or Login to see your representatives.

Access Candidates' and Representatives' Biographies, Voting Records, Interest Group Ratings, Issue Positions, Public Statements, and Campaign Finances

Simply enter your zip code above to get to all of your candidates and representatives, or enter a name. Then, just click on the person you are interested in, and you can navigate to the categories of information we track for them.

Public Statements

NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript: Economy

Interview

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

All right, let me leave it there. Senator Coburn and Schumer, thank you both very much this morning. I appreciate it. On Friday, I sat down with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew in his office right next door to the White House.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:
Mr. Secretary, welcome.

SECRETARY JACK LEW:
Good to be with you, David.

DAVID GREGORY:
You said this week with the crisis over that the cloud of economic uncertainty has been lifted. How is that possibly the case when in just a couple of months, we could be right back to the brink again?

SECRETARY JACK LEW:
Well, David, first it's important to remember that what we just went through was a political crisis, not an economic crisis. Um, and I think that having come through it, what we saw on Wednesday night, that admittedly at the 11th hour, a strong bipartisan majority in the House and the Senate stood for the principle that is so important, that you cannot take a risk with the full faith and credit.

DAVID GREGORY:
But does that mean there was no economic damage done in your judgment--

SECRETARY JACK LEW:
No. Look, unfortunately, we learned in 2011 that when you get even close to the edge, it does do some damage. But we have a resilient economy. I'm confident that our economy can recover. The American people have been working hard to come back from the worst recession since the Great Depression. We need to make sure that government does not go through another round of brinksmanship. This can never happen again.

DAVID GREGORY:
But what damage has been done? Can you lay it out plain and simple?

SECRETARY JACK LEW:
So, there are going to be people looking through the details of the economic data for weeks and months to come, both in government and out of government. We did see our borrowing costs go up in the short term. We know that from the shutdown, there was a loss of economic activity. I can't give you a number today of what is another direction. The direction is that it took an economy that is fighting hard to get good economic growth going, to create jobs for the American people, and it took it in the wrong direction. Our job in Washington is to move things in the right direction.

This one was a little bit scary because it got so close to the edge. And I think that what I heard from them was that they have confidence in our economy. Much as the business people I talk to have confidence in our economy. I think what we need to do here in Washington is to go from the coming together on Wednesday night where we saw a strong bipartisan majority do the right thing, and make progress from there. Show that we can work together.

DAVID GREGORY:
So one more economic question. A lot of Republicans are crowing about the fact that whatever drama was here, whatever crisis atmosphere was here, that the sequester cuts have been locked in place, these automatic spending cuts that have kept spending down at an historic level. Do you think that that has hurt the economy, hurt economic growth, the fact that we've had this lower spending level?

SECRETARY JACK LEW:
You know, David, I think there's no question that the deep spending cuts that are part of sequestration are holding back the economy. There are competing ranges, whether it's a half percent or more, up to a percentage of G.D.P. The president's made clear that we think you should replace some of the sequestration cuts with sensible balance, entitlement, and tax reforms that put us in the right direction for the future.

DAVID GREGORY:
Who do you blame for the inability to do what you've done in the past?

SECRETARY JACK LEW:
Obviously, there was a faction, particularly in the House, who took control of some of the direction of this debate. I would just look to what Republican leaders have said themselves, about how inadvisable it is and how it can't happen again. I think the message that we have to send going forward is that there was a turning point on Wednesday night and this won't happen again. It can't happen again.

DAVID GREGORY:
Well, to that point, the National Journal has a headline, piece has a headline says, "Obama Wins! Big Whoop. Can He Lead?" Isn't the crisis management that the president decries, isn't that a lasting part of his own legacy here? Doesn't he have to absorb a big part of the responsibility for that?

SECRETARY JACK LEW:
You know, I think that the history of crisis management goes back longer than this administration. And I think the divisions in Congress are as deep as they've been in modern times. You know, you look at what we've been able to accomplish, notwithstanding all the noise, we're in a very different place now than we were even 2011, 2010. Our deficit is cut in half as a percentage of the economy from when the president took office.

