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Sen. Chambliss and Rep. Shuler on the Deficit Fight

Sen. Chambliss and Rep. Shuler on the Deficit Fight

By John King, USA - November 15, 2011

KING: Tonight's number, well, it has a little bit to do with the super committee. Eighty-three percent. Eighty-three percent of Americans disapprove of the job their members of Congress are doing. Eighty-three percent disapprove. Eleven percent approve. I'll go out in the country and try to find them. Five percent say they're not so sure.

As you look at all this play out now, what comes next is the super committee. A chance for Congress to redeem itself, maybe get that 83 down into the 70s, maybe in the 60s.

What's the super committee? Six Democrats and six Republicans. Three members of each from the House and the Senate, three Democrats, three Republicans from each body.

Now, what is it supposed to do? Here's what it's supposed to do. It's supposed to identify at least $1.2 trillion in savings in the federal budget. The deadline u-- that would be next week, November 23. And if they don't reach that deadline, if they don't come up with a plan of their own, the bill that creates the committee would call for across-the-board spending cuts. That is the plan.

Can they get it done? Do you think they'll get it done? Seventy percent in the new Politico/G.W. University battleground poll say no. Seventy percent -- 69 percent of Americans say no, they won't get it done.

Well, here to offer some advice to the super committee, two key members of Congress who say don't go timid, go bold. Republican Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and North Carolina Congressman Heath Shuler.

You guys say don't be timid, be bold. If you look at that same poll I just showed you, if you ask the American people, will you accept increased taxes on the wealthy and corporations, 66 percent, Senator, say, yes, to get this deficit down. Sixty-six percent means a lot of Republicans say yes. So why do we have most Republicans in Congress saying no, not any revenues, no?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: Well, obviously, raising taxes is something that Republicans have always been against, and are still against, but there's a way to increase revenues, John, without necessarily raising taxes. You can lower tax rates. You can reform the tax code in a major way, particularly on the corporate side.

And when you do that, you make us more competitive in the international marketplace, and you allow corporations to invest their money here in America that's now sitting on the sidelines here in America. And you can broaden the tax base because what they'll do is they'll put people back to work and expand the business to hire new people. When you broaden that tax base, and you increase tax revenues coming into Washington, that's the key to the jobs issue, and it's also the key to getting to a major number like $4 trillion to apply against the deficit.

KING: So you've got a Republican of Georgia, a moderate to conservative Democrat, nodding your head, nodding your head. If you guys can agree on this, is this a great charade going on? If you listen publicly, the super committee's pretty far apart, and they're having your typical Washington daycare center partisan squabble.

REP. HEATH SHULER (D), NORTH CAROLINA: We're optimistic. I mean, we have to support the super committee, let them know that there's members such as Saxby and I are warning them to go big, put everything on the table.

KING: Big means what?

SHULER: Big means 4 trillion plus; 1.5, if they can get to 1.5, they can get to 4 trillion just as well. It's using the same numbers but just go a little deeper. And the way that they can do that is actually compromise. Work together.

The world is watching. America's watching. That's why our approval ratings are so low. They don't have the confidence. And so if we can instill confidence back into the markets and the workplace then will explode because they will then have a sense of, yes, members of Congress can work together. They'll put their political differences aside to do what's right for the American people.

KING: And you're confident that your leadership in the House, which is a tad more liberal than you are, Congressman Shuler, that Leader Pelosi and her team, to go bold, to get to the 4 trillion, then you're talking about Medicare, and Social Security. They're willing to do that?

SHULER: Everything has to be on the table. You know, even Pelosi has said, you know, go big, go bold. She realized -- she's looked at those numbers, like a lot of the other members have, and realized you cannot make a huge difference without looking at Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid.

It's not that you are cutting them, it's you're reform them just the way we're going to do the taxes. We can reform tax reform in the same way we can -- in order to keep them and hold on to the entitlement programs, we have to fix them.

KING: Do you share his confidence? If you look at the clock, you know where we're going in the campaign environment. His party, most of your party, wants the Medicare issue. They want to run those ads all next year in trying to get the House back.

