I love watching millionaire politicians divvy up our safety net, don’t you? So does George Stephanopoulos, since he brings it up Every. Single. Chance. He. Gets. The thought of some working class schmoe having a dignified retirement really, really gets to the Villagers, apparently:
Senators, welcome. And, Senator Durbin, let me begin with you. You see those markets going up in anticipation of a deal. Are they right to be optimistic?
DURBIN: Well, they should be optimistic, because we can solve this problem. Unfortunately, for the last 10 days, with the House and Congress gone for the Thanksgiving recess, there hasn’t much — much progress hasn’t been made. But tomorrow there’s no excuse. We’re back in town.
And, George, let me tell you, it gets down to the basics. The House of Representatives has a bipartisan bill passed by the Senate that will spare 98 percent of taxpayers across America from any income tax raises and 97 percent of businesses. It’s a bipartisan bill the House should pass to make sure that we go forward with these negotiations without this specter of tax increases for working families.
They also, I might add, have a bipartisan farm bill sent by the Senate that they’ve been unable to pass and a bipartisan bill for the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization. It’s time for the House in the closing days of this session to at least take up those three measures and pass it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Senator Graham, you’ve signaled that you’re willing to raise revenues as part of an overall deal that also includes spending cuts, and that’s drawn the fire of Grover Norquist, you know, the author of that no-tax pledge that’s been in place among so many Republicans for 20 years right now. He thinks the best solution is actually not to negotiate a compromise right now, is to go over the cliff. He says the world won’t come to an end if this isn’t resolved before January. Take the sequester. The only thing worse than sequester cuts is to not cut spending at all. He’s saying don’t raise taxes, accept those spending cuts.
Grover, of course, using the old Brer Rabbit strategy: “Oh please, please throw us into that sequester patch!”
GRAHAM: Well, what I would say to Grover Norquist is that the sequester destroys the United States military. According to our own secretary of defense, it would be shooting ourselves in the head. You’d have the smallest Army since 1940, the smallest Navy since 1915, the smallest Air Force in the history of the country, so sequestration must be replaced.
I’m willing to generate revenue. It’s fair to ask my party to put revenue on the table. We’re below historic averages. I will not raise tax rates to do it. I will cap deductions. If you cap deductions around the $30,000, $40,000 range, you can raise $1 trillion in revenue, and the people who lose their deductions are the upper-income Americans.
But to do this, I just don’t want to promise the spending cuts. I want entitlement reforms. Republicans always put revenue on the table. Democrats always promise to cut spending. Well, we never cut spending. What I’m looking for is more revenue for entitlement reform before the end of the year…
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to ask Senator Durbin about that, but let me press you one more time on Grover Norquist, because he’s had some tough words for you. In the end, he says, you’re not going to go through on this promise to raise revenues, because you, quote, “like being a senator.” Your response?
GRAHAM: I love being a senator, and I want to be a senator that matters for the state of South Carolina and the country. When you’re $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece, and Republicans — Republicans should put revenue on the table. We’re this far in debt. We don’t generate enough revenue. Capping deductions will help generate revenue. Raising tax rates will hurt job creation.
So I agree with Grover, we shouldn’t raise rates, but I think Grover is wrong when it comes to we can’t cap deductions and buy down debt. What do you do with the money? I want to buy down debt and cut rates to create jobs, but I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.
The game’s laid out for us. Republicans want to trade teeny, tiny deduction cuts for Big Bold CUTS in the national safety net. Will Obama let them?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about that entitlement reform, Senator Durbin, because you see your allies in the Democratic Party are already starting to mobilize with ads from labor unions, the AARP airing across the country right now. I want to show part of it right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): How do we move our country forward and reduce the deficit? By creating jobs and growing our economy, not by cutting progress that families rely on most. For working families, it’s all about putting Americans back to work, not cutting the things we rely on most.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: They are signaling that they can’t accept the kinds of entitlement reforms, especially in Medicare and Social Security, that Senator Graham is saying are prerequisite to a deal.
DURBIN: Let me tell you, first, George — and you know this — Social Security does not add one penny to our debt — not a penny. It’s a separate funded operation, and we can do things that I believe we should now, smaller things, played out over the long term that gives it solvency.
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