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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript


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BOB SCHIEFFER: All right, senator. Does that sound like a starting point for serious negotiations? Can you do some business with the President on the basis of that?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-Kentucky/Republican Leader): Sure. We hope to do business with the President on a number of things. I-- I think the issue here is whether you want to raise taxes on small businesses in the middle of what most Americans think is a recession. I and all of my members, think it's a-- it's a bad idea to-- to do that. I do sense some flexibility on
the President's part. And we're happy to talk to him about it. But let me make sure everybody understands what we're talking about here. These aren't tax cuts, these are tax increases. Tax increases in the middle of a recession. This so-called upper-income thing diverts people away from the following fact. If you do that, you raise taxes on seven hundred and fifty thousand of our most productive small businesses, which represents fifty percent of small business income and twenty-five percent of the work force, at a time when job creation is just bumping along. And we'd all like to get the private sector going again. We really think that's a bad idea. But look,
we're happy to talk to the President about that and-- and all the other issues that he has on his mind.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well-- well-- I-- I would just want to get back to what he said because what he seems to be suggesting is that he might go along if you do those upper-income tax cuts temporarily, say for a couple of years or so. Is that something that you-- that you would consider?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: We-- we don't raising taxes on small business is a good idea. And you can't do what he's suggesting you might do without having a small-business tax increase. Small business is the biggest job generator in America. But we can't negotiate it this morning. But our view is, don't raise taxes on small business. We would-- we would rather not
do it at any time. In fact, I've introduced the only bill that would make the current tax rates permanent. But certainly you wouldn't want to do it--

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): But you'd at least--

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: --in the middle of an income slowdown.

BOB SCHIEFFER: From what he said, you'd at least be willing to start talking about that.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, we're-- we're willing to start talking about getting an--an extension of some kind--


SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: --so that taxes don't go up on anybody.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Let me move to something else. House Republicans want to ban earmarks. And this morning on television, on NBC, I think it was. Your Senate colleague Jim DeMint, who is the champion of the Tea Party, said he wants to put a ban on earmarks. The House Republicans want to do that. But you said in the past you don't think that's a good idea.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, here's the problem. The-- the President of course endorsed the-- the DeMint proposal in his press conference the other day as well--


SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: --which is not surprising because every president would like for us to appropriate all the money and send it to them and let them spend it in any way they want to. The earmark issue is about discretion-- about an argument between the Executive branch and the Legislative branch over how funds should be spent. And so, it has generated
some level of controversy within our conference. There are many members of my conference who said I don't want the President to make all the decisions about how the funds are spent that might be allocated to my state. Other members have said, I think we need to get rid of earmarks. We ought to deal the Executive branch earmarks, the stimulus bill that passed last
year that almost-- a trillion-dollar-stimulus bill was riddled with Executive branch earmarks. As you can see it's a lot more com--

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): Yeah.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: --complicated than it appears. And we're going to be discussing that issue, a week after next.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just try to simplify it then. Would you be for or against a moratorium on earmarks?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, I have voted for that on the floor of the Senate, a couple of times because it would apply to the entire Senate. We'll have a debate about whether or not we want to apply something only to Republicans and not to-- to Democrats as you can see it's a lot more complicated--

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): Yeah.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: --than it-- than it appears.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But I mean, if-- if it was for everybody, if it was for all-- members of all parties, let's just stop earmarks, you would be for that or against it?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: I would be willing to consider it. The problem is it doesn't save any money. It's an argument about discretion. What we really need to do Bob, is to concentrate on reducing spending and reducing debt. And this debate doesn't save any money which is why it's kind of exasperating to go some of us who really want to cut spending and get
the federal government's discretionary accounts under control.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, let's talk about another way to save some money. House Republicans and I think several other Republicans this morning are saying on television that they realize you can't repeal health care reform immediately. But they say in the meantime what they would like to do is stop funding for some of the health care proposals. And in that way dry it up. For-- for example, they said one of the House Republicans says, they will propose limiting money and personnel to the internal revenue service so that that agency will be unable to enforce provisions that require people to obtain health insurance and employers to help pay for it. Would you be willing to do that?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Let me tell you what I do think we owe the American people. This was a huge, huge issue in the election last Tuesday. The vast majority of Americans feel very, very uncomfortable with this new bill. People who supported us political independents want it repealed and replaced with something else. I think we owe it to them to try. Admittedly, it
will be difficult with him in the White House. But I-- if we can put a full repeal on his desk and replace it with a kind of commonsense reforms that we were advocating during the debate to reduce spending, we owe it to the American people to do that. If that fails, then we're willing to look at all of the various pieces of this as they become effective and how we might impact trying
to carry out our commitment to the American people to keep this awful twenty-seven-hundredpage monstrosity that took over one-sixth of our economy from going into effect.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, you know as well as I do, it'll be-- it will take more votes to repeal it than it-- than it did to-- to pass it, because he's obviously going to veto it, if-- if you repeal it, which means you'll need more votes to pass it.