DAVID GREGORY:
But aren't automatic spending cuts, which the president opposed, a big reason for that?

SECRETARY JACK LEW:
Well, it's part of it. But there's a tendency in Washington to look at one piece of what's happened. And we have to look at the entirety of it. If you go back and you look, part of the spending cuts we agreed on them because any budget agreement was going to reduce spending in domestic and defense programs.

Part of the deficit reduction was from the tax bill that passed at the beginning of this year that raised the top tax rates and repealed the Bush tax cuts. The last part of the savings is coming from these automatic, across-the-board cuts. Now I do believe that those should be replaced with more sensible policies. But the vast majority of the deficit reduction will still be in place.

So I think we've done a lot. We've got to ship the focus from just fiscal policy, fiscal policy is very important. But there's a lot we need to do to build and grow this economy. We need some infrastructure. The farm bill needs to pass. The immigration bill is hugely important to the economy. So I'm hoping that coming out of this, we can find the places where we can work together.

DAVID GREGORY:
Look, the ObamaCare fight is not going away. It is law. Republicans say they will not stop fighting. And the rollout, the exchanges, getting people enrolled has been very, very difficult. From the USA Today their coverage is this: "The federal healthcare exchange was built using ten-year-old technology that may require constant fixes and updates for the next six months and the eventual overhaul of the entire system." Speak to critics including Democrats, supported allies of this president, who say, "This has been a disastrous start to ObamaCare."

SECRETARY JACK LEW:
Well, David, first, let me say that the huge outpouring of interest shows how important it is that we get this right. There are millions of Americans who want health insurance. It's important for our economy for them to have health insurance. I think that there's no one more frustrated than the president at the difficulty in the website.

I can tell you most people around me have been working full time on solving the more immediate challenges with getting the government open and dealing with making sure we didn't default. There are people working 24 hours a day, around the clock. And the H.H.S. has said it's going to be putting out information on a monthly basis. H.H.S. has got plans to fix this and it has to fix this. It has to be done right.

DAVID GREGORY:
Can ObamaCare survive in its current form if the systems are not improved for delivery of the care and the insured?

SECRETARY JACK LEW:
The test is going to be in January, how many people are enrolled and what the quality of service that they're getting. I think that if we get that right, everyone will regret that the early weeks were choppy on the website. But the test is are people getting coverage and are they getting the care that they need. And we're confident we're going to be on track to do that.

DAVID GREGORY:
Final area, in addition to trying to keep the government open and deal with the debt issue, you're also dealing with the sanctions against Iran. And this is a big issue. As you the about negotiations with Iran, what's the bottom-line position of this administration? What does Iran have to do, what must it do in order to start easing sanctions or removing those sanctions which are hurting tremendously?

SECRETARY JACK LEW:
Well, David, I think it's premature to be talking about the easing. I think we have to go back and remember why we put these sanctions in place in the first place. The sanctions were put in place to change the way the government of Iran thought about its choices to have the economic pressure bring them to the table to change their nuclear program.

I think the sanctions were working and that's why the discussions have started. But we need to see what they're going to actually do. We need to see rolling back their nuclear program. And I can tell you that when the time comes, when those movements come, any changes will have to be proportionate. But it's premature to talk about any changes right now.

DAVID GREGORY:
But that's interesting. So if they were to enrich less uranium, they could have an easing of the sanctions? Which as you know, to Israeli leaders and others, they say, you know, "That's a mistake." Unless you completely dismantle the sanctions, don't take your foot off of the pedal that is inflicting this economic pain.

SECRETARY JACK LEW:
I haven't said what needs to happen for there to be a reduction in sanctions. What I'm saying is, we need to see that they're taking the steps to move away from having nuclear weapons capacity. We need to see real, tangible evidence of it, and that we will not make moves in the sanctions until we see those kinds of moves.

DAVID GREGORY:
Mr. Secretary, thanks as always.

SECRETARY JACK LEW:
Thank you for being here today.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


Source:
Back to top