Interview with Senator Rob Menendez

Interview with Senator Rob Menendez

By Erin Burnett Outfront - July 10, 2012

FOREMAN: But here's the thing. Not all members of the president's own party are on board with that idea. Some want to see the tax cuts extended for everyone making less than $1 million a year, $1 million a year, not $250,000.

We asked our political strike team to weigh in. Thirty independent analysts who help us break down the issues of the day. We asked which is better for the Democrats politically, a threshold of $250,000 or $1 million? Fifty-five percent said $250,000. Forty-five percent said $1 million is better.

Democratic senator from New Jersey, Robert Menendez, who agrees (ph) with the president, and he agrees the $1 million threshold is better.

He's OUTFRONT tonight.

Senator, why do you think $1 million is better?

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, Tom, I didn't say $1 million is better. I was asked on the show whether or not I thought $250,000 was the right amount. And I said I'd like to get it higher.

But the bottom line is what we really need is to ensure overwhelmingly that middle class taxpayers get the continuing relief. And that's the overwhelming part of America. Now, in a higher-cost state like New Jersey, you might say that the $250,000 is on the lower side.

But certainly what we can't afford is what our Republican colleagues want, which is continuing tax cuts for people who make above $1 million, millionaires, billionaires, the country cannot afford that.

And at a time in which the country needs those who have the wherewithal to help it, I would think that those tax cuts should not continue.

FOREMAN: What kind of number would be comfortable for you? Because clearly, there's a pretty big gap between $250,000, which, as you would know in your own state, there can be plenty of couples out there who worked hard -- they're 50 years old, they're each making $125,000, putting two kids through college. They're living in a fairly expensive area. They don't feel rich but they're not making $1 million a year either.

What number would be more appropriate?

MENENDEZ: Well, I mean, it varies from place to place. The higher-income state like New Jersey, certainly, I probably would like to see it more around $350,000. But the reality is that at a quarter of $1 million, you're going to capture the overwhelming part of taxpayers both in New Jersey and in the country.

And it seems to me that if our choice is between that and extending the tax cuts for people who make $1 million or billionaires, you know, that's a very clear choice for me. I'd rather extend all of the tax cuts for people making a quarter of a million dollars or less, and save the rest of the money for deficit reduction and for some of the critical needs we have.

But if our Republican colleagues hold the tax cuts for middle class hostage to keeping the tax cuts for the richest people in the country who need to help the country right now and who receive the greatest benefits of the Bush tax cuts, that's not a choice we should have to make.

FOREMAN: Do you think there's really that much money to be gained in this whole thing? A lot of people say it's political posturing, because look, the difference in 10 years in this, is, yeah, the deficit gets worse if you include everyone. But it gets worse if you include just the middle class, too. The difference is $3 trillion or $3.7 trillion worth. That's real money, yes, but you see the concern of some people to say this is mainly political posturing.

MENENDEZ: Well, I would disagree with that. The people who are struggling in this country are middle class working families. And relief that we can give to them ultimately provides a ripple effect in the economy, because they're most likely to have the need to spend.

But when you're a millionaire or multimillionaire or a billionaire, the reality is, is that you're not going to spend that much more as a result of the tax cut. Those types of savings can really be used for deficit reduction or some of our critical needs. And so, I think there is a fundamental difference.

FOREMAN: What about -- one last quick question here. What about the ripple effect, though? Because the argument is that the more you hit those upper-income people, the more they say, I am not going to do anything to add extra workers, to spread things out.

On top of which, by the way, there's this other measure of helping small businesses, which there's some concern is being swept away by the storm of talk about the bigger budget. What do you think about that?

MENENDEZ: Well, the reality is that 97 percent of all small businesses would not be affected by even the president's proposal of $250,000. So I think that's a red herring, and a false claim. Ninety-seven percent of all small businesses would not be affected. And so, at that quarter of $1 million and under, it seems to me that you protect 97 percent of all small businesses in the country, and you give middle class working families the continuing tax break they need to be able to meet the very challenges that you talked about before.

FOREMAN: All right, Senator. I appreciate you coming on the air. 

Erin Burnett Outfront

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