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REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Good to be with you, Ed.
SCHULTZ: You bet.
Some Republicans are now saying that they`re willing to accept a rate
hike on the top 2 percent, but there seems to be a catch. The quote that
is catching everybody`s attention comes from Tennessee Senator Bob Corker.
He said Republicans know they have the debt court of appealing that`s
coming up right around the corner, and the leverage is going to shift.
Hopefully, we`ll do the same thing we did the last time. And, of course,
he is referring to the summer of 2011.
So the question is are they agreeing to rate hikes and then go ahead
and take the economy hostage? What`s your -- what`s your response to that?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, they have part of this right, and they have part of
it totally wrong. What they`re right about is they see the handwriting on
the wall and the fact that they`re going to have to join with Democrats to
extend the middle class tax cuts. Because if they don`t, the whole country
will see that they were willing to tank the entire economy and give everybody a tax increase in order to get this bonus break for folks at the top. So I think you`re seeing more Republicans recognize that fact.
Where they`re just dead-wrong, Ed, is thinking that they`re going to gain leverage over this debt ceiling, because the American people are not going to stand for Republicans turning right around and threatening to
destroy the American economy by having the United States default on its
debts, by refusing the United States government to be good, make good on
its full faith and credit, because that`s what they would be doing. This will boomerang on them, just like it did in the summer of 2011.
SCHULTZ: So is Corker bluffing?
VAN HOLLEN: I think that they`re totally miscalculating both for the
country and for themselves politically.
SCHULTZ: Is Corker bluffing then?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, he may think in his mind right now that that`s going to be leverage. But I think when we get into the New Year, if this were to happen, if this scenario were to play out, he is totally deluding himself because threatening to tank the entire economy, which is what would happen if we ever defaulted on our debt, is not a kind of negotiating strategy that is going to be popular with the American people.
SCHULTZ: Sure. Congressman, this is a one-shot opportunity for President Obama to get more revenue. So why not just go over the cliff? Let the rates go up, and work from there. I mean, the case can be made that the Democrats will have plenty of leverage after the first of year.
VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think the president would rather resolve this as part of an agreement where we did deal with things like the debt ceiling so that people weren`t playing games with that.
There are also other important things that the president wants to do. He wants to extend unemployment insurance compensation. We want to increase our national investment in our infrastructure, in our roads and bridges and our transit ways.
There are important things we need to do to boost economic and job growth that you cannot get simply by going over the cliff.
SCHULTZ: Yes, you think you can get this done, or do you think the
Democrats can get Boehner to agree to those kind of things, infrastructure
VAN HOLLEN: Well, that`s what the president has said. I think he has been very focused on trying to get those important investments to help grow our economy. So that`s why an overall agreement would be better than just doing it the messy way.
SCHULTZ: And are you comfortable with just President Obama and Speaker Boehner doing the negotiations right now? You know, like maybe just saving Speaker Boehner`s position in the Congress, but maybe bad for America. What about that dynamic?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, the president has said publicly that he is very focused on the priorities that he ran on in this last election. And as you have talked about, this whole question of budgets and asking wealthier individuals to pay more was not a side issue in the campaign. It was a central issue in the campaign.
And I have faith that the president is very focused on that.
Obviously, every member of congress reserves the right to look at any
agreement to make sure that it does reflect those priorities. But everything the president has said indicates that he is working to get an agreement that`s good for the economy and deals with the long-term deficit in a balanced way -- meaning that high income individuals are going to have to contribute more and share greater responsibility.
SCHULTZ: And what about raising the age of Medicare eligibility? I mean, there are reports that a deal where rates would go up to only 37 percent in exchange for raising the Medicare eligibility age. Is that workable?
VAN HOLLEN: Yes, I think that`s a bad idea, Ed, because that doesn`t
reduce health care costs overall.
VAN HOLLEN: That simply shifts rising health care costs on to the backs of seniors. Their median income, the median income of a senior on Medicare is below $22,000. So I think that that`s the wrong direction to go.
Republicans always talk about Medicare reform. When they do it, they don`t mean that they`re going to reduce costs in the health care system. They mean they`re going to unload those rising health care costs on to the backs of seniors.
A very different approach than the president and Democrats took in the Affordable Care Act, where we reduce the overall expenditures without just
passing them on.
SCHULTZ: Congressman Chris Van Hollen, good to have you with us tonight. Thanks for your time.
VAN HOLLEN: Good to be with you too, Ed.
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