BOB SCHIEFFER: So in the meantime you are willing to back these Republicans who want to defund it, as it were, to cut off funds to some of these government agencies?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Yeah, what we're doing and my office is looking for the various parts of it that are subject to funding. And we will be revisiting this issue time after time. The American people expect us to. This was a terrible bill. We've got an obligation to those who gave us more authority in the Congress than we had last Congress to try. It will be difficult with the President there. I know he feels that this was his signature accomplishment.


SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: But I don't think we can simply ignore the commitments we made to the American people to try to repeal it and replace this.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Rand Paul, your newly-elected colleague to the Senate from your home state of Kentucky, who you opposed in the Republican primary, says on ABC this morning, he wants a five percent across-the-board cut in everything. He also says he wants to cut military spending. He wants a freeze on federal hiring. And he said, you should also consider cutting the
salaries of federal workers. How much of that do you favor?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, you know, he's going to have an oppo-- opportunity in the Senate to-- to offer all of those ideas. We'll get votes on them. I-- I think he's an exciting new member of the Senate. We worked closely together in his general election campaign. He's coming here with a lot of enthusiasm and new ideas. And we'll be happy to consider them in the
Senate. And I'm sure they'll be considered in the House as well.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I mean, considering them and being for them. Are you for those things?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Some of those things I may well be for. I may end up being for all of them. We'll have to see.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You-- you have argued that one of the main purposes and other Republicans say the same thing is to reduce the deficit. But I have to ask you, Senator McConnell, when you're talking about extending those tax cuts for upper-income Americans, the estimates are that will cost seven hundred billion dollars over the next ten years. I mean, if you take all the tax cuts together you're talking about four trillion dollars.


BOB SCHIEFFER: How do you intend to pay for those tax cuts?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Bob, it only costs seven hundred billion dollars if you consider it the government's money. This is our money. This has been the tax rate for almost a decade, almost a decade. The federal government doesn't have this problem because it taxes too little. It's got it because it spends too much. We don't have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem. So the-- the whole nomenclature surrounding this that somehow we're doing people a favor by giving them their-- their own money back, I just don't accept. The government is too big. It needs to be strong. We can do that by targeting the annual discretionary spending which we, by the way, have already begun to do in this Congress. We're going to be able to do
more of it, in the next Congress. And then I'm hoping that the President's deficit reduction commission which is supposed to report on December 1st, is going to have some recommendations with regard to our long-term debt problems which are quite severe that people like me and my Republican colleagues can support.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me play you another excerpt from the 60 MINUTES interview. The President admitted that maybe he let the-- the rhetoric get out of hand every once in a while over the last couple of years. Listen to this.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (60 MINUTES): I reflect on the fact that part of my promise to the American people, when I was elected was to maintain the kind of tone that says we can disagree without being disagreeable. And I think over the course of two years there have been times where I've slipped on that commitment. And-- and that's something that I've got to make
sure that I'm checking on an ongoing basis, making sure that my rhetoric matches up with my expectations for myself and the expectations of my supporters.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So from your side of it, do you think you let the tone sort of get out of hand too, Republican senator? And do you look for a better atmosphere from here on in, or-- or a worse one?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Look, I-- you know, there are things we can do together. The President said he's in favor of nuclear power. We're in favor of nuclear power. He said he's in favor of electric cars. We're in favor of electric cars. He said he's in favor of clean coal technology. He and I just this week, Bob, talked about the Korea Free Trade Agreement. And there's also a Columbia Free Trade Agreement and a Panama Free Trade Agreement. There
are things we're going to be able to do. The notion that we're at each other's throats all the time is simply not correct. I've had two conversations with him this week about the way forward. We anticipate being able to do the people's business in those areas where we agree. I think the President believes that somehow he didn't-- his product was good but he just didn't sell it well. I think he's a good salesman. I think his problem was not his sales job. It was the product. The American people simply did not like what the President and this Congress were doing substantively. They didn't like the spending. They didn't like the debt. They didn't like the health care bill. And they wanted to have a mid-course correction. And that's what they voted for.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Mitch McConnell. Thank you so much, senator, for being with us. Hope you'll be back soon and we'll be back in a minute with the number three Democrat in the House, Congressman James Clyburn.


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