"Face the Nation" transcripts December 9, 2012: Simpson, Bowles, Booker
SCHIEFFER: Someone asked me the other day, has Washington changed? And I said, were you around when they passed the Americans Disabilities Act in 1990? It passed overwhelmingly, ending discrimination in the workplace and opening access to the disabled to public buildings. When George Bush signed it into law, it made you proud, whether you were a Democrat or Republican, a politician or one of the rest of us.
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GEORGE H.W. BUSH, 41ST PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This historic act is the world's first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHIEFFER: But that was then, and this is now.
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SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: The resolution for ratification is not agreed to.
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SCHIEFFER: Partisanship and suspicion runs so deep now that when an international treaty that calls on other countries to provide the same right to their disabled came to the Senate for ratification, conservative Republicans blocked it, blocked it despite a dramatic appeal by 89-year-old former Republican leader Bob Dole, himself a disabled World War II veteran. And even though their usual allies, the Chamber of Commerce and veterans groups, wanted it. Opponents gave various reasons, arguing the treaty might prevent parents from home-schooling. It doesn't. I didn't hear many say, though, how proud blocking it made them feel. Some just seemed embarrassed. Has Washington changed? Maybe I'm wrong, but in Bob Dole's day, I think senators would have found a way to get it done. Back in a minute.
SCHIEFFER: And some of our stations are leaving us now, but for most of you we'll be right back with our political panel. So stay with us on FACE THE NATION.
SCHIEFFER: And welcome back to Face the Nation. On page two now, we're going to try to make sense of all of this going on about the fiscal cliff, which may show we're not very smart to start with because I'm not sure any of it makes any sense. But we'll try to straighten it out with Joe Klein of Time Magazine, Michael Gerson of the Washington Post, CBS This Morning co-host Norah O'Donnell, and we'd especially like to welcome our new chief White House correspondent, Major Garrett. Well, Major, what's going on over there, anything new?
MAJOR GARRETT, CBS NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Bob, I regret -- deeply regret I have no news. But I have a story and the story will have to substitute for news. I was conversing this morning, as I do every morning, with the White House about "is anything going on? Is anyone of importance talking to anyone else on Capitol Hill of importance?" And I was given the same nonresponsive answer I get daily "lines of communication are open." And finally getting sick of that I said, well look, the lines of communication were open during the Cold War, too." And I thought, well, this is kind of an extravagant over-the- top metaphor the White House would reject that. The person wrote back, yes. And the Cold War ended when one side realized they couldn't win. So I think we're on a Cold War footing right now. It feels that way to me.
SCHIEFFER: What do you think, Joe? What's happening, anything?
JOE KLEIN, TIME MAGAZINE: Not all that much, but also, I think that this is -- this has been an over-hyped situation from the start. You know, we have a serious long-term deficit problem in this country. We don't have a long-term deficit crisis. I think that we're going to be able -- that they're going to make a deal. I mean, that's what politicians do. The Republicans lost the election. They know they're going to have to raise revenues. But I think the over-hyping of deficits, the deficit mania that seized this town, is kind of crazy. I mean, I love Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, but they're talking about inflation at a moment when people are paying us money to invest in our Treasury bonds. You know, the summer before last, when we had the debt ceiling negotiations, and everybody was saying oh, our credit is about to go down the tubes. The price of U.S. Treasury bonds were going up. So the fact is that we have a problem. I'm hoping that we'll deal with it, especially, you know, the old age entitlements, because sooner or later, you and I are going to be old enough to qualify for Medicare, and we're going to want it to be a good system.
But we really have to...
KLEIN; I think a little bit of rationality is called for.
SCHIEFFER: But, you know, you're saying yeah, it's not as bad as it seems. I mean, the fact of the matter is when the Bush tax cuts run out at the end of the year, when payroll tax -- whatever they call it, runs out at the end of the year, people's taxes are going to go up. And that may may not be a crisis for some of the upper income folk, but if you're down the line there, that's a big deal.
KLEIN: And I fully believe that that's going to be taken care of. But if you remember, when the Clinton tax cuts -- tax rates were imposed in 1993, Martin Feldstein, the -- you know, a very substantial economist, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that day predicting that we were going into a deep recession because of these tax rates. We went into a big boom. I mean, we're really tinkering on the edges here of a massive economy.
MICHAEL GERSON, WASHINGTON POST: Everybody knows the conversation needs to take place. Speaker Boehner calling the president saying I'll give some on rates, you have to give on structural entitlement reform changes. The problem is, it's the president that sets the groundwork for that discussion. And right now Republicans think the president's undermining that possible conversation by an unreasonable first set of demands, procedural changes that would make them irrelevant. The art of the deal involves giving people a soft place to land. And right now, Republicans aren't seeing a soft place to land. Their only option is humiliation in this process, and they're increasingly thinking that the president sees victory at the bottom of the fiscal cliff.
NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS NEWS: But remember when we last had this debate between the speaker and the president and the president and the White House team feels like they were humiliated by Speaker Boehner when he wouldn't even return his own phone calls. So that's part of what's going on here is the lack of trust. But, look, as soon as what President Obama wants is Speaker Boehner to say he's going to give on the tax rates. As soon as that happens that will unlock everything else. The White House says that Boehner knows they will be willing to make structural reforms to entitlements and take on his own party on that matter, but they want that concession from Boehner about the rates. And you saw Boehner walk right up to the line on Friday by suggesting maybe it could go from 35 to 37 or give a little bit. They tried to walk that back. But as soon as that conservation happens, that will unlock everything.
SCHIEFFER: But can Speaker Boehner deliver the votes in his caucus if in fact he makes a deal?
O'DONNELL: I don't think he has to say it. He doesn't have to say it out loud. That's the thing. He needs to signal it in some way, then you're going to have a two-stage process. They'll do the fiscal cliff stuff and then they'll do tax reform by August 1 of next year.
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