Interview with DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Interview with DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz

By The Situation Room - November 11, 2011

BLITZER: Raising taxes versus cutting entitlements, it's the debate Congress is gridlocked over as the U.S. debt continues to climb to unprecedented levels. Let's talk with that and more with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She's the chair of the Democratic National Committee. Congressman, thanks for coming in.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, (D-FL) CHAIR DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Thanks for having me Wolf. It's great to be with you.

BLITZER: You heard a man you admire very much, former president Bill Clinton, saying as he's promoting his new book, you've got to raise some taxes on rich people but you also have to cut spending for entitlements like Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. Are you ready for part two of that?

SCHULTZ: Well, what I'm ready for is for the Republican leadership to join the Democratic leadership and President Obama to sit down and hammer out a balanced approach to deficit reduction and so that we can ask for more from people who really should be paying their fair share and aren't.

And also, we all will have to deal with painful spending cuts. I've already voted for painful spending cuts I would have preferred not to, but knowing we have to get a handle on our deficit and get the economy turned around, those are the tough choices we have to make.

BLITZER: Let me -- you represent a district in Florida, a lot of seniors there, as all of us know. Are you ready to tell your constituents in exchange for tax increases if the Republicans were to go along with that, let's say they were, would you be willing to cut Social Security benefits, Medicare benefits, Medicaid benefits?

SCHULTZ: I don't think we have to cut benefits. I think that there are enough reforms that we can make if we sit down at the table like Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan did, sit around the table and let's hammer out how to address Medicaid and Medicare and Social Security without cutting benefits. We've got to roll up our sleeves and try.

But what disturbs me the most, Wolf, so far Republicans don't seem at all interested in compromise. They seem focused on one job, Barack Obama's, and we're focused on getting this economy turned and getting people back to work bypassing the American jobs act. We'd like cooperation, but so far they only have political priorities focused on the next election.

BLITZER: You did see that letter, more than 100 of your colleagues, at least 60 Democrats, 40 Republicans, say they are ready for precisely that kind of compromise. You must be encouraged by that.

SCHULTZ: I am. I know all of those members, Republicans and Democrats. I was thrilled to see 40 Republicans sign that letter along with 60 Democrats. But where's the leadership? The problem right now is that the Republican leadership is allowing themselves to be controlled by the Tea Party, by extremists in their caucus and in their party who are preventing us from working together.

Look, we can't engage in "my way or the highway" politics. We have to work together. There are will be tough decisions we have to make that are not going to be what we love doing but we know we should be doing. But we've got to work together. It's a two-way street.

BLITZER: Will, the super committee, their deadline November 23rd, will they come up with a deal or no deal?

SCHULTZ: You know, I can't even say I'm cautiously optimistic at this point. There are glimmers of hope and I know that all of the members of the super committee are pa patriotic and want to make sure we do what's best for the country. I hope there's enough to put partisan politics aside and work together to get this done. That's what President Obama wants.

BLITZER: One of the Republican front-runners Herman Cain, he said this the other night about your leader, Nancy Pelosi. Listen.


HERMAN CAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's already been written. We didn't hear about it in the previous Congress because "Princess Nancy" sent it to committee and it stayed there. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: When you heard that and he sort of apologized. When you heard him refer to her as "Princess Nancy," what did you think?

SCHULTZ: I thought it was a pretty callous, sexist throwaway line that demonstrates one more example of how deficient the entire Republican presidential field is. You have Mitt Romney who flip-flops on any issue based on what popular opinion is at the time, Herman Cain who has serious allegations by four different women and continues to make comments like the one he made at the debate the other night. You have a guy in Rick Perry who didn't have enough conviction to remember his own agenda.

So it's no wonder that Mitt Romney hasn't been able to run away with this because there's a clearly deficient field and Republicans have been left wanting, because there's no quality candidate that really will be able to go head to head with Barack Obama, because the American people know that Barack Obama is focused on the creating jobs and getting this economy turned around and taken us from bleeding hundreds of thousands of jobs to 20 straight months of private sector job growth. And we have a long way to go but we're beginning to turn things around. We need Republicans to join us and work with us.

BLITZER: Who do you believe, Herman Cain or the four women making accusations?

SCHULTZ: You know, I think it stretches credulity for four different women who have nothing to do with each other to suggest the allegations aren't credible and real. They are very serious allegations, and I think Herman Cain needs to come clean and address them and say far more than he's said already.

BLITZER: Your good friend from Arizona Gabrielle Giffords has a new book, and we're thrilled she's doing interviews. Tell us how you're doing. I know you're in real close touch with her.

SCHULTZ: I just actually saw her. I flew to Houston on Monday and able to have dinner at her home. She looks amazing. Her speech has become to come back. She initiates speech much more. She still is struggling to find words here and there, but she's made a remarkable recovery. She's walking so much better. We have the best time. It was just awesome to be with her. She's got a long way to go, and she's a long way from deciding what she's going to do in terms of her career.

But I'm just so proud of her and it was just -- so I'm really looking forward to the next week or so to all of the good things that are going to be happening for gabby and mark all so well deserved.

BLITZER: We're looking forward to it too. Please pass along our best to her as part of her recovery.

SCHULTZ: I will.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, congresswoman.

SCHULTZ: You're welcome. 

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