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CNN "Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees" - Transcript


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BLITZER: A lot to talk about, starting with Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker.

Senator Corker, thanks very much for joining us.

Let's talk about Grover Norquist's no new taxes pledge. You said earlier in your career, you told "CBS Morning News" earlier today -- and I'm quoting now -- you said you're not obligated on the pledge, adding, "The only thing that I'm honoring is the oath that I take when I'm sworn in this January."

So what exactly did you mean by that? Did you suggest, did you mean that under certain circumstances you would be ready to accept an increase in tax rates for the wealthy?

CORKER: Well, I was just elected, as you know, reelected, and our campaign materials during the campaign spelled out that the only pledge I would be honoring would be the pledge of the oath of office that you make when you're sworn in. That's what my comments meant.

Look, I think Republicans have shown a willingness to look at revenues as long as we have entitlement reform. Those are the two ends of the spectrum, Wolf.

It appears to me that Speaker Boehner has been shown flexibility on revenues and it appears to me that the president on entitlements. The point of my op-ed this morning in "The Washington Post" was that, look, it's so much easier for us just to go ahead and make these decisions and put them behind us and start the new year with economic growth, having dealt with these issues, than it is to negotiate some process where we kick the can down the road and deal with this six months from now with a more limited menu and more draconian steps because we have dug a deeper hole.

BLITZER: You're talking about to a certain degree capping deductions, let's say, at $30,000 or $50,000 per household. But what if the Democrats insist and say they're not going to sign any deal unless there's at least some increase in the marginal rate for the wealthy, people making $250,000 a year or more? Right now they are paying 35 percent. It was 39.6 percent as you remember during the Clinton administration.

What if they insist it has got to go up let's say to 37 percent? Is that acceptable under any circumstances?

CORKER: Well, I think the two most important people in these negotiations -- and I think you would agree -- are Speaker Boehner and the president. That's a negotiation that they need to have. Obviously, Speaker Boehner for a bill to pass, it has to pass the House.

What I have attempted to do, Wolf, is to show that there's a way of getting revenues that we need to solve this problem. As long as it is accompanied with entitlement reforms, there's a way of doing that without increasing rates. If people just want to draw a line in the sand and say, no, it has to be my way or the highway, that might be problematic.

But I have tried to lay out a bill, as I -- op-ed today in "The Washington Post" -- that deals with the issues and deals with the revenues that Democrats want to see and candidly and I think all of us know have to be there to truly deal with this issue, but does it in a way that is pro-growth.

BLITZER: Under any of the proposals that you're making, capping deductions, for example, for richer families and for richer Americans, would that according to your interpretation be a violation of that Grover Norquist no new taxes pledge?

CORKER: I think a lot of people made the pledge 20 years ago, 25 years ago, 15 years ago. I think they realize that we're in a very critical time for our country, and that this issue has to be dealt with. Revenues need to be a part of the component, and entitlement reform, true entitlement reform has to be there also in order for us to put this in the rear-view mirror.

BLITZER: Senator, leaders of both parties have suggested that major tax reforms simply is not going to happen over the next few weeks before the new year. Instead, it sounds like there could be an agreement in two steps, a down payment coming right now during the lame-duck session includes revenue from closing loopholes, spending cuts, the hard stuff though, major tax reform, put off until next year. What do you think about that?

CORKER: Wolf, we know what the options are. This Congress, the 112th Congress, has been through two dry runs already. No Congress is more aware of what the options are.

And certainly we can deal with some kind of tax reform next year, but from the standpoint of dealing with this fiscal issue now, it's only a matter of political courage. Again, no other Congress has spent more time on this. We can make the decisions we need to make now.

I am telling you, Wolf, it's much easier to do that technically and write it down and pass it than it is to try to negotiate some process that's likely to fail, like the first two processes have. We're better off just going ahead and ripping the Band-Aid off, making the decisions we need to make and move down the road.

BLITZER: Senator Bob Corker, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck.

CORKER: Thank you, sir. See you later.


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