CHUCK TODD: You heard of it before. Simpson-Bowles, Bowles-Simpson. The commission put together by President Obama to find a solution to the country's fiscal problems containing a mix of spending cuts and tax increases designed to reduce the budget deficit to 2.2% of GDP.
Everyone praised it and then everyone ran away from it. Two congressmen stepped up and introduced a plan in the House. Their efforts got them a total of 38 votes including themselves. Joining me now are the two congressman who introduced the Simpson-Bowles based budget. 38 votes. 38 votes.
Congressman Cooper, how frustrating was that moment? I remember when you introduced it. I thought for sure there would be 80. I think we knew it wouldn't pass. What happened?
REP. JIM COOPER: Everybody likes to talk brave. There are few people that want to be brave. We had almost 100 people indicate strong interest and 100 people had showed up at a previous press conference.
But there's a big difference between that and voting. What happened on the afternoon of the vote, a lot of interest groups in America on the left and right totally hammered us. Since a lot of folks thought it wasn't going to pass any way, they cut and ran.
TODD: Congressman, that does seem everyone was thinking about re-election. If you're a republican you were worried about Grover Norquist and democrats were worried about AARP or someone else bashing you over the social security provisions. It just -- I still -- all of this praise to Bowles-Simpson. Paul Ryan praised Bowles-Simpson, but voted against it.
REP. STEVE LATOURETTE: Just to correct you, we never call it Bowles-Simpson. That's bs. We call it Simpson-Bowles, if we could. We had a lot of people interested in this - a lot of people are interested. The President says he's open to it, but never set up any Simpson-Bowles to Capitol Hill. You know, in that six hours between when they announced the schedule and we had the vote at 9:00 in the afternoon, people were pounded.
TODD: Who was doing it? Who was whipping? Was this Eric Cantor whipping on one side and Steny Hoyer on the other? I mean, McCarthy is the Whip.
LATOURETTE: No. The Whip organizations weren't involved at all. It was outside groups. On the republican side, you had Grover Norquist. I talked to Grover that evening. He said there's a huge tax increase - $2 trillion tax increase. I said I don't think so. Groups like that, Club for Growth, Heritage Action, so on. And then on the left you had labor and AARP and variety of others.
TODD: Congressman Cooper, isn't the irony here that lame duck is the only time you can do it because it's the actual furthest away from an election you can get? It's that sort of 60-day period between the November elections and the new Congress being sworn in?
COOPER: Chuck, you're right Chuck. You know politics better than anybody. That is farthest from the next election, but it's also an illegitimate Congress. I'm calling it the zombie Congress because at least
TODD: You think it's an illegitimate Congress?
COOPER: Well, at least a hundred Members will be unelected but they'll still have a voting card. So, they might be braver, but they've also been unelected. They'll be a big push to kick all of the problems down to next year, the real Congress, the 113th Congress.
TODD: What's your opinion on it? Should it or shouldn't it the lame duck deal with this?
COOPER: I'm for action now even before the election. We've got to face these problems.
TODD: Aren't you guys in recess? The House is already gone, right?
COOPER: We only have three more days of Congress before we leave for the November 6 election. That's ridiculous. We're not even passing a Farm Bill. After the worst drought in half a century, we're not even allowed to vote on a Farm Bill. So this is the way the modern Congress is acting. It's not even a congress, it's a parliament, and a very poor parliament.
TODD: Alright, pick up on what Congressman Cooper said. Are you an illegitimate voter now? You're not running for reelection, and you're going to be in this lame duck.
LATOURETTE: With all due respect to my friend, Jim, I will not have been unelected. I will not have been reelected because I chose not to run. I think if the Super Committee had been made of retiring Members, we would have had a deal. If you have a lame duck session on an issue as important as this, I think people will find the courage.
TODD: What's the election result that's needed to force this to happen before December 31st?
LATOURETTE: You know, I hate to speculate on that. My opinion would be at odds for what I wish would happen to tell you the truth.
TODD: So that means, and I've heard this, that it's an Obama reelection, a tie in the Senate, and a narrower House Republican majority where everybody feels as though they don't have full-fledged power.
LATOURETTE: Yes, I think that's right. I think that scenario would embolden our Speaker Boehner to go back to the President and try and recreate that big deal they were so close to about a year and a half ago.
TODD: Congressman Cooper, what do you expect to actually happen in this lame duck? I've heard speculation of the rejigger the sequester for a year, punt everything for six months to a year. Is that the reality here?
COOPER: Well, I'm hoping for bravery and wisdom. I hope we'll avoid gridlock because that would be an accomplishment for this Congress. With a closer majority, we'll have to reach out to the other party and hopefully be sensible about the fiscal cliff that is rapidly approaching.
TODD: And you're going to introduce your bill, when?
LATOURETTE: The day after the election.
TODD: The day after the election. Congressman Cooper, Congressman LaTourette, we'll be watching. Tennessee and Ohio together? We'll see.