A lot of conservatives in your party say you know what? Even if we do this tax reform, if it raises revenue, you know, maybe Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reforms will be after us. Or someone's going to run an "You raised taxes" ad on me.

CHAMBLISS: Well, John, here's what we know. Every economist in the country that we have talked to -- and in our gang of six we talked to dozens of them -- every expert from the community bank world to the Wall Street world, and everybody in between, has said that if you don't get to $4 trillion, that you're not sending the right message to the marketplace. And if you don't send the right message, then the markets are simply going to react in a negative way.

And we know that you can't get to $4 trillion without reducing spending. We're spending way too much money in this town. But that's not a silver bullet in and of itself. You've got to have entitlement reform and you've got to have tax reform. It's going to take all three of those. Not just to get to 4 trillion, but we're going to have to come back in another two years and do another 4 trillion.

Remember, this is over ten years. And we now owe $14.5 trillion. Pretty soon it's going to be $17 trillion. So this is just the first installment. It's going to be painful, but it's just absolutely necessary that we do it.

KING: You say painful and absolutely necessary on the eve of a campaign. That means everybody has got to get in the boat together.

The president of the United States has called members of the super committee. When the committee was first formed, he was of the opinion, go bold. He tried to negotiate with the speaker, the Republican speaker. That didn't work. I want you to listen to the president on his trip. He was in Hawaii. He's in Australia now, but he was in Hawaii. And he had this message for the work of the super committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My hope is that over the next several days, the congressional leadership on the super committee will go ahead and bite the bullet and do what needs to be done. Because the math won't change. There's no magic formula.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I think you both agree with everything the president just said there. To the Democrat in the room. He said that at a public event. If everybody has to get in the boat, if everybody has to give, if both parties are going to have to give up something that they would prefer not to give up, is the president of the United States leading this conversation? Is he a major part of this conversation? Is he irrelevant to this conversation?

SHULER: Certainly, at the end of the day, he has to be part of the conversation.

KING: Doesn't he have to be part of the conversation every day if you're going to get to the finish line?

SHULER: I don't think so. I think the more he is engaged in it, it may push more Republicans away. The more he's engaged in what he would like to do, and it pushes Republicans away. What I think is necessary that you get members of Congress.

We now have over 150 members, bipartisan and bicameral, to sign it to the super committee that says go big. And that sends a message within itself to the super committee and along with what the president has had to say, that we need this now. We cannot wait. We can't keep kicking the can down the road.

KING: How many Republicans say, "You know, Saxby, I'd love to be with you if it were two years from now or a year from now. But if we give the president of the United States this deal, we want to run against him as a big-spending, tax-and-spend liberal. If we give him a big deficit reduction, what have we got?"

CHAMBLISS: And I say in response to that, look, how much do you care about your country? How much do you care about the America you're going to leave for your children and grandchildren?

If you're really serious about doing the job you were sent here to do, on this particular issue, which is the issue of our time. There's not been a more important issue that's come up in my 17 years in Congress. And this is the time we have to check our political hats. We have to do the right thing. And the right thing is going big and coming up with $4 trillion. It's going to be painful, and people are going to have to really stand up and be willing to go back home and look folks in the eye and say, "You know, I could have either got myself reelected by voting no, or I could have stepped out and I could do the right thing so that your children and your grandchildren will inherit the same great America that we inherited." We're at that point in time.

KING: It is a big deal, and we're going to track it.

I want to close with a question for the former college football star, NFL quarterback in the room. When you watch what's happening at Penn State and you hear the allegations of what went on there, you hear a defense lawyer say, you know, this stuff happens in showers in football programs all the time. What goes through your mind?

SHULER: It certainly never happened at the University of Tennessee. And it's just -- it's heartbreaking that the victims here, not only that the victims are young children but, you know, throughout all of Penn State, the alumni. It's an impact about that. And especially those college athletes who are there now. Those student athletes who are participating and who have done good and are -- continue to do well. That's who your heart goes out to. Everyone -- everyone is a victim across college football.

KING: Congressman Shuler, Senator Saxby Chambliss, good luck in the week ahead.

CHAMBLISS: Thank you, John. 

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