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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript: Government Default and Budget


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BLITZER: Government shutdown, day 15, only about 29 hours left until what could be an unprecedented default for the United States. So what is it going to take at this point to reach an agreement?

Joining us now, Republican Congressman Joe Barton of Texas. He's been in the House for, what, 29 years.

Thanks, Congressman, very much for coming in.

REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Is there going to be a vote in the House of Representatives tonight?

BARTON: The Rules Committee has postponed consideration. So, that usually means that the leadership from the House Republican side doesn't have the votes. So my guess would be there will not be a vote tonight.

BLITZER: So what does that mean?

BARTON: Well, it means the speaker and the majority leader in the House go back to the Republican Conference and also touch base with Senator Reid and Senator McConnell in the Senate and maybe Nancy Pelosi and see what can be worked out.

BLITZER: Are you ready -- would you have voted for some sort of continuing resolution, if the speaker had put it up for a vote tonight?

BARTON: I had turned myself in as a no-vote on what they...


BARTON: Because there's no structural reform. There's no cost savings. It's kick the can down the road another six weeks or two months.

BLITZER: But aren't you afraid about a credit down rating of America's AAA status? Look at Fitch. They just -- within the past hour, hour-and-a-half, they put the U.S. on what is called rating watch negative from its AAA rating.

You know what kind of impact that would have on your constituents and people all over the country, indeed around the world, if America's credit rating goes down, how much -- how many jobs would be lost, how much money would be lost, how much investment income would be lost for millions and millions of people out there if interest rates went up?

BARTON: Well, I agree that that's a concern.

But $17 trillion in debt already, and a president wants a blank check with no accountability. I don't know how much money the federal government can borrow, but we're beginning to get to where it's a real concern.

BLITZER: But it's really just paying for what the Congress has already appropriated, if you go ahead and avoid that kind of debt ceiling default. You have already spent that money. You have paid for it. Now the U.S. has to make sure it doesn't default.

BARTON: Well, that's why we need to bring the entitlement programs into the picture.

BLITZER: But you can't do that within a day or two, within the next two days.

BARTON: Well, we can at least start the process.

BLITZER: Well, this deal that the speaker was ready to do would start the process between now and mid-December. There would be House-Senate conferees that would get together and try to deal with these long-term problems, entitlement reform, tax reform issues that you really want to deal with. They have a parallel arrangement as part of this deal, if it were passed by the Senate and the House.

BARTON: If we're going to give the president $100 billion or $150 billion, we ought to get some cost savings or some commitment. The president has said he wants to reform Social Security. So, I think that would be a good place to start.

BLITZER: He does want to do that. He wants to maybe deal with the cost of living index and all of that, but right now there's an immediate crisis. You can see it unfold.

And people are very, very nervous, not only here in the United States, but around the world. You have got to solve this immediately. Otherwise, who knows what's going to happen.

BARTON: Well, kicking the can down the road for six weeks or two months is not solving the problem. It's just not.

BLITZER: But it does immediately solve the current crisis. That's what it -- if you kick the can down to January or February, at least you have got some time to deal with those structural issues you want to deal with. And you have been in Congress for a long time. You want to start talking about those long-term...

BARTON: Why not pick one and deal with it right now? Let's take Social Security off budget.


BLITZER: You have got 24 hours, again. And you're not going to resolve that in 24 -- you might not resolve it in the next few weeks, but in 24 hours, you're not going to deal with a long-term Social Security, entitlement reform, or any of those other major entitlement reforms.

BARTON: Let's make Obamacare voluntary. I have a bill to do that. Why don't we try that for a year?

BLITZER: But that's the law of the land, Obamacare. You have already lost that vote. The Supreme Court has ratified it.

BARTON: If it's that great, then the people will join up. And if it's not that great, they won't.

BLITZER: But it's the law of the land right now. You're not going to change it. And in the meantime, aren't you worried that your Social Security recipients, they are not going to get their check November 1 if the U.S. has to default?

BARTON: That's why I want to make the Social Security trust fund a real trust fund.

BLITZER: Yes, but that's -- you're not going to do that in the next 24 hours. That takes a long time to deal with those kinds of issues.

BARTON: Once you put it up for a vote, it takes 10 seconds to put your card in and vote. And in the Senate, it takes five seconds to say yes or no.

BLITZER: So you're willing to risk what potentially could happen over the next few days in order to try to achieve Social Security reform or tax reform within the next couple days?

BARTON: It's not going to get any easier six weeks from now or two months from now.

We have had all year to talk about it. Now's the time to at least start doing something about it. I'm not saying finish the process. I accept your point on that.

BLITZER: They're ready to start, Congressman. They're ready to start.

BARTON: The president hasn't said he wants to do anything, except have us give him another check.

BLITZER: No, no, no. He said end the government shutdown, make sure that there's the debt ceiling extended. He's willing to start these talks. And House-Senate conferees, Budget Committee members and others, they can deal with it, including you.

BARTON: He could sign a bill and save some money, and then we can talk some more.

BLITZER: Yes. Well, the danger is immediately there, Congressman.

Thanks for coming in.

BARTON: Thank you, sir.

BLITZER: I know you're worried about it. But we will see what happens. Thanks very much.

BARTON: Thank you.

BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

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