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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript - Budget and Tax Policy


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BLITZER: We're hearing some different things coming from various Republicans, including Senator Bob Corker. He's a Republican of Tennessee. He says he's optimistic about the possibility of what's called a grand bargain, and he's open to the idea of raising tax revenues to cut the deal under certain circumstances.

Senator Corker's joining us now from Capitol Hill.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Good to be with you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: You heard Speaker Boehner saying there's no discussion as far as he's concerned about additional tax revenue. You're saying you're still hopeful there can be a deal in the next four or five months. What's going on?

CORKER: Well, Wolf, I do think the best environment we're going to have under this president's term is going to be between now and August 1.

We're going to move through the sequester process, it looks like, on the Senate floor either tonight or tomorrow. We will pass the bill that funds government at the lower sequester levels. I think that's a major victory. We will have the budgets next week, and then we will have a period of time of about four months before the debt ceiling actually is hit.

I think that's the most fertile time for us. I think what Republicans want to see, Wolf, is they want to see a 75-year actuarial soundness for Medicare and Social Security. We want to make sure that these programs are going to be there for the future.

The president knows that we want to make sure these programs are there. And what the presidents wants, obviously, is some additional revenue. I believe there's a possibility, if we could get the 75-year soundness on Medicare and Social Security with appropriate changes and reforms, I think there may be a way, through full tax reform, to do something that will generate revenues and fit the needs of both sides, and that's what I'm hopeful is going to happen over the next four months.

Now, look, there's no -- you know, no negotiation that's happening right now. There's some general discussions that have taken place, but I think the environment is going to be the best that it's been in the next several months.

BLITZER: So just to be precise, under certain circumstances, to save Social Security and Medicare over 75 years, you'd be willing to raise tax revenue? Do you have a number, two to one, three to one, spending cuts versus tax revenue? Along those lines, what do you see?

CORKER: You know, when we say revenue, we're talking about through closing loopholes, through streaming the process. It's going to be some -- some economic growth that will generate revenue through that entire process if we do it right.

And again, Republicans want to see the tax code change so that it generates the kind of economic growth that we need to have in this country, which is, by the way, the greatest solver of some of the deficit issues that we have.

But I don't have a ratio. I do know that those are the two pieces of the puzzle, Wolf, and there's enough commonality to me between what we're saying and what they're saying that what we ought to try to do is build off that commonality over the next several months and do something that would be great for the American people.

To go back to ratios, remember, the president did just get $120 billion in revenues at year end. And remember in the number that, of course, it's moved around a big deal, but he's already received a great deal of revenue, and so really the revenue piece, if it happens, should be a much smaller component than it was going to be in the first place.

KEILAR: But Senator, I mean, you're leaving the door open to that, so if I'm listening to you, I might be encouraged that there could be some common ground found, but there is a split between the leadership in your party and the rank-and-file members of the Republican Party that's discouraging.

CORKER: No, no, no, there's no split. I think if you -- if you listen to the words that are being said and you listen to Mitch McConnell's comments in the past, you listen to a lot of people on our side of the aisle, again, Republicans want to see tax reform take place. We think it's one of the things that can really drive economic growth in our country.

So, if you look at potential additional revenues through tax reform and you look at entitlement reform that's really solving this problem, I don't think you're really hearing that much differentiation between people speaking.

So, I'd listen closely. I think -- I think people are open to economic growth, and we, obviously, want to see that and the revenues that come from that. And tax reform can help generate that.

And again, I'm listening to a lot of folks, and I do think there is an overlap that's good enough for us to begin some discussions that could bear fruit.

KEILAR: Senator, I want to get your take on this autopsy that came out this morning, the RNC put this out looking back at the 2012 presidential election. One of the things that you can read in this is an emphasis on changing, not the message, but maybe the messenger, maybe the way the message is packaged. Do you think that that's the right way to go, or do you think that maybe the message of the Republican Party does need to be tweaked a little bit?

CORKER: You know, I'm a -- I'm a policy person. I was in business all of my life, and I really arrived in the public arena almost as a civic endeavor. And I try to focus on policy, and I've always said that great policy is good politics, and that's what I tried to focus on. I kind of leave it to others to prognosticate.

I think each of us has to figure out a way to make a difference in this world, especially in this public world. The way I found best is to try to solve problems that are great for the long-term respect of our country and I don't know that I can get into messages and messengers.

Obviously, there was some mistakes made, and no doubt there was some technology advantages that the other side had been able to create for themselves. But I think right now for anybody to say they have exactly the right answer is probably not where we are. And I think things are going to evolve. And I think it's healthy that you have a lot of people offering a lot of different ideas about the problem.

For me, I've always felt that if you offer policy solutions to the problems of this country, especially those that are addressed the long-term issues that we have, you're going to be in a good place. It's worked well for me back home, and I think it will work well for people on both sides of the aisle to focus in that manner.

BLITZER: One final question, Senator, before I let you go. There is a split amongst Senate Republicans. On the one end you've got Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, let's say, the new, younger generation. Then you've got John McCain. There have been some angry exchanges between Rand Paul and John McCain, as you know, in the past few days. Where do you see yourself fitting into this split?

CORKER: I'm kidding. Look, Wolf, I'm a great friend of John's and Lindsey's and have gotten to know Rand and Marco coming in. And look, you know, every now and then you're going to have some old dust- ups. It seems especially those ones relative to foreign policy end up sometimes driving the most passionate dust-ups.

But look, we have four great senators that you've mentioned there. They all have very differing ideas. They are all part of our caucus and bring a lot to it. And I think -- I think it's time to move on and focus on those things that unite us. And -- and look, I really do think it's healthy that people are being as outspoken as they are right now, and hopefully, that will lead to some unification down the road.

BLITZER: We'll see if it does. Senator Corker, always good to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thank you.

CORKER: Thank you.


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