four years that the House of Representatives have passed on a bipartisan basis.

ISRAEL: Well, look, we just passed the Violence Against Women Act. I mean, it took the Tea Party Republicans 500 days to allow us a vote, and we did finally vote for it.

Look, I just came from my district, Candy. And I think my district is like most others in America. I don't care whether you're in a blue district, a red district, a purple district; you want a Congress that's going to focus on solutions. You're tired of the politics of blame and you want a Congress that's going to focus on solutions.

On this major economic issue we have right now, sequestration, House Democrats have attempted on three separate occasions to get a vote on a solution that is based on compromise, that is fair and balanced, that continues to cut spending beyond what we've already agreed to cut, $1 trillion, that cleans out our tax code and eliminates corporate tax loopholes for special interests, that reprioritizes.

We couldn't even get a vote, not one vote on those three things. So, look, I like Greg Walden a lot. We do a lot of work together. We share each other's pains. But my question to Greg is can we, at least in the spirit of comity and compromise -- can we at least get a vote on our common-sense solutions?

You can vote no, but at least give us a vote.

WALDEN: So the way this works, actually, we've had two votes, one in May and one in December, to offset the sequestration in the House. We came up with common-sense reductions in spending, some of which came from the president's own initiatives. We sent that to the Senate. And the Senate never took it up. The Senate never passed it. The president never weighed in, in support. And he said, if you don't increase taxes, I'm going to veto it. So we've tried to get flexibility from the sequester moving forward and it's been rejected, or it's like that Jimmy Buffet song, "If the phone doesn't ring, it must be me."

(LAUGHTER)

We're waiting for Harry Reid, or we're waiting for Barack Obama.

CROWLEY: Let me move you on to politics because something caught my eye in a story today in The Washington Post. And it quotes you, Congressman Israel, quote, "The president understands that, to get anything done, he needs a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives," said Representative Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "To have a legacy in 2016, he will need a House majority in 2014, and that work has to start now."

How is that substantially different from Mitch McConnell, who was pounded for years for saying that his priority was to get the president to be a one-term president?

ISRAEL: Well, there's a -- there's a huge difference. The difference is that House Democrats have consistently supported compromise. The president put out a plan...

CROWLEY: But this is about the president's legacy now, which you point out. It's about the president's legacy. So how would we ever know that he really wants to work with House Republicans when we know that he wants the House to be Democratic and is actively working in a way he has not worked at it before?

ISRAEL: Here's why. Last Thursday the Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, spoke to the Republican Caucus and said there will be no more negotiations, no more talks; not one corporate tax loophole will be considered...

CROWLEY: As part of a sequester.

ISRAEL: As part of a sequester. And the Republican Caucus cheered. Since when do we begin cheering for failure?

(LAUGHTER)

Since when did we cheer against compromise?

CROWLEY: I think they were probably cheering on the tax -- the tax cut part...

(CROSSTALK)

ISRAEL: But the fact of the matter is the speaker said we will not negotiate and there was cheering. What the president needs is more conversation about compromise and less cheering for the lack of compromise.

WALDEN: The first phone call the president of the United States made as he left the platform on election night -- it was to my friend here from New York, Steve Israel, as reported by The Washington Post, to say, "I'm all in this time to take back the House."

The next phone call was to Nancy Pelosi, saying "I'm all in to take back the House."

He has had the neverending campaign, using Air Force One and $180,000 an hour to campaign around the country. He has not committed to solving these problems until he has nobody that will stand up and say "Let's have a check and balance here, Mr. President." And, for heaven's sake, don't get in the president's way or question him or you might regret staking our your position.

CROWLEY: Congressman Israel, you can see why people will now look askance at the president's dealings with Republicans in the House whom he now is, you know, dedicated to getting out of office. Now, we knew that obviously presidents want their own party in. But -- but this in the midst of all thee negotiations shades how you look at it, does it not?

ISRAEL: Well, look, the president has consistently supported compromise. The president and House Democrats have supported over a trillion dollars in cuts. We know that we have to cut even more. But what the president has said to House Republicans is let's substitute 750,000 pink slips, which this process will lead us to, with a reduction in big handouts to a few big oil companies.

(CROSSTALK)

ISRAEL: Well, let me finish -- and -- and the kinds of cuts that are going to cost 750,000 jobs. We need compromise and solutions and less blame.

CROWLEY: Let me move you on to some issues because...

WALDEN: Well -- well...

CROWLEY: OK, go ahead, real quickly.

WALDEN: Before you do that, I do think I get a chance to respond here in the terms of the fiscal cliff. The president just got $600 to $700 billion in tax increases at the end of the year in a compromise on the tax code. That was a compromise passed by the House and the Senate into law.

That's an enormous amount of revenue if you think about it, $600 billion to $700 billion in higher taxes. We've done the tax piece. We need now to deal with Washington wasteful spending, and it needs to be done. And the trillion dollars he's talking about was part of the Budget Control Act that, you know, included the...

CROWLEY: It didn't happen.

WALDEN: No, it did happen. It's long. It included the sequestration. That's what we're arguing about today. That's where those cuts come from.

CROWLEY: Let me... ISRAEL: What we need is more continued balance.

CROWLEY: OK. Let me ask you, moving forward, on, sort of, separate issues that you all have. We have a situation where a number of Republicans joined in publicly stating their support for gay marriage. And I wanted to ask you, as you look at these upcoming elections for House members, how do you hold true to the social pillars of the Republican Party and still invite in those, and there are many Republicans, who say, you know, we need to be supporting gay marriage, among other social...

WALDEN: And there's certainly Republicans who do, Ileana Ros- Lehtinen and Richard Hanna, others, that have actively engaged in that and support that. In other parts of our country, they don't support that.

But, look, I think this is evolving. The...

CROWLEY: It, kind of, invites primary challenges, though, doesn't it?

WALDEN: Well, it can. It does. And that's what primaries are about. But I think we're evolving on a lot of these issues. But the thing Americans care most about is am I going to have a job; are we going to get this economy going; can you sign off on Keystone Pipeline, create 20,000 American jobs? I think the economy is job number one and it should be for everybody.

CROWLEY: And let me ask you, on your side of the aisle, you have, I think, more than -- almost a dozen, maybe more than two dozen, actually, congressmen have written the president and said no way, no how can you touch Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, which everybody says are the huge drivers of the deficit. How do you, sort of, bring the Democratic Party behind not a single but at least a consensus view of what should happen to these entitlement programs?

ISRAEL: Number one, we've already achieved over $700 billion in savings and efficiencies in Medicare, which is an entitlement program.

CROWLEY: Nobody thinks that's enough.

ISRAEL: Number two, we understand that we've got to go beyond that; we've got to have a serious conversation and a good compromise and a sensible, smart strategy on entitlements.

But what we get is we want to reform Medicare. We want to begin to reduce Medicare and Social Security from the Republicans, but we can't find one single special interest tax loophole that they're willing to roll back or end?

(CROSSTALK)

ISRAEL: Why is it that seniors have to be the first to sacrifice the most?

CROWLEY: But everybody -- everybody does think that the entitlements are what, really, you have to approach, and we don't see any sign of that.

(CROSSTALK)

ISRAEL: ... the conversation, but let's prioritize.

CROWLEY: Let me -- I've got to -- I've got to go here, but I want to thank you so much, Congressman Israel, Congressman Walden.

WALDEN: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Come back. We'll do it again.

ISRAEL: We'll do it. Thank you.


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