Sen. Brown and Reps. West and Ellison on the Debt Deal

Sen. Brown and Reps. West and Ellison on the Debt Deal

By John King, USA - August 1, 2011

KING: Well, let's continue the conversation, two key players involved here; I have with me Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. He's going to have to vote when this plan moves over to the Senate now. And over on the House side of the Capitol, freshman Republican Allen West is with us. Mr. West came to Washington as a part of this Tea Party movement. OK, Mr. West I want to ask you first because you voted yes in favor of this legislation. You are a military veteran. I believe you're a member of the Armed Services Committee.


KING: One of the concerns many of the conservatives who voted no tonight, many of the concerns they have was that in their view it cut defense too much now and raise the prospect of cutting defense even more later. Why were you comfortable saying aye?

WEST: Well I think one of the things we have to look at, unfortunately is having this Draconian measure held over our heads to make sure we do the right things. We had a meeting with the Armed Services Committee, Republicans with the speaker, I made myself very clear in hoping that we can get one of the senior members, the subcommittee chairman from the Armed Services Committee to be a part of this congressional committee to make sure that we do the right things so this sequestration never comes to fruition.

KING: Another question, I know we've spoken in the past concerning you and that is taxation. You ran on an election, in which you said you weren't going to come to Washington to raise taxes. You were going to come to Washington to cut spending. There are those who look at this deal and say the super committee has every right and they would argue every reason, whether it's raising the Bush tax cuts on the rich, wiping them out when the deadline comes, whether it's maybe some sort of tax reform that brings up revenues here in Washington. A lot of people look at this as opening the door and a lot of conservative groups look at it this way. That's why they didn't like it, opening the door to tax increases. Why were you convinced it will not? WEST: Well because when you look at the baseline, first of all, it takes into account an expiration of the Bush tax cuts, a raising of the AMT, and also the tax increase of Obama care. So I don't think that we'll see more tax increases. What I think that we'll see is true tax reform, where we get to maybe change in the progressive tax code system that we have, so that we can broaden that tax base. Perhaps we will lower the corporate business tax rate that we have of 35 percent. Bring it down to 20 to 22 percent and get rid of subsidies and loopholes. Those are the types of things that I hope to be seeing come out of that committee.

KING: A Republican perspective there from the freshman Republican from Florida, Allen West. Congressman West, appreciate your insights tonight.

Now let's get some Democratic perspective from a man who not only has to vote on this plan as early as tomorrow, but also is on the ballot in 2012, Democratic Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Are you an aye or a nay?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: I'm voting yes.

KING: You're voting yes. Why?

BROWN: I'm voting yes because first of all we successfully paid back some of the attempts coming from some fairly radical proposals in the House of Representatives to dismantle Medicare and turn it over to the insurance industry. We also knew that there were efforts -- going to be efforts in the House to turn -- to privatize Social Security and turn much of it over to Wall Street, and we're successful in beating back those.

And second we can't let the United States government, the United States of America default on its obligations. It would frankly hurt far too many families in my state, small businesses, Social Security beneficiaries, veterans, soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Interest rates going up, what that does to homeowners, everything, so we simply couldn't do that.

KING: You simply couldn't do that. I want you to listen here to a montage of your friends on the left in the House who looked at this deal and said absolutely no way. In fact the former speaker borrowing a line from I think Emmanuel Cleaver (ph), the head of the Black Caucus. He called it a Satan sandwich. She said it's probably a Satan sandwich with a side order of Satan fries. Listen to some progressive criticism.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We cannot allow the extreme Tea Party Republicans to advance their agenda to dismantle our government while rewarding the extreme tactics with this bad deal.

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: I understand that this train is leaving the station. But it's going in the wrong direction.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: And then on the other side I have to pause because I don't see any sacrifice.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: If this bill passes, it may be the single worst piece of public policy to ever come out of this institution.


KING: Do you agree that it's the single worst piece of public policy?

BROWN: I wish the deal had been better. I wish that President Obama had stuck to his guns, talking about everything from corporate private jets to oil country -- to oil company subsidies to hedge fund managers and dug in there, he wasn't able to --

KING: What happened --


KING: A lot of Democrats say he's not tough enough. Some say sold us out. Some say put his own reelection interests ahead of the party.

BROWN: Well I think the -- I mean the president needed to go around the country and really educate people about whose side are you on? This isn't liberal, conservative, left or right. It's whose side are you on and it's clear --

KING: So why didn't he do that?

BROWN: I don't know why he didn't do it, but the radical elements in the House that want to privatize Medicare and turn over the insurance companies, they want to protect oil companies and protect Wall Street hedge fund managers simply were not -- you know they -- it's pretty clear that's what the battles ahead are. But what we've got to do is focus on jobs. And one of the first things we ought to do is take away tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs. If you close down a plan in Toledo, Ohio and move to Shanghai, you can get -- you can deduct the moving expenses against your federal taxes.

I mean the Republicans dug in, and wouldn't even let us change that. Those are the battles ahead because we've got to focus on China currency, focus on job training, focus on the creation of jobs. I mean you know what happened in the 1990's. We had seven years of regular economic growth. That's what gets you to a balanced budget. So it's tax -- it's cuts in spending. It's bringing tax rates up to what it was for the wealthy in the Clinton era and it's laser (ph) focus on job creation.

