CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript: ACA and Government Shutdown


By:  Jack Lew
Date: Oct. 6, 2013
Location: Unknown


SCHIEFFER: All right, well, I want to thank both of you for coming by this morning. Thank you very much. Well, now, on to the big story here at home. There are 10 more days until the October 17. And that's when Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says we will run out of money and could begin to default on our loans unless congress raises the debt ceiling. He is with us here this morning. Do you see any hope that this thing can get resolved, Mr. Secretary?

LEW: Good morning, Bob. It's good to be with you this morning. You know, I think that the simple answer is there's a majority in congress that I believe is prepared to do the right thing, to open the government and make sure we don't cross over that abyss that you describe. I hope that a majority will be given a chance to vote. The stakes are really high. The American people have come out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. The American economy is showing its resilience. Our leadership in the world is the strong-- we're the strongest country in the world. Our currency is the world's reserve currency. Congress shouldn't be creating self-inflicted wounds that hurt the economy and hurt the American people. So, I think congress can and should act.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let me tell you something, John Boehner was just on ABC with George Stephanopoulos, and he didn't seem to think there's any way to get this started unless you all are willing to sit down and at least talk to him. Here's part of what he said.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) OHIO: We are not going to pass a clean debt limit increase.


BOEHNER: I told the president there's no way we're going to pass -- the votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit, and the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, under no circumstances will you pass a clean debt?

BOEHNER: We are not going down that path. It is time to deal with America's problems. How can you raise the debt limit and do nothing about the underlying problem?

SCHIEFFER: So he went on to say the president knows my phone number. I decided to stay here in Washington. I'm ready to talk. But I'm not going to do anything until we have a conversation.

LEW: Let's be clear, Bob. Congress needs to do its job. It needs to open the government up, and it needs to make it possible for us to pay our bills on time. I think that the president's record is quite clear on his willingness to negotiate. For the last three years, he's made every effort, with Speaker Boehner, negotiating in person, through his budgets, putting proposals out there that many Democrats were not happy that the president put serious entitlement reforms in his budget along with serious tax reforms. You know, the problem isn't the president's willingness to negotiate, the problem is we have not yet engaged with Republicans who are willing to put everything on the table and the speaker knows that. And I know the speaker well. I know the speaker doesn't want to default. He also didn't want to shut down the government. He needs to give the majority a chance to vote.

SCHIEFFER: But it sound like the two of you are talking past one another. In that interview, he all said the votes are not there to pass a clean resolution.

LEW: Well, then why doesn't he put on the floor and give it a chance. You know I worked for a speaker for eight years. I worked for Speaker O'Neill who believed deeply that the one thing Americans won't tolerate is obstructionism. He put things on the floor and sometimes he won and sometimes he lost, but that's the right thing to do. Let the congress vote.

SCHIEFFER: But is there any way, is there some kind of back channel way, is there any way to nudge this off where it is?

LEW: You know, I think that if the question is on opening the government and making sure we don't default, congress just needs to do its job. There's not -- we're not asking for anything from congress for this. Let's remember how we got here. Over the summer a bunch of fairly extreme members of the Republican Party said we're going to use shutting down the government or defaulting on our debt as a way to go back and reargue the Affordable Care Act. That was -- that was a bad decision. It was bad for the country. I don't know that the leaders decided to do it, but they ended up having the debate where the government is now shut down. In 2011, we saw the same group say that we would rather default than have the kind of honorable compromise where there's real give- and-take. That's no way for the United States to do business.

SCHIEFFER: What do you think the impact on the economy will be if we do go into default?

LEW: Nothing good, Bob. You know, it's kind of a little bit ironic that you look even at the government shutdown, the people who chose to shut down the government are now day by day discovering all the important things and the bad consequences of shutting down the government because it's a really important thing to make sure we do things like provide health care and that we have intelligence and the ability to do what the federal government does. It's a whole different order of magnitude if we default for the first time since 1789. We've never done it. But if I could just read to you what President Reagan said about it. I think it really captures very much what I think the risk is. And I quote, "the full consequences of a default or even the serious prospect of default by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate. Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and on the value of the dollar in exchange markets." Why would anyone take a risk with those kinds of consequence when it's really just a question of letting a majority vote?

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Secretary, I thank you for coming here and giving us that side. But I have to say, in all candor, I don't get any sense from you that we're any closer today to resolving this than we were a week two, weeks, six months ago.

LEW: Well, if you're asking when the Republican leadership will decide to schedule a vote, that's really their decision. We don't control that. I think if you look at what we've seen in public over the last number of days, what we've seen in public is there is a majority. There is a clear majority.

SCHIEFFER: Would the Democratic majority, would they be willing to talk to them? I mean, I'm not saying who's right and who's wrong. I'm just saying I don't see how you can get -- when both sides are unwilling...

LEW: Well, I think if you look at this last week, you saw 100 members of the House go out on the steps and say they would vote to open the government at spending levels that they abhor, but they would vote to open the government. So I don't think it's fair say that there's no reasonableness on the Democratic side. What we've seen is demands unless I get my way, you know, that we'll bring these terrible consequences of shutdown or default. Those kinds of threats have to stop.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Mr. Secretary, thank you for coming by and giving us...

LEW: Good to be with you.


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