Senator McCaskill and Rep. Blackburn on the Budget

Senator McCaskill and Rep. Blackburn on the Budget

By The Situation Room - April 8, 2011

BLITZER: Just about six-and-a-half hours from now, the federal government will close its doors, a White House source now saying, though, they feel a bit more optimistic about a deal than they did only four hours ago, that source also saying there's a good chance we'll be hearing from President Obama soon.

Let's discuss what's going on with two critical voices in the debate on Capitol Hill, the Democratic senator from Missouri, Claire McCaskill; the Republican Congresswoman from Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn.

Ladies, thanks very much for coming in.

Very quickly, first to you, Senator. Deal or no deal? What are you hearing? SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D) MISSOURI: Well, we hope -- we've -- we've agreed on a top line number. It appears that we hit a -- a bump on debating Planned Parenthood funding for health screenings and family planning services, which we were very confused about. We thought this was about spending.

But it appears that -- that perhaps it's -- that Speaker Boehner has gotten the support of his caucus and -- and we remain hopeful that -- that we will be able to reach this compromise.

But we went three quarters of the way toward the Republican position and that we can keep government running.

BLITZER: All right, what about -- what about that, Congresswoman?

Deal or no deal?

What are you hearing?

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: We are hearing that there is not a deal, that negotiations are still in process. And this is a debate about spending. And I would remind the Senator that the House, the Republicans in the House have sent over not once, not twice, not three times, but four times, options for the Senate to take up. And the Senate has not taken them up.

And, Wolf, we wouldn't be here in the first place if the Democrats had done the job that was there to do, to fund the government, when the fiscal year began October 1st.

BLITZER: Congresswoman, how far apart on the money are you?

BLACKBURN: I -- I don't know exactly how far apart the numbers are, but I can tell you this, we want to make certain that we cut billions now, so that we can get started on cutting trillions and start getting the fiscal house of this great nation back in order, because we have to be able to get ourselves to October 1st and then move on to the Ryan budget that was unveiled this week and put the process in place so that we are restoring fiscal sanity in this nation.

That means we're going to be cutting trillions.

BLITZER: So it's more -- and I want to bring Senator Murkowski back into this conversation.

But Congresswoman, as far as you know, then, it's not just the issue of funding for Planned Parenthood, there are substantive financial issues at stake right now, is that right?

BLACKBURN: This is about making spending reductions and getting this continuing resolution in shape. It's about making certain that our troops, many who are my constituents, who are currently deployed, are not going to be left in a position where they do not get paycheck -- BLITZER: All right --

BLACKBURN: We've sent these bills across to the Senate time and again and they're yet to send one back to us.

BLITZER: Senator?

MCCASKILL: We have, in fact, negotiated. I have pushed my caucus for more cuts. We have gone three fourths of the way toward the Republican position and that's why last night at the White House, Speaker Boehner indicated that top line number -- that we had gotten there, but there was still an issue about Title X, which is health services for women funding.

I've got to tell you, the reason we didn't get a budget last year is because Mitch McConnell objected in December, even though we had gotten to the number that he had requested of the Appropriations Committee, even though Republicans had stuffed that bill full of earmarks and helped write it.

And the other thing is that if this is about spending and we have come three fourths of the way toward the Republican position, then let's get this done.

Because you know what's insanity?

It's insanity that we would hurt our economy by shutting down the federal government tonight. We are in a fragile recovery and these --

BLACKBURN: Senator, I've got to tell you --

MCCASKILL: -- are real jobs --

BLACKBURN: -- if you send us something that we can take up, there, again, we have been sending these bills to you. You all did not do this before the fiscal year began in October. You didn't do it before you turned things over at the end of the year.

So we have taken it up and we are very serious about making the cuts that need to be made.

MCCASKILL: And I agree with you.

BLACKBURN: Whether it's billions now --

MCCASKILL: That's why we've made the cuts.

BLACKBURN: -- or trillions later. But the point is this, Harry Reid, if he decides he wants to shut the government down, he's going to shut it down. We have sent you four different options to send back to us. And to this date, the Senate has not sent anything back.

So we're waiting --

MCCASKILL: But the only thing I can --

BLACKBURN: -- to see if you all --

MCCASKILL: -- figure out --

BLACKBURN: -- are going to take it up.

MCCASKILL: The only thing I can figure out, Wolf, is that Speaker Boehner is not sharing with his caucus what the negotiations have been. I think that compromise has been reached. I think the spending cuts have been accomplished. We need to get this done so we don't hurt our economy and we make sure our troops get paid.

And then we need to move on to the really hard, hard discussion about what we do about our structural debt. Frankly, if we can't get a deal when we have agreed on a top line number before midnight tonight, then I can't really tell you that the Republicans are serious about deficit reduction. They may just want to be debating social policy.

BLITZER: Congresswoman --

BLACKBURN: No, we --

BLITZER: Let me just -- let me just ask you this -- a blunt question.

If there's a deal on the numbers, if John Boehner agrees on the number, the speaker of the House, Harry Reid, agrees, the White House agrees, but the -- the legislation includes funding for Planned Parenthood, will you vote yea or nay?

BLACKBURN: Wolf, we're going to be anxious to see what comes back to us --

BLITZER: What if it comes back to you --

BLACKBURN: -- and the Senate --

BLITZER: -- like that?

BLACKBURN: Let's see -- let's see what they bring back. And --

BLITZER: So you're open to voting for continued --


BLITZER: -- funding for --

BLACKBURN: -- we want to see --

BLITZER: -- Planned Parenthood?

BLACKBURN: I think that what they tried to do is to bring the women's issues into this, the Planned Parenthood issues into this to take the focus off of the spending debate.

We have repeatedly tried to reduce what the federal government spends. Harry Reid would rather close the federal government and keep spending than to keep it open --


BLACKBURN: -- and face the spending cuts.

So we're --

BLITZER: But it wasn't the Democrats --

BLACKBURN: -- we're waiting to see what they bring back --

BLITZER: -- Congresswoman, it wasn't the Democrats who raised the issue of Planned Parenthood funding, the Republicans wanted to eliminate it.

BLACKBURN: They -- the riders that have been included in that legislation are things that have been voted on several times before. Harry Reid has voted for them. The president has voted for them.

What they're trying to do is deflect attention and get it off the issue of spending, which is the debate --

BLITZER: All right --

BLACKBURN: -- that we're having.

MCCASKILL: I couldn't help -- I'll tell you how we get it off the issue. Let's put them aside. We can debate those issues another day. Let's get the spending cuts that we all want to reduce the federal spending and let's make sure that thousands upon thousands of private businesses and federal employees don't lose their paychecks and we do not need this kick in the gut to our economy right now.

If this is about spending, let's make the cuts. If this is about economy, let's keep the federal government open.

BLITZER: Senator McCaskill, thank you.

MCCASKILL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Blackburn, thank you, as well.

BLACKBURN: Thank you.


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