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CNN "Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees" - Transcript


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BANFIELD: Yes. Senator Baucus pretty serious about that.

Bottom line, though, tonight both sides say that talks are stalled. The Democrats are turning up the pressure on Republicans. In a moment, our political panel will have some fun with this one, certainly about the president's opening offer, but, first, Congressman Lee Terry joins me live.

I know there's a bit of a delay, so I will ask the question, we can wait a moment and then I will get your answer. I love it when politicians talk from the hip, especially using colorful language like we're screwed either way, but I don't understand what you mean, because as I see it, there's still this extraordinarily powerful tool called the debt ceiling and you all have to be on board for that. So how do you not see that as a good tactic for negotiating?

REP. LEE TERRY (R), NEBRASKA: Well, that is probably the only level of leverage we have.

But what many of us fear, we come back from the election, we want to get the fiscal cliff resolved, but yet we aren't seeing anything from the White House. We see some disingenuous moves like the one that was done today. Last week, it was, oh, you guys go first, we're not going to put anything on the table until you vote for a tax increase.

So many of us fear that the president's real plan here was to let us go over the cliff and blame the Republicans, and that's what we look like we're being set up to do. And then if you go over the cliff, then two months later, a month later, the president can come back with a bill and say, hey, we're going to now, since the Republicans let everyone's taxes go up, I'm going to ride in here now, be the knight in shining armor and lower the taxes on the lower two brackets.

And, of course, the Republicans who one of our main values is lower taxes, would support something like that.

BANFIELD: But, Congressman Terry, that doesn't make any sense to me because while that sounds like logic, there's that other side of the fiscal cliff, all those horrible cuts that could plunge us into a depression and all the rest that no Democrats want either.

So are you serious? Are you really saying what I think you're saying, and that is that it might be a strategy that the president really wants? He wants us all to go over the cliff and then just blame you?

TERRY: Yes, that I think that's to his political advantage to do that, because then he gets to blame us, set up the 2014 elections by us being the bad guys.

But look at this. A lot of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle like the $600 billion hit to the Defense Department and they will absorb the 2 percent of cuts to the other programs out there. And, remember, none of the cuts that are in the sequestration have to do with the big three on the entitlement programs. Most of us would love to see an Erskine Bowles type of solution put on the table here.

BANFIELD: So what if there were...


TERRY: The Simpson-Bowles, sorry.

BANFIELD: Simpson-Bowles. I understood what you mean. But there is an Erskine Bowles as well. So it is a bit complex.

What about congressman Tom Cole, your Republican colleague, and his overture that he would be ready right now to just get moving and actually make this overture and say, I'm fine, I'm fine with this $250,000 a year family not getting a tax cut and letting that expire, that tax cut for those wealthier 2 percent to expire?

There are a couple people who have come out with that. Mary Bono Mack has come out and said that doesn't sound too bad. There's also Robert Dold who said that as well. What about you?


No, I don't support that. And Tom is a great political strategist and what he was saying is, hey, look, we know there will be a revenue increase, if we can get that big deal. And so let's just go ahead and take it off the table. You know, let's take that leverage away from the president there, but the reality is as a Republican who my very core principles are lower taxes, limited government, to just take a solo tax or a vote on a tax increase with not having everything else there to kind of, you know, give us the sugar to make the medicine go down, that's just not going to fly.

Most of us aren't going to support that. But I could certainly understand Tom's political strategy of trying to take it off the table, and then the president may get serious about dealing with all of the other financial problems we have.

BANFIELD: I hope you all can come to some consensus because you're costing me money as I sit here and everybody else watching us. And I think a lot of people are pretty frustrated with the people we're electing to do something big and bold. Come on. Negotiate.


TERRY: Well, and the president -- yes, well, I want -- but when the president goes from, you know, hey, I want to increase taxes on those over $250,000 and then Geithner comes and puts on $1.6 trillion of taxes, we're going in the wrong direction.


BANFIELD: Come back with another proposal, and then come back on the show and I will interview you about your proposal, but I'm out of time.

Congressman Terry, thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.


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