KING: Are you confident now with the disappointment you have in this deal, the disappointment you have in how the president handled himself in this deal, didn't get some of what you would have liked, some of what he said he would fight for? Are you confident now that you will get a better deal in round two when the super committee has to come up with 1.5 trillion? That's a big number in deficit reduction and the Republicans say the only way they're going to support it is if there's no revenues.

BROWN: Well I think -- I think two things have happened. One I think the president -- vice president spoke to us today. I think the president and vice president learned some lessons from this about being more aggressive when you're dealing with --

KING: Do you think he's going to campaign in 2012 saying I want to raise your taxes?

BROWN: No, I think he's going to campaign on closing tax loopholes and focusing on a more balanced approach. And second I think that clearly in the public arena, the conservatives, they're kind of radicals in the House really did see that the public wasn't really on their side (INAUDIBLE) they dug in but it's pretty clear from polling numbers, it's pretty clear that their extremism and they're willing to shut the government down and see the country go into default turned a lot of the public against them, so I think those two factors, the president learning lessons, and the public beginning to turn away from this kind of radical Republicanism will service (INAUDIBLE) in the fall.

KING: Let me ask you lastly, you're going to vote yes tomorrow. I assume this plan gets to the president and he signs it before the deadline. Given what happened in your state in 2010, a Republican governor, Republican senator, do you have any choice here? Did you have to vote --

BROWN: No, absolutely I had a choice, because I -- there are things about it I didn't like. Of course -- what happened in Ohio was more about job loss than anything else. We lost several hundred thousand jobs from the last two years of the Bush administration, a year and a half into the Obama administration, and that's clearly what caused I think our major losses in Ohio in 2010.

KING: Senator Sherrod Brown we appreciate your time tonight.


KING: We'll watch your vote tomorrow. Also with us from the House side is Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota. He is part of the progressive caucus and Congressman Ellison, the caucus said no, no, no. Why?

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Well, because this deal basically violates core progressive and American values. This deal calls for spending cuts on things, which could aversely impact things that can really get our economy started again like transportation and like Stafford loans, interest subsidies for those things. These young people who take advantage of these loans are the scientists and innovators of tomorrow. People who can help create jobs. So this thing was in the wrong direction. It was retractionary (ph) on the foot of a recession, in which we still have 10 percent unemployment, exactly the wrong way to go, so we voted no because it violated our core principles.

(CROSSTALK) KING: And so if it's exactly the wrong way to go and your leader, Nancy Pelosi borrowing a line from Emanuel Cleaver, the head of the Black Caucus, he called it a Satan sandwich. She said it's probably a Satan sandwich with a side order of Satan fries. Why didn't she vote no?

ELLISON: Well, because she wanted to make sure that we -- she was concerned about the default issue and I think that when you are in leadership, as she is, there might be certain responsibilities, but the fact is she didn't whip it. She didn't come in and ask any of us to vote for it. She told us this was a conscience vote.

And my conscience told me to vote no -- and so did about 95 other Democrats in our caucus, say that this is not the right thing for America.

KING: When all this started several months or several weeks ago, anyway, the president of the United States said he wanted a big deal, he wanted to take this off the table through 2013, and that he would insist on a balanced approach. And by balanced he meant that if you're going to get a lot of spending cuts and a lot of pain, Democrats, progressive like yourself, felt like he wanted revenue increases.

This deal doesn't have that, no guarantee of that, are you disappointed in the president?

ELLISON: Well, you know, the president wanted all the right things, and even fought for the right things. At the end of the day, he didn't get the deal he wanted. So I'm not here to be upset with the president.

It was the Tea Party and the radical Republicans who caused this --

KING: Congressman, I don't mean to interrupt you, but you call them -- the Tea Party you're right, you called them radical Republicans. I'll leave that judgment to you and to the American people. That's not my job. But the Republicans control one chamber.


KING: The House of Representatives. There's a Democratic Senate and there's a presidency and the president gets, whether it's a Democrat or Republican what we call the bully pulpit.

So, you can't say just the Republicans did this, they don't have enough power.

ELLISON: Well, yes, they do have quite a bit of power. They're the majority in the House and they have a cloture-proof number in the Senate. So they are wielding a big stick.

At the end of the day, the president has to sign or not sign what's in front of him. His choices were allow default or what I prefer, use the constitutional and executive function to safeguard the public debt. But he had very few options at the end of the day.

Look, I wish the president would have been able to get a better result. But I'm not going to join those who want to criticize the president here. I think he had the right values, fought for 'em, didn't get 'em, but he wanted those right things.

And that's why I still call myself an Obama supporter.

KING: And this is round one of what is a two-act play. And the sense of going-forward in the super committee. You're being very gracious in saying the president fought what he called and your math about the Republicans in Washington is dead right, sir.

What are you expecting? I won't use term demand. But what are you expecting to see of the president when we get into round two, and the super committee? And they start talking about, well, we may have to go into Social Security and Medicare, $1.5 trillion is a big number.

We may have to -- if the Republicans will push back when the president says I want some revenues.

Where are your red lines in round two?

ELLISON: Our red lines are what our red lines have always been -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, but also job creation.

I'm hoping the president starts this fight early. He shouldn't wait until he has very few options. He should get after this thing early and enlist the power of the American people as he did only a few days ago.

I think it's the right thing for him to do to not wait and wait and wait until the options have run out, and he can either sign something or not. But I think that the thing is for him to get after it early, demand that we get some revenue, demand that the wealthiest and most privileged among us help our country out, it's the patriotic thing to do, but not wait and bring the offensive now.

KING: Congressman Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota -- some advice for President Obama as we head into round two. 

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