"Face the Nation" transcript for May 20: McConnell, Warner, Graham

SENATOR MARK WARNER: Absolutely, Bob. I mean, we're actually up to forty-five senators. Lindsey has been suggesting and helpful as well. And we have over hundred members of the House. I think, you know, we know that it's going require reform of the tax code that's going to generate additional revenue. It's going to require changing our entitlement programs so there will be a Medicare and Social Security forty, fifty years from now. It's going to require putting some defense spending cuts on the table as-- as Simpson-Bowles laid out. And we're still at work at this. And what we're going to need and whether this moment comes in the lame-duck session or the first quarter of next year, it's going to require all of us kind of shoulder to the wheel and being willing to kind of take off our Democrat and Republican hats and put our country first.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think anything could actually happen before the election, Senator Graham? Honestly.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Oh, not really. The President-- no, I really don't, Bob. The President's last three budgets have gotten zero votes and our Democratic colleagues haven't-- haven't voted for a budget since April 2009. So I don't see a breakthrough. But in the lame-duck, we'll have an opportunity to take the "Gang of Six" idea, Simpson-Bowles, but for the campaign itself I think both candidates for President should be asked, would you take Simpson-Bowles as a road map to fiscal sanity and pledge to try to implement parts of it and bring it to the Congress for a vote. I-- I-- I would love to hear both of them say, yes. You know President Obama has had three and a half years to change things. He had two years with super Democratic majorities. And they did basically nothing but run up the debt. So I don't see much happening.

BOB SCHIEFFER: What about that, Senator Warner?

SENATOR MARK WARNER: Well, I think it would be great but we've already seen President Obama came out when the "Gang of Six" laid out their ideas and he said, yeah. He went on TV and said he'd support them. That probably cost us some votes amongst Republicans in the House. What we-- what I'm concerned about is Mitt Romney's position which during the Republican presidential nominating process, well, he said he wouldn't even take a deal that had ten dollars in cuts for one dollar in new revenues. Reaffirming that position drives us right into the fiscal ditch.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You know, Dan Balz had an interesting piece--


BOB SCHIEFFER: --in The Washington Post this morning, where he said there are a lot of big issues on the table but he said the biggest issue is not being addressed and that is simply this--can Washington actually govern it? I think it's a very fair question and a pertinent question. What's gone wrong, Senator Warner?

SENATOR MARK WARNER: Well, I do think this issue around debt and deficit has become a proxy for whether our institutions can still function. Because we're not going to get to any other issue until we can in effect figure out what our balance sheet looks like, what's our long-term tax code is going to look like; what's our entitlement program is going to look like. And I think that there is a real sense amongst most members we got to get it fixed. And I think there is actually a lot of common ground. There is no institutional support though in Washington for people to do the right thing. As a matter of fact, all of the interest groups are very much opposed because it's going to mean changes to the tax code, it's going to mean changes in the entitlement programs. And we need to make it to safer, particularly for some of the folks who have been there a long time to step up and put country first.

BOB SCHIEFFER: I would guess you would agree with most of that, Senator Graham, but how did we get to that point? How did we get to where we are right now?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, we had a new President in 2008 that ran on hope and change, and he had a real opportunity for two years with super Democratic majorities to do what Mark said, control federal spending, reform the tax code, and do something about entitlements, and here we are in this election, nothing's happened but more debt, more spending and out-of-control entitlement spending.