Interviews with Senators Manchin and Paul

Interviews with Senators Manchin and Paul

By John King, USA - July 28, 2011

KING: In the Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has a different plan, his plan would be about $2 trillion in cuts and raise the debt ceiling through the 2012 presidential election. Our next guest says he would vote no on the House Republican plan and on the Democratic Senate plan. He is the Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Senator thanks for being with us.

I want to ask you, as a new member of the Senate and a former governor, if you're going to vote no, you would vote no on both plans. How does the country avoid default and meet the House Republican test and they do control one side of Capitol Hill to cut spending?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Well John, let me tell you, the purpose for me to go to the floor tonight, today, was to basically apologize to my fellow West Virginians and all Americans for what they've had to endure and witness. With that being said, I believe there is a plan that can be worked. I appreciate all the parties involved, the speaker, of course, my majority leader, Harry Reid, working very hard.

The one I think will work is the parallel. I've got to vote for a long-term fix. I didn't come here to kick the can down the road short. We got two plans, short and shorter. And we've got to fix it for the long term. I think it's been pretty well mapped out. We need a $4 trillion swing in order to get us a downward glide to get this financial house of ours in order. And I want to see a guaranteed vote. So, if we're going to do, raise the debt, let's make sure we have a guaranteed vote to fix the debt.

KING: So, you want a guaranteed vote to have at least $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years, but would you vote on a shorter-term plan that had a smaller target if you were promised that you would get that second installment?

MANCHIN: Oh, I think absolutely. If I was promised -- and I think the promise to the American people is that there's a shorter period of time that we're going to be able to put together a plan that gives us a minimum of a $4 trillion fix, which is what all the ratings agencies and everybody has evaluated and if you have that running parallel and you can get to that point but you can also make sure that we do not default, but the most important thing also is make sure that the credit rating is not downgraded. John, that can be as bad if not worse, because I've seen the state -- my state sometimes we would challenged and it's hard to raise a debt -- raise your credit rating and it takes an awful lot of time to do that. So, you got to be very careful what we're doing here.

KING: I spent a lot of time in your state over the years, especially in recent years, and it's having a tough time like many places in America. (INAUDIBLE) family in West Virginia right now that are saying you know good for you, Senator Manchin, but, but you have your views, and you're pretty firm on them. You just heard these two new Tea Party members of Congress --


KING: -- I had with me -- hang on one second Senator -- excuse me -- who said they have their plans. Everybody has their non- negotiables and we are days away from a potential default of the United States government that if someone in your state is applying for a mortgage they're told well next week the interest rates could go up, might -- your credit card rates might go up, might be even harder to get a job in this economy. As a former governor who's had to do things and figure out compromises, how do we get something done in the next 72 hours when everybody says, well, I want to be for this, but I'm non-negotiable on this?

MANCHIN: Well John first of all it's a shame that we're down to 72 hours, and next of all when I became governor in 2004 and took over in 2005, we set our course on getting our financial house in order. We had surpluses for six years in a row. The last three years we've increased our credit rating. Not by expanding government and raising taxes, living within our means, picking our priorities. We didn't cut any programs whatsoever.

It's time for a correction. I understand that. But you have to have a balance of revenue through waste, fraud, and abuse, making sure everybody's paying their fair share, and also to make sure that we're living within our means. We haven't made that commitment yet and it has to be done. The $4 trillion downward glide has to be accomplished, and everybody has said that.

And I think it's imperative that -- for us to do it now. The time is right to do it now. And just saying, well, we have two trillion or we have 900 billion and that gets us down to next year or right after 2012, what about 2013 and beyond? I'm worried about the next generation, not the next election.

KING: Well take me behind the curtain. We have the Republicans saying our plan. They're having trouble getting the votes tonight, but they say their plan is the best plan. Leader Reid says his plan is the best plan. The White House hasn't put anything on paper, but they say their approach is the best approach. Take us behind the curtain.

Are there conversations that convince you after what I'll call a little political posturing or at least a little political plant flagging, is the president working the phones? Should the president be working the phones? Is there something be done that after we go through planting the flags on the Republican House and the Democratic Senate that we actually get this done before the deadline?

MANCHIN: Well, I can only tell you what -- as a governor, I was definitely on the phones. I was in their face on the phones, setting down continuously with the front row and the back row.

KING: Should the president be doing more of that?

MANCHIN: Well everybody has their style. I am not going to tell him what he should and shouldn't do. I respect you know the president and he'll do what he thinks is right for him and how he best feels comfortable. Everybody has a different style, but this is the time when it's crunch time, you've got to put the full-court press on, and that takes all of us. But we got to make sure that we step forward for this country and right now people are disgusted and that's why I apologized. And I really mean it. I'm sorry to have to endure it or have to watch people that have to set back and be part of this process.

It's just not right. It's not who we are as Americans. We can do better. We've got to do better, John. And I think a parallel plan if they come out and say, well, fine, we're going to get this and get our debt ceiling taken care of to make sure we don't default, we're also going to take care of our credit rating, our long-term responsibilities. You can do all of that, and basically start moving this country in a path of fiscal responsibility. I think it has to be done. You have the Bowles and Simpson plan that was put out there, the Debt Commission, it came out over nine months ago. You have the "Gang of Six".

We had 50 senators, 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans that were very enthused. It's the only bipartisan effort that we've got. And, you know, I'm sure there's going to be some tweaking. They have a commission they want to put together, that would be fine. Just make sure you have a trigger that there's a guaranteed vote before the end of this year.

KING: Joe Manchin is the Democratic senator from West Virginia, making clear tonight he will not support the House Republican plan, nor will he support his Democratic leader's plan. Senator, we'll see how this one plays out in the days ahead. Appreciate your time tonight.

MANCHIN: Thank you, John.

KING: When we come back another new member of the Senate who has also planted a flag saying he wants to see a bigger deficit reduction plan, he wants to see a constitutional amendment requiring Washington every year to balance the books -- Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky with us in just a moment, after this quick break.


KING: Live pictures of the Capitol there, and that other picture you see it might not look dramatic, but the message it's sending is quite dramatic tonight. The breaking news on Capitol Hill, the House in recess tonight. The House leadership had planned to pass its plan to (INAUDIBLE) the government's borrowing limit, raise the debt ceiling is the official way to call that, and to cut some spending.

The House speaker, John Boehner, his deputy, the majority leader, Eric Cantor, unable as yet to come up with the votes tonight. We are told just a short time ago they walked together, Speaker Boehner, Leader Cantor to the office of the Republican Whip, Congressman Kevin McCarthy. The whip is the man who counts the votes. Tonight they are a few votes shy of a majority, so they have delayed a vote that was supposed to take place in the early evening hours here.

Let's go quickly show you what the Boehner plan would do. They still plan a vote tonight. It would raise the debt ceiling by a total of $2.5 trillion. It would cut spending immediately by about 900 million. Then it would appoint a commission that would be charged with cutting spending by an additional $1.6 trillion. A committee would come up with that. Congress would have to vote on those cuts.

Also on the table on the Senate side of the Capitol, the Democratic leader there says he has a plan. Harry Reid's plan would raise the debt ceiling just once -- just once by $2.4 trillion and it would cut $2.2 trillion in spending over the next decade including some savings account for scaling back the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Let's talk now to a new member of the Senate who opposes both of these plans.

He says they don't do enough to bring fiscal sanity to Washington; Senator Rand Paul Republican of Kentucky is with us this evening. Senator Paul, the conservatives in the House can't round up the votes to pass their plan. Speaker (sic) Reid probably has 52 or 53 for his, but he doesn't have the 60 votes he would need to get it through the Senate. We are days away from a potential default. Would you prefer default to either of these two plans?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: No. But the interesting thing is the conservatives did round up the votes, the conservatives in the Senate and the House. We got 234 votes in the House last week for "Cut, Cap and Balance" to balance the budget and to raise the debt ceiling the full two trillion, exactly what the president wants. So it's interesting the dynamic here because some are saying we're unwilling to compromise. We already offer the president $2 trillion increase in the debt ceiling. All we want in exchange is a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

KING: You have made that point, and the Republicans have been very clear that you also won't accept tax increases, some of the tax increases the president would want -- he would call them revenue increases. As it plays out, as you know, we've seen a generational split in the Republican Party, some of what I'll call the old guard, folks who have been here a while, say do you know what, we need to get this done. We can't let the United States default for the first time in its history.

Does part of this debate -- Senator John McCain who 2 1/2 years ago was the Republican nominee for the president was on the floor of the Senate yesterday. He was saying that, look, you don't have the votes to get a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, so new members should put it aside and be willing to move on.

I want you to listen to Senator McCain as he read from an editorial here in making his case from the "Wall Street Journal."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced budget amendment and reform entitlements and the Tea Party hobbits could return to middle earth having defeated Mordor.

This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell into GOP Senate nominees.


KING: You were a member of the new Tea Party class, Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle, didn't make it, you did.

What's your message to Senator McCain?

PAUL: Well, not directly to him but those who love "Lords of the Ring." I would say, you know, I'd rather be a hobbit than a troll. And the hobbits were the good guys. They were the heroes in the battle for middle earth between good and evil.

And there's a certain amount of good and evil up here in the sense that I think it is evil to put these bills on to the next generation and not pay them now. The reason I'm against the Boehner plan and against the Reid plan is both of them will add $7 trillion to $8 trillion of debt over the next 10 years. I don't think we have 10 years to add trillions more debt to the country.

KING: And so help us understand. You're not going to get -- you made the case for cut, cap and balance. The president said he won't sign it. Leader Reid won't bring to the floor of the Senate. He has the power and authority, and the president has the veto pen.

So, to somebody in your home state of Kentucky, or anybody else watching, no matter their political persuasion, who if we default might see higher interest rates, might see a hit to an already struggling job market, what is Senator Paul's message for them about how would you get us out of this?

PAUL: I'm still willing to negotiate. Ours is the only plan that's passed any House. So, give us some credit of actually getting together a coalition of Republicans and Democrats and we passed the House.

I'm willing to talk to the president. I sent a letter to the president today. I'm willing to accept most of what he wants, cuts, the caps he wants, and I'm willing to give him beyond -- I know he's concerned about having time to fund raise, I'm willing to let him get out on the campaign and fund raise and not have to worry about this. We'll give him $2 trillion, all we want is a promise that we'll balance the budget, and it would be over a seven- to eight-year period, is that too much to ask?

KING: Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky -- appreciate your time tonight.


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