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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript: Debt Limit and ACA

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BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

DAVID GREGORY:
All right. All of you sticking around, of course. Joining me now, Democratic Senator from New York, Chuck Schumer, Republican Senator from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn. Senators, welcome both.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:
Hi.

SEN TOM COBURN:
Morning.

DAVID GREGORY:
Senator Schumer--

SEN TOM COBURN:
Morning.

DAVID GREGORY:
Senator Schumer, let me start with you. To Andrea's point, the crisis has been averted. But why should anybody have faith that, when you get around to negotiating the budget in just a couple of months, that a deal is somehow reachable at this point?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:
Well, I think there are a few reasons. First of all, the Republican Parties in the House and Senate are not a majority Tea Party. They are mainstream conservatives, very conservative, but mainstream. They've seen their numbers drop dramatically because they followed the Tea Party. And they, I think, may decide not to go forward in this direction.

And so I think that we'll see a new type of negotiation where we come together. Now one way, David, to avoid this from happening again is for us to implement the McConnell Rule, which says that Congress must disapprove, rather than approve, increases in the debt ceiling. If we were to do that, the chances of going up to the brink again, the chances of this kind of debacle, would decrease. I'm going to introduce legislation--

DAVID GREGORY:
All right, well--

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:
--to just that.

DAVID GREGORY:
Senator, let me--

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:
And it would really help.

DAVID GREGORY:
On that point, Senator Coburn, why would Republicans agree to that if they've just come through a negotiating term where they don't feel like they got very much? Why would they lose that feeling that, in fact, using the debt ceiling as some leverage is a worthwhile concept? If nothing else, they kept these sequester cuts in place for now.

SEN TOM COBURN:
Well David, first of all, I think the debt ceiling's a misnomer. We've never not increased it. And the first thing you do when you're addicted to something is to present the reality to yourself that you are addicted. And we didn't do anything except create a big mess in Washington. And I'm not so inclined to think it was the Tea Party as much as it was outside interest groups and a few individuals within our party that took advantage of that situation.

Look, the real problems are that we're continuing to spend money that we don't have on things that we don't need. There's tremendous amounts of waste and fraud. We have to protect the promises made to American people. And we can do that, but we can do that spending a whole lot less money than we're doing today.

DAVID GREGORY:
Let me ask you about Obamacare. Because that fight does not appear to be going away. Your colleague, Senator Ted Cruz, has said that he would do anything in the future to stop the train wreck that is Obamacare. Do you believe the fight against Obamacare is over?

SEN TOM COBURN:
Well, you know, I think focusing on Obamacare takes you away from the larger picture, David. We have $128 trillion worth of un-funded liabilities, and the total net worth of our country is $94 trillion. And we have another $17 trillion worth of debt.
What we ought to be doing is how do we secure the future? You know, I heard your panelists talk about the markets and the growth and the decrease in GDP. Our problem with growth, in spite of what Jack Lew's going to tell you, is there's no confidence in the country about the future. And until you have leadership that brings our nation together, rather than advantages themselves by dividing this, we're not going to solve these problems. And we have to be truthful about what the real problem is.

DAVID GREGORY:
All right, let me stick to Obamacare. Senator Schumer--

SEN TOM COBURN:
And so my--

DAVID GREGORY:
I just want to continue on this point. Senator Schumer, how disappointed are you with the rollout of Obamacare? You have heard fellow Democrats, Robert Gibbs, who was the press secretary for President Obama, saying that people should be fired because of the rollout and the problems that have gone with it. How disappointed are you? And who should be accountable for it?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:
Okay. Well first, I think the number one point about the rollout is that there's huge interest. 19 million individual visits to the website, that's huge. 500,000 people, close to 500,000 people already filing applications, even with the computer glitches. The number one worry before we started was are people going to be interested? Will people sign up? And the answer to that is, overwhelming, yes.

And as more people learn about it, more people are going to do that. I was at a wedding last night, and I saw (CHUCKLE) my cousin, who has a small plumbing business. He was all worried about Obamacare, "What am I going to do? I have a small number of employees on health care." I said, "You'll be able to go to the exchange. And in New York, your costs will be cut in half." He was happy. That's going to be repeated, that story, over and over again. So are there computer glitches?

DAVID GREGORY:
But that's not the reality today, Senator.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:
Are there-- pardon?

DAVID GREGORY:
That's not the reality today. You can talk about what will happen.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:
Well-- of course.

DAVID GREGORY:
The reality has been very difficult for people.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:
Well, because there are computer glitches. Look, every major tech company has computer glitches. You read about them, about Apple. You read about them about all our major tech companies. Those will be solved. The administration's working to do it. They're putting in a tech surge. They're putting more people in the call centers. And if you need health care, the fact that you couldn't get on the computer right away isn't going to stop you two, three weeks from now, when they're fixed from going on.

DAVID GREGORY:
Let me get--

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:
I think the computer glitches are being used by a good number of people who never wanted Obamacare in the first place as an excuse to just sort of bash it.

DAVID GREGORY:
Let me get beyond policy and get back to politics. You know, one of the striking things out of our poll, the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, was the following question: "Would you vote to replace every member of Congress?" 60% said yes. We asked here on Meet the Press on Twitter, for our viewer ideas for #breakinggridlock.
We heard three that really stood out. "End the gerrymandering, term limits, campaign finance reform." Senator Coburn, as you look at that list, is term limits maybe the most viable way to end this dysfunction in Washington?

SEN TOM COBURN:
Well, I certainly think it would bring a different viewpoint to Washington. My complaint is the vast majority of the members of the Senate and the House have no experience outside of politics, which doesn't mean they're not great people and not dedicated servants, it means like their judgment. And that's what I see most of the time.

You know, we just raised the debt limit for a period of time. And that's kind of like saying we're going to raise the legal limit for blood alcohol, thinking we're going to control drunk driving. We're drunk up there in terms of spending money. And we can keep commitments, but we can't keep commitments if we continue to spend money on things that we shouldn't be spending it on.

DAVID GREGORY:
Senator Coburn, quick follow-up, final point here. How much of a reckoning for the Republican Party has been experienced this week because of going up against the debt default limit and the shutdown?

SEN TOM COBURN:
Well, I think the fight on Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act took us off message. The large percentage of the American public knows that Washington wastes money. They just don't have a clue of how bad it really is. And so we lost the message there of what really needs to happen in Washington.

Obamacare is going to fail on its own right. And you just talked about the number of people that have signed up. The fact is that the sick people are signing up, the healthy aren't. And they're not going to, because the deductibles are so high and the cost is going to be high. And the penalty's not great enough to force them to do it.

DAVID GREGORY:
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